|Leader of the Opposition|
|Assumed office |
August 24, 2020
|Preceded by||Andrew Scheer|
|Leader of the Conservative Party|
|Assumed office |
August 24, 2020
|Preceded by||Andrew Scheer|
|Shadow Minister for Middle Class Prosperity|
|Assumed office |
September 7, 2020
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs|
August 31, 2017 – January 31, 2020
|Preceded by||Peter Kent|
|Succeeded by||Leona Alleslev|
|Minister of Veterans Affairs|
January 5, 2015 – November 4, 2015
|Prime Minister||Stephen Harper|
|Preceded by||Julian Fantino|
|Succeeded by||Kent Hehr|
|Member of the Canadian Parliament|
|Assumed office |
November 26, 2012
|Preceded by||Bev Oda|
Erin Michael O'Toole
January 22, 1973
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Years of service|
|Unit||423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron|
|Awards||Canadian Forces' Decoration|
Sikorsky Helicopter Rescue Award
O'Toole was born in Montreal and grew up in Port Perry and Bowmanville. O'Toole joined the Canadian Forces in 1991 and studied at the Royal Military College (RMC) until 1995. He was commissioned in Air Command[note 1] serving as an air navigator, eventually attaining the rank of captain. Following his active service, he received a law degree, practicing law for nearly a decade until he was elected as the member of Parliament (MP) for Durham in a 2012 by-election. In 2015, O'Toole briefly served as veterans affairs minister in the Harper government. In 2017, he ran for the party's leadership, finishing third to winner Andrew Scheer.
After Scheer resigned as leader in late 2019, O'Toole ran a successful leadership campaign, defeating former cabinet minister Peter MacKay in the 2020 leadership election. Since he assumed the leadership, O'Toole has marketed his party to working-class Canadians. O'Toole has been described as a moderate member of his party. On domestic policy issues, O'Toole supports gradually eliminating the federal deficit, defunding the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) TV and digital English-language operations, simplifying federal taxes, allowing provinces to not have a carbon tax, and pipeline construction. On foreign policy issues, O'Toole supports a CANZUK agreement and getting "tough on China", considering its government to be a "bad actor" on the international stage. O'Toole's voting record on social issues has been characterized as socially progressive, though he voted against euthanasia legalization.
O'Toole was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Mollie (Hall) and John O'Toole, who served as the member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Durham in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario between 1995 and 2014. His father is of Irish descent, and his mother was born in London, England, and came to Canada after World War II. Following his mother's death when he was nine years old, his family moved to Port Perry, Ontario, where he attended elementary school. O'Toole and his family later moved to Bowmanville, Ontario, where he graduated from Bowmanville High School.
In 1991, O'Toole joined the military, enrolling at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science in 1995.
Following his graduation, O'Toole was commissioned as an officer in the Canadian Forces Air Command. His first posting with Air Command occurred in Trenton, Ontario, where he was involved in search and rescue operations. O'Toole also spent time at 17 Wing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he completed his training as an air navigator.
In 1997, O'Toole was posted to 12 Wing in Shearwater, Nova Scotia. While serving at this post, O'Toole flew as a tactical navigator on a CH-124 (Sea King) helicopter with 423 Squadron, conducted maritime surveillance, and performed search and rescue and naval support operations. While serving at 12 Wing, O'Toole was promoted to the rank of captain. He received the Canadian Forces' Decoration for 12 years of service to Canada, and was awarded the Sikorsky Helicopter Rescue Award for having rescued an injured fisherman at sea.
O'Toole graduated from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University with a law degree in 2003; He returned to Ontario where he articled at, and later became a lawyer with, Stikeman Elliott, a business law firm in Toronto. During this time, O'Toole primarily practiced in the areas of product liability, insolvency, competition and general commercial law. Between 2006 and 2011, O'Toole served as Canadian in-house counsel for Procter & Gamble. He acted as corporate counsel for Gillette, provided commercial and regulatory law advice, was counsel on issues relating to legislation, and investigated counterfeiting operations. In 2011, O'Toole joined the law firm Heenan Blaikie.
