By Trevor Busch
With Erin O’Toole recently anointed as the new leader of the federal Conservative Party, Bow River MP Martin Shields talked about the prospects for the CPC as the possibility of an election hovers over Ottawa.
Placeholder leader Andrew Scheer has helmed the Conservatives since the last election, but this is never an ideal situation, argues Shields.
“We had a challenge with Andrew Scheer, you have to make a quick transition so we have a leader. That’s been a challenge — Andrew Scheer has done a good job, but again, he was just the retiring leader. So it’s great to have a leader in place.”
With four candidates for the top role in the leadership, but with pandemic restrictions hampering normal political functions, many pundits commented on the lack of attention paid by Canadians. But Shields pointed out interest was obviously strong among the party membership.
“I think from the membership side of it, if that was any indication — record number of memberships sold, record number of people that voted in the leadership — so from the membership side there, that showed a lot of interest, and actually in the voting as well. Hard to get the kind of grassroots, community hall, hand-shaking type of format that you’re used to, public forums, all those pieces were missing. And that does create the challenge of how do you get to know the candidates, absolutely.”
In Canada’s digitally-prolific 21st century, even the minutest details of a candidate’s life and career are open to the widest scrutiny of the public.
“We had four people who ran for the leadership, and to put your life in that situation where everything is inspected, from a hair out of place to the type of shoes you might have on — it’s a tough, tough thing to do,” said Shields. “You have to raise a lot of money, and all of them will be raising money afterwards to pay for what they did. So it’s not easy to do, and so all of them that would risk that kind of thing for their lives and families, the kind of introspection that goes on with them, that’s great.”
O’Toole’s leadership scruples should stack up well against a current Liberal government that remains mired in controversy, according to the Bow River MP.
“Mr. O’Toole I believe is a significant leader for the Conservative Party. He’s a very amiable person, but yet very smart. He has a military background; when was the last time we had a leader from any party with a military background? I think that’s an interesting facet to the man. Erin I think is the kind of guy, of all of the three people who were running, he immediately reached out to all three of them in the sense of being involved where they can be, and how they can be. That’s the kind of person he is. He has a very ‘reaching out’ type of personality, and tries to make everyone part of what he’s doing. At least that’s what I’ve found as I’ve worked with him for the last five years.”
Representing Western interests in Canada’s often wintry capital might receive the cold shoulder, but Shields is confident O’Toole can build bridges that will achieve results for those of us west of the 100th meridian.
“He has a great ability to listen, and I think when he started his campaign in Calgary, and his first conversation with the prime minister and outlining the challenges of Western Canada, I do believe he has the ability to communicate, listen, understand and support the issues. He knows that for this economy to work, it’s a combination of things, and the resource sector is one of those things that needs to stay a part of this economy.”