As a disclaimer, I’ve always identified as a left leaning centrist. If someone had told me back when Andrew Scheer won the Tory leadership that I’d end up voicing support for a conservative candidate one day, I’d have thought them insane. Though his platform isn’t perfect, Erin O’Toole is one of the strongest conservative candidates for the Prime Minister-ship I’ve ever seen.
For starters, he is highly credentialed. O’Toole served in the Canadian air force for 12 years, worked as a corporate lawyer, founded a veterans’ charity and has substantial political experience as a Member of Parliament. On the basis of experience and expertise, he eclipses Justin Trudeau.
Let’s start with O’Toole’s platform with respect to climate change and environmental stewardship. O’Toole has experience working in environmental policy as a lawyer, and has developed a thoughtful course of action for taking care of our planet.
One of the main pillars of O’Toole’s environmental platform is carbon sequestration- reducing Canada’s carbon footprint. He’s identified several ways in which to achieve this from better forest and soil management practices to wetland expansion. Wetland restoration is a particularly effective way to siphon carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
He plans to incentivize advancements in water purification technology to benefit smaller, less privileged communities. He also mentions funding the capital costs of initiatives to restore habitats and preserve biodiversity. As an added bonus, an O’Toole government will increase R&D funding for research in carbon capture and storage technology.
What about climate change? His decision to scrap Trudeau’s carbon tax seems like a politically motivated decision rather than an economic/scientific one. However, O’Toole has a plan.
Canada is a leader in nuclear power, and O’Toole plans to continue our leadership. He’s identified the exportation of Canadian Small Modular Reactors to “assist in emissions reduction in remote areas”. O’Toole also recognizes that coal is one of the most harmful forms of non-renewable energy, and plans to phase out coal by transitioning to natural gas. While it's still non-renewable, the GHG emissions from coal far exceed those of natural gas. As O’Toole puts it, natural gas is a “realistic interim step”.
Its a rational, workable and level headed approach to the problem of climate change. He also places an emphasis upon measures protecting communities which are vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change, such as increasing mitigation programs and infrastructure along the Ottawa river floodplains and Lake Ontario Basin.
Has a conservative candidate ever developed such a comprehensive plan for the environment? I'd wager that very few of O'Toole's predecessors have shown a similar level of care for environmental stewardship. Erin O'Toole has developed a robust and thoughtful course of action to advance Canada's role in protecting our planet.
Let’s talk about his foreign policy platform. O'Toole's stance is bold and may be inflammatory to some, and his anti-Trudeau rhetoric isn't entirely factual (for instance, he states that Trudeau has "stopped standing up for human rights", while Trudeau was a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia).
However, his approach to foreign policy is sensible. He's steadfast in his opposition to authoritarianism and institutional human rights violations. He discusses his wish to make Canada a leader in promoting freedom and human rights while "championing the cause of oppressed peoples" before citing some examples (Hong Kong, Venezuela, Iran, Tibetans, Uighurs, and Kurds).
Trudeau's activism appeared in response to Saudi Arabia's human rights violations when they became headline stories, but O'Toole is affirming Canada's anti-authoritarian position from the outset. State sanctioned human rights violations and oppression can no longer be tolerated in the 21st century, and I like O'Toole's bare-bones approach.
He seems to be adopting an aggressive stance with respect to the Chinese government, which he calls the "Chinese Communist Regime". Some of his boldest ideas include banning Huawei from 5G and suspending the Canada-China Legislative Association. I'm willing to consider that these actions are rash, but given the authoritarian and expansionist nature of the Chinese government, the world needs to keep better tabs on them.
Additionally, he wants to expedite the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians who were arbitrarily detained by the Chinese authorities in response to the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wangzhou, by giving China 30 days to secure their release. If they fail to comply, O'Toole plans to impose the Magnitsky Sanctions. Some other major components of his platform include UN reform and fostering a stronger Canada-India relationship. Its an aggressive platform, but such aggression may be necessary.
Healthcare is always a major talking point around election season, and O'Toole has a respectable healthcare plan. He maintains that healthcare is a provincial matter and wants to minimize federal interference while providing "stable and predictable funding". Though I've always believed that national coordination and consistency is important, the federal government may be biting off more than it can chew by increasing its role in healthcare.
O'Toole has identified one of the most pernicious obstacles to doctors who immigrate to Canada: the scarcity of potential employment. All too often, highly skilled healthcare professionals immigrate to Canada but are unable to find work in their professions.
Erin O'Toole aims to rectify this, highlighting his plan to "work with provincial governments to ensure that those with the skills we need are not prevented from working in their professions". He isn't being very specific here, but at least he's given the issue some thought.
O'Toole has also, in classic conservative fashion, mentioned "speeding up the approval of new medications and health technologies". I'm not a fan of this approach, as it may undermine the advice of scientific professionals. He plans to convene a Royal Commission on the COVID-19 pandemic within 100 days of taking office, and wants to collaborate with provincial governments to further emphasize mental health. Much of his healthcare platform is vague, but his ideas are sensible.
Erin O'Toole's position with respect to reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples is admirable. This portion of his platform is cleverly dubbed "Igniting the Indigenous economy". He places great emphasis on empowering economic development in indigenous communities, increasing the autonomy of First Nations' (by supporting institutions such as the First Nations Infrastructure Institute, First Nations Financial Management board, etc.).
The most impressive part of his Indigenous relations platform is the proposed creation of a specialized RCMP Aboriginal Liason Officer position and a "pilot program to deploy these specialized officers to communities that have high levels of off-reserve aboriginal populations and/or a high number of missing/murdered Indigenous women cold cases". The Aboriginal Liason Officer will be specially tasked with re-investigating those cold cases.
He also mentions addressing the extremely high prices of food in Northern Canada by infrastructural solutions. I remember watching a documentary many years ago about Northern Canada and being shocked by how challenging it is for residents to procure affordable food.
Anyone who is aware of the plight of Indigenous communities in Canada should be impressed by O'Toole's proposals. If his government takes them seriously, Canada could see a major turnaround for Indigenous prosperity.
There are several aspects of his platform which I do not agree with. For instance, I'm not a fan of his stance on gun legislation and his desire to appease Quebec- a province whose unfair "secularism bill" banning public servants from wearing religious symbols demonstrates its occasional dissent from Canadian values. However, he's won my support with his approach to improving our treatment of war veterans, ending the CBC's tax bailout and his proposed Criminal Code reforms in conjunction with everything else I've mentioned.
Overall, I'm confident that an O'Toole Prime Ministership will be beneficial for Canada. He's a credentialed, knowledgeable and dedicated patriot with some excellent policy ideas. I may disagree with certain aspects of his platform, but today's culture tends to promote a love or hate approach to politics- either you worship a candidate and trust their every word, or you despise them. In my opinion, the net impact of an O'Toole government will be positive.