In May 2012, O'Toole announced his plans to run as the Conservative candidate in the by-election for Durham, following Bev Oda's resignation, winning the seat on November 26, 2012. After spending a few months as a backbencher in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named O'Toole the parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade, Ed Fast, in September 2013.
In 2014, O'Toole partnered with then-senator Roméo Dallaire to host the first Samuel Sharpe Memorial Breakfast, in honour of former soldier and MP Samuel Simpson Sharpe. Sharpe committed suicide in 1918 following his return home from World War I. O'Toole and Dallaire started the memorial breakfast to bring issues of veterans' mental health to the forefront and to improve access to treatment and resources for soldiers suffering from operational stress injuries. In May 2018, O'Toole introduced a motion to install a plaque commemorating Sharpe on Parliament Hill, which passed unanimously.
On January 5, 2015, Harper appointed O'Toole as minister of veterans affairs, replacing Julian Fantino. O'Toole prioritized repairing relations with veterans and addressing the complaints Canadian veterans had with Fantino. During his time as veterans affairs minister, he convinced veterans who had sued the Canadian government to place a halt on their lawsuit while they entered into settlement negotiations. In the lawsuit, filed before O'Toole was named minister, the Canadian soldiers argued that the 2006 overhaul of veteran benefits was discriminatory.
Stephen Harper resigned as Conservative party leader after the Liberals defeated it in the 2015 election. O'Toole announced that he would seek the interim leadership of the Conservative Party. Rona Ambrose defeated him but named O'Toole the Official Opposition critic for public safety.
On October 14, 2016, O'Toole announced his nomination as a candidate in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election. O'Toole ran a positive campaign and avoided personally attacking other candidates during the campaign, arguing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not own optimism. He received endorsements from 31 MPs, 12 former MPs, 17 provincial politicians, and CANZUK International. O'Toole finished in third place, behind Maxime Bernier and the eventual winner Andrew Scheer.
In 2018, after Patrick Brown resigned over accusations of sexual misconduct, O'Toole considered entering the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race. He ultimately passed on the opportunity, instead endorsing and supporting Christine Elliott. On August 31, 2017, Andrew Scheer appointed O'Toole the official opposition critic for foreign affairs.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was re-elected as prime minister in 2019, O'Toole won re-election in his riding, beating the Liberal candidate by about 10 per cent of the vote.
In December 2019, Andrew Scheer resigned as Conservative Party leader after it was revealed that he had used party funds for his children's private schooling. Scheer remained as interim leader.
O'Toole announced that he would seek the leadership of the Conservative Party in late January 2020. During his campaign, he framed himself as a "true blue" conservative, implying that rivals like Peter MacKay were not real conservatives. It helped that Pierre Poilievre, who was expected to get support from the right of the party, decided not to run. O'Toole's tone was angrier this time than during his first leadership run, which he claimed was due to his increasing worry about the country after five years under a Trudeau government. He believed that his status as an MP would allow him to hold Trudeau accountable as soon as he became leader. During the campaign, O'Toole alleged that MacKay's campaign obtained stolen internal campaign data from him. A former intern at Calgary Centre MP Greg McLean's office later admitted to obtaining the data.
O'Toole won the leadership election after three rounds were counted, replacing Andrew Scheer. His victory was attributed partially to his pitch to socially conservative voters including supporters of candidates Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis to mark him as their second or third choice. He generally performed better in Conservative- and Bloc Québécois-held ridings, in rural areas, and in areas with fewer visible minorities. Despite representing a riding on the eastern edge of the Greater Toronto Area, O'Toole performed poorly there. People's Party leader Maxime Bernier criticized him in remarks dismissed by fellow leadership candidate Sloan, claiming he was not a real conservative.
Shortly after becoming leader, O'Toole said that triggering a fall election was not his priority, and he preferred to focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and finding jobs for the unemployed instead. He reaffirmed his position in December 2020, stating that the pandemic must be over before an election is called. Despite this, he has said the Conservative Party is prepared for another election if one was called. On September 2, 2020, he announced Candice Bergen would serve as his deputy. O'Toole revealed his Shadow Cabinet the following week, with most roles changing from the previous Scheer-led one.
