With 3 days left until election, O'Toole fixates on vote-splitters and deflects questions on his fate
LONDON, ONT. -- With three days left in the 2021 federal election campaign and polling suggesting a Liberal win maybe the most likely outcome, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was laser-focused on one message Friday: a vote for any party other than his is a vote for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“There's a lot at stake in this election. Justin Trudeau wants you to stay at home on election day. He wants you to vote for smaller parties,” O’Toole said at a London, Ont. campaign stop on Friday afternoon.
He said that he knows Canadians are frustrated, but “if they allow that frustration to do anything other than vote Conservative, they're voting for Mr. Trudeau.”
Asked which parties he was referring to, O’Toole wouldn’t name names, though the party Conservatives are most likely to lose votes to is Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.
“There are five parties [but] there's two choices, more of the same with Mr. Trudeau, or real change and ethical government with a plan with Canada's Conservatives,” he said. There are six main federal parties running slates of candidates in this election.
BERNIER PULLING SUPPORT
Nik Nanos, the founder and chief data scientist at Nanos Research, has cautioned that Bernier could become “a potential spoiler” for O’Toole, and has in the final week seen a steady uptick in support, planting himself in fourth place in Nanos’ daily ballot tracking.
Whether this support will result in the PPC picking up any seats remains to be seen. Even securing a small percentage of the vote that otherwise may have gone to the Conservatives could split the vote on the right enough to see Trudeau come up the middle and hold on to power.
Asked by a local reporter who referenced a recent rally Bernier held in London that had a sizeable crowd whether the PPC support may be to his detriment in ridings across Ontario, O’Toole doubled down on his message.
“We deserve change here, and if people vote for anything other than the Conservative Party of Canada for that change, they're voting for Justin Trudeau… He's hoping you express your frustration by going elsewhere.”
In a fundraising email to supporters titled: “Conservatives cannot be trusted,” Bernier also said that there’s “only one option” on election night, his party.
“It’s time to bring back principles and consistency in politics. If you’ve had enough of these turncoat politicians, there’s only one option: PPC… There’s only three days left. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbours. Show your colours. We will shock the nation on Monday evening!,” read the email.
‘LOOKING AT A LIBERAL WIN’
With just one weekend left before Canadians head to the polls, Nanos says that, pending significant movement, “we’re looking at a Liberal win.”
Nanos made the comments on Friday’s edition of CTV’s Trend Line podcast, adding that while the most likely outcome is that the Liberals will form a minority government, a Liberal majority is “not out of the realm of possibility” either.
Asked Friday if he is worried about the fate of his leadership if the Liberals are re-elected, O’Toole dodged the question.
“Let me repeat, the election is three more days… So I'm going to use every minute to talk about our positive vision for jobs, the economy, to bring the country together, to stop dividing it… There is a chance on Monday to vote for change,” he said.
Would an O’Toole-led Conservative opposition back up a Liberal minority? “We will look at the results on Monday, and always put the country first,” was his response.
‘WILL WIN MORE SUPPORT’
Still, O’Toole is confident in his party’s chances, saying those who are upset with Trudeau for calling a pandemic election or who have been let down by him over the last six years are more concerned about their jobs and the cost of living than “Ottawa insiders.”
He pitched himself during his leadership bid as the person to help the party make gains in Ontario and on Friday, O’Toole said he will win more than the 34 seats Conservatives currently hold in the province, as well as pick up seats across Canada.
“I'm asking Canadians not to reward Mr. Trudeau, but to send a message that we deserve a government for them,” he said, vowing to focus on his plan in the final days of the campaign.
During a stop at Conservative candidate Rob Flack’s campaign office, O’Toole spoke to 99-year-old Geoffrey Jell, a veteran of the British Army who wished O’Toole good luck.
The Conservative leader responded with “You know the military guy in me, you fight 'til the end of the battle.”
O’Toole said that if he wins, it would be his honour to come to Jell’s 100th birthday party as the prime minister.
TALKED TO HARPER THIS WEEK
While O’Toole continued to avoid saying Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s name on Friday—after his consistent refusal to comment on his current handling of the COVID-19 pandemic dominated headlines the day prior— he did note he’s recently spoken to the two conservative political leaders’ former boss: Stephen Harper.
“I speak to all of our former leaders and I've even spoken to leaders from different parties in my year as leader of the opposition. I spoke to Mr. Harper this week, I've spoken to Mr. Mulroney this week. I'll speak to mayors, premiers of all political stripes because I will always put the country first. It’s why I served in uniform, it's why I suspended my leadership when the pandemic started, it’s why I sent advice to the ministers in the Trudeau government,” he said.
After a few days in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, O’Toole’s campaign has plans to ride out the remaining days in a bus, likely focusing in on vote-rich Ontario.
While it was a strategy the party stuck to throughout the last five weeks, the Conservative campaign has now left behind the TV studio setup in Ottawa where he hosted 17 ‘teletownhalls.’
Of the 17, five were with Atlantic Canadians, five had O’Toole hearing from Ontarians, three were with Quebecers, three were held with British Columbians and one townhall was with Manitobans. He didn’t connect with the other Prairie provinces or the territories using this virtual format.
In total, his party says that he "connected with" 494,656 Canadians.
With files from CTV News’ Jackie Dunham