Skeena — Bulkley Valley politicians react to new Conservative Party leader

Erin O’Toole was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Aug. 24, 2020

The Conservative candidate for the Skeena — Bulkley Valley riding in last fall’s federal election says she’s enthusiastic about her party’s new leader.

“I think Erin [O’Toole] deserves it, he worked really hard and I’m excited to get behind him,” said Claire Rattée following O’Toole’s third ballot win Aug. 24.

“The biggest takeaway for me is just seeing our numbers and our membership growing, I’m really happy with the results because I think that Erin has given really good speeches already and it seems like we are gaining a lot of momentum.”

O’Toole, a cabinet minister in the former Stephen Harper government, secured his victory in the Conservative leadership race after three rounds of counting. Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay finished second, followed by Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, who were running with the support of social conservatives.

His success in the election is due in part to the ranked ballot system. O’Toole courted supporters of Lewis and Sloan, who selected him as their second or third choice more than they did MacKay.

Now that the leadership race is over, Conservatives are looking to the future, which could include a federal election as early as this fall.

“I will be ready whenever there is one, I can’t wait to get back at it,” said Rattée in confirming she’ll seek her party’s nomination for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding whenever the next election is called.

“We definitely managed to grow the base here for Conservatives, it was the best showing a Conservative has had in this riding in a very long time so I’m hopeful.”

Rattée has not met O’Toole yet, but she is encouraged by what she has seen from his first few days on the job.

“I know there was a couple of speeches he’s given already where he actually mentioned Kitimat specifically, talking about the aluminum and LNG projects and things of that nature so I do know that he is really passionate about fighting for our resource industry and I know that he’s going to be paying a lot of attention to our region.”

The minority-government Liberals will deliver a throne speech on Sept. 23. After the throne speech is given there will be a mandatory confidence vote in the House of Commons, where opposition parties could vote to bring down the government and trigger an election.

Taylor Bachrach, the NDP Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley who defeated Rattée last fall, followed the Conservative leadership race from the outside.

“I think it’s a very interesting pick for the Conservative Party,” he said.

“He’s someone who ran in the last Conservative leadership race, and in that race he presented himself as an affable moderate. In this most recent race he put on a much more hard-edged conservative persona, so it will be interesting to see which Erin O’Toole shows up in the House of Commons when we come back, and also it will be interesting to see how beholden he turns out to be to the social conservative faction in the Conservative Party.”

The leadership election results were expected early in the evening of Aug. 23 but were delayed into the early hours of Aug. 24 after problems opening the envelopes containing several thousand of the estimated 175,000 mail-in ballots.

While O’Toole ended the night as the new party leader, Leslyn Lewis, a Toronto lawyer who has never held public office won the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding with 34 per cent of the vote.

“Definitely I’m proud to see how well she did and I’m proud to hear she’s going to be running in the next election for a seat, she did a really good job, she’s a really intelligent woman and we’d be lucky to have her on our team,” said Rattée.

Rattée said that Lewis, who is a Black woman, made a statement to those outside the party with her success.

“There’s definitely been a lot of narrative about conservatives being just older white men and so I think that shows that we really are ready to embrace that change and show the rest of the world and other parties that we are not that stereotype, regardless of what that narrative might have been put by the media or put by other parties.”

With files from the Canadian Press

READ MORE: Jagmeet Singh stresses the importance of childcare during Terrace visit


@BenBogstie
ben.bogstie@terracestandard.com

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