In response to the WE Charity scandal, O'Toole proposed creating an anti-corruption committee tasked with releasing details related to it and other possible ethics violations made by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to a previous proposal made by the New Democratic Party (NDP). Following its failure after the Liberals declared it to be a confidence vote, O'Toole then proposed these tasks be done by the health committee instead.
During his leadership, O'Toole began trying to attract working class people to the Conservative Party, noting his experience of watching auto workers lose their jobs in his hometown of Bowmanville, and his support for unions. Despite his support for unions, union leaders were skeptical given his previous parliamentary voting record and his pre-2015 free trade-related work. O'Toole also softened his rhetoric, presenting himself as moderate to counter accusations from opponents that he was trying to market to the far-right.
Due to his shift from the "true blue" rhetoric of his leadership campaign to a more moderate approach, he has received some criticism from within the party and fears that he may drop certain Conservative priorities such as opposition to the carbon tax. Despite the skepticism, O'Toole continued said approach, claiming the party must have "the courage to change" and attract new voters in order to win against the Liberals.
O'Toole has been described as tending to be one of the more moderate members of his party. He supports a more moderate Conservative Party and has denounced the far-right, stating that they do not belong in his party.
He has said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should only spend what is necessary to help Canadians and balance the budget gradually over the next decade. O'Toole has proposed a $12 billion package to double down on the current government's Canada Child Benefit, increasing the benefit each quarter of the year until the end of 2021. O'Toole is against a national childcare program, saying that he prefers giving families more childcare options rather than one federal one. He also opposes a national pharmacare program, saying that the government should not replace billions already spent by insurance companies.
He also wants to reduce and simplify taxes, arguing that a complicated tax system benefits the wealthy, who can afford to find loopholes. He supports modifying Canada's equalization system, which he argues is unfair to Alberta. O'Toole supports a full review of government spending and a program in which all new spending must be accompanied by an equivalent reduction in spending elsewhere. He has called for an incentive to reduce employment insurance premiums that small and medium-sized businesses pay for new employees.
O'Toole supports defunding the CBC's digital operations and immediately halving funding for its English television operations, with the goal of privatizing it by the end of his term. He argues it has gone beyond its public mandate and is doing things that the private sector already does. He also argues it hurts other media companies, which is why he supports ending a $600-million print media bailout package. The promise to defund the CBC was a major part of O'Toole's 2020 Conservative leadership platform and an idea popular with Conservative voters. He would maintain funding for the CBC's radio operations and its French language operations, saying they maintain their original public interest mandate. Previously, O'Toole had supported keeping the CBC's funding, wanting to modernize it instead.
O'Toole believes the path to reconciliation involves a focus on the economy in Indigenous communities. He opposes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, claiming the Supreme Court of Canada has set a higher bar than it does. After statues of John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, were defaced or toppled in protests against systemic racism, O'Toole said that it would be "dooming Canada to forget its history" and that he preferred adding plaques to such monuments describing a "more balanced look" of Canada's history instead of tearing them down. He had spoken out previously against the removal of a statue of Macdonald from Victoria's City Hall. Following the surfacing of a speech O'Toole made to the Ryerson Conservatives defending the university's namesake Egerton Ryerson in which he said that residential schools were "created to provide education", he backtracked on his comments and stated that Indigenous reconciliation is a priority for him.
A "Canadian values" test, like the one proposed by Kellie Leitch, is not supported by O'Toole. During the COVID-19 pandemic, O'Toole has proposed increased immigration through family reunification to make up for a decreased number of economic immigrants.
During the 2020 leadership election, O'Toole made a platform appealing specifically towards Quebec nationalists. O'Toole supports decentralizing the federal government's power in Quebec, having stated he is open to giving the province increased powers over immigration and opposing federal intervention to stop the Quebec ban on religious symbols, arguing that the independence of Quebec's legislature should be protected. He believes that large, federally regulated companies should be required to adhere to Quebec's Charter of the French Language.
O'Toole supports a faster process for getting tested for COVID-19, noting the hours he waited for a test in Ottawa. He has called on the Trudeau government to approve testing options that allow people to get tested quickly and at their homes. In October 2020, O'Toole praised Alberta's pandemic response, which was less restrictive and included testing at pharmacies. He said the other provinces did not react as strongly to the pandemic.
O'Toole claims that the economy will be unstable if Canada does not have rapid testing or a vaccine. When distribution of a vaccine was near, he criticized the government for being unable to deliver vaccine doses as quickly as other countries like the US and the UK. He claimed that Canada only focused on preordering vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna after a partnership with a Chinese company failed. Following anxiety related to a vaccine, O'Toole said that the government should be more transparent about its vaccine rollout plans.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, O'Toole released a post-pandemic recovery plan. He promised to launch a royal commission on the issue within 100 days of taking office and said the "big government" strategy failed Canadians. He has proposed converting the existing child care expense deduction to a refundable tax credit. He supported extending Employment Insurance for workers after the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ran out in summer 2021. O'Toole believes the CERB should have been used more effectively by the government and focused on sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. He proposes expanding the emergency loan program for businesses and temporarily amend bankruptcy laws to make company restructuring easier.
O'Toole supports unions, calling them "an essential part of the balance between what was good for business and what was good for employees". He believes a lack of unions gives too much power to corporate elites, who he has said would be "too happy to outsource jobs abroad". After an anti-pipeline movement sparked rail blockades across Canada, O'Toole promised to make it a specific criminal offence to block them, and entrances to businesses and air and seaports. He also plans on introducing a law to ensure free trade between Canada's provinces.
On carbon pricing, O'Toole would replace the current federal carbon tax with a system for consumers that would put a surcharge on carbon into a "low carbon savings account", a tax-free savings account to be used on purchases to make consumers more environmentally friendly. The surcharge O'Toole proposes is lower than that of the Trudeau government and O'Toole plans to offset that by other measures such as requiring 30 percent of light vehicles to be free of pollutants by 2030. O'Toole's climate plan proposes to continue taxing industry and does plan to raise it as much as Trudeau intends to. He has said climate change is a global problem which requires a global solution. O'Toole has committed to meeting Canada's Paris Agreement targets and has said he will partner with the provinces to do so. He supports net-zero emissions legislation as long as he considers it to "support Canadian industry" and has stated that he would like to partner with and pressure organizations to lower their emissions, including helping oil companies become carbon neutral.
O'Toole supports ending Canada's energy imports from outside North America. He supports pipeline construction, arguing they "ignite" Canada's economy, though he has said that the proposed Energy East pipeline will not be constructed. He opposes the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act. He would introduce a National Strategic Pipelines Act to speed up approvals of pipelines deemed to be in Canada's national interest and repeal the related legislation introduced by the Trudeau government.
On March 20, 2021 O'Toole attempted to convince members to support a more serious agenda aimed at curbing climate change, saying that he did not want his candidates to be labelled as climate change deniers. Despite this, the party's base rejected a motion adding "we recognize that climate change is real. The Conservative Party is willing to act", with 54% of delegates voting against it.
O'Toole's voting record on social issues has been described by The National Post as socially progressive. He is pro-choice on the matter of abortion, opposing legal restrictions on the practice, though he would hold free votes on bills related to abortion and other social issues. However, he also supports legislation which would allow health care practitioners to decline to offer treatment inconsistent with their religious or philosophical views such as abortion. O'Toole voted against bill C-14, which made euthanasia legal, saying he continued to have concerns about it and would prefer resources be focused on palliative care.
O'Toole supports same-sex marriage and has pledged to walk in pride parades under the condition that uniformed police officers can as well. His 2020 leadership platform included an end to the ban preventing gay men from donating blood. He also supports banning conversion therapy. Before recreational cannabis use was legalized, O'Toole supported its decriminalization and during his 2017 leadership campaign, he said that Trudeau's plan to legalize it would be impossible to reverse. In 2021, O'Toole announced his opposition to harsh punishments for drug offences, but said that it is not the time to further legalize drugs. He has pledged to repeal all gun law changes made by the Trudeau government.
According to political science professor Peter McKenna, O'Toole's foreign policy, especially that towards dictatorships and the United Nations, is similar to that of former-prime minister Stephen Harper. He has criticized Liberals for being too friendly with dictatorships and paying too much attention to the UN. McKenna has noted that O'Toole wants Canada to advocate for human rights internationally and will remove funding from UN agencies which he believes have failed from a corruption and human rights standpoint.
O'Toole opposes cutting Canada's foreign aid budget though he has said he would look to fund programs leading to measurable outcomes similar to prior Conservative policies. He supports a CANZUK agreement, a political and economic union between Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. He supports a "Canada First" strategy to promote domestic production of goods and economic self-sufficiency but says he is not as much of a protectionist as the former US president, Donald Trump. He supports meeting Canada's NATO commitments. On Israel, he supports recognition of Jerusalem as the country's capital and plans to move Canada's Israeli embassy there from Tel Aviv.
O'Toole has spoken out against the Chinese government multiple times, singling it out as a bad actor on the international stage. He says there is a "growing influence of Chinese agents" in Canada meant to push Chinese propaganda and to intimidate Canadians. He supports passing a law similar to the Australian foreign interference law. He has proposed tightening up foreign investment groups to deter state-owned companies from non-free countries from buying Canadian resources and companies unless there is a compelling reason to approve. He supports getting "tough on China" and imposing sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials involved with human rights violations using provisions of the Sergei Magnitsky Law. He opposes China's treatment of Uyghurs, claiming it is a genocide and that the 2022 Winter Olympics should be relocated over it. He has come out in support of the Trump administration's hard-line approach to China.
O'Toole supports banning Huawei from Canada's 5G networks, claiming China controls the company and has stolen technology from Nortel, a defunct Canadian company. He would give other providers tax credits to replace their infrastructure and apply pressure to other countries to stop allowing Chinese state-owned companies from accessing their markets and has called on the Trudeau government to expedite entry of political refugees fleeing Hong Kong.
Because of Canada's issues with the Chinese government, O'Toole seeks to improve relations with Taiwan and put "caveats" on the One-China policy. After Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu made remarks against Canada granting political asylum to pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, O'Toole said that it was a threat on Canadians and that he should be removed if he does not apologize for them.
O'Toole met his wife Rebecca in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1998, and they married in 2000. He has a daughter, Mollie, and a son, Jack. O'Toole is Roman Catholic. He founded True Patriot Love, a nonprofit supporting veterans, members of the military, and their families. In September 2020, O'Toole tested positive for COVID‑19, after a staffer in his office tested positive. His wife also later tested positive for COVID-19, after initially testing negative. They were in self-isolation until September 30, at which point O'Toole returned to Parliament.
|Candidate||1st ballot||2nd ballot||3rd ballot|
|Votes cast||%||Points allocated||%||Votes cast||%||Points allocated||%||Votes cast||%||Points allocated||%|
|2019 Canadian federal election: Durham|
|New Democratic||Sarah Whalen-Wright||13,323||18.2||+2.17||$3,348.10|
|Green||Evan Price||3,950||5.4||+2.88||none listed|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||73,014||100.0|
|Total rejected ballots||480|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|Candidate||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6||Round 7||Round 8||Round 9||Round 10||Round 11||Round 12||Round 13|
|2015 Canadian federal election: Durham|
|New Democratic||Derek Spence||10,289||16.03||−7.72||$21,240.10|
|Christian Heritage||Andrew Moriarity||364||0.57||–||$4,224.95|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||64,185||100.00||$236,417.96|
|Total rejected ballots||233||0.36||–|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|DurhamCanadian federal by-election, November 26, 2012: |
Resignation of Bev Oda
|New Democratic||Larry O'Connor||8,946||26.26||+5.16||$96,257|
|Christian Heritage||Andrew Moriarity||437||1.28||+0.49||$4,379|
|Total valid votes||34,068||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||115|
|Source: "November 26, 2012 By-elections". Elections Canada. November 27, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Erin O'Toole.|
|Parliament of Canada|
| Member of Parliament
| Minister of Veterans Affairs
| Leader of the Opposition
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Conservative Party
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