The new leader of Canada’s official opposition called U.S. President Donald Trump “erratic, unfair and, quite frankly, dangerous” during a townhall this week with the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
Erin O’Toole made the comments about the outgoing president Tuesday when asked by Chamber CEO Michael Hind about better bilateral relations under newly elected president Joe Biden.
O’Toole, who was elected party leader last August, spoke about the “horrific insurrection on the Capitol” last week incited by Trump, of which he’s now facing impeachment, and said Canada’s Tories have “zero tolerance for radicalism.”
But asked if some of his own MPs and staff are sympathetic to the Republican Party, O’Toole skirted the question and took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for distributing old photos during the Tory leadership campaign.
During the webinar, the Conservative leader suggested Canada’s relationship with the U.S. will change under Biden “but it’s very unclear how.”
And he noted that even when President Barack Obama was in power, with Biden as vice president, Trudeau wasn’t able to extend the softwood lumber deal nor was he able to get the Keystone XL pipeline through.
The American government “always put their own interest first,” O’Toole said during the online session, which was heard by chamber members as well as Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West and B.C. Conservative MPs like Nelly Shin (Port Moody-Coquitlam).
O’Toole said he’s also looking forward to renewing his dealings with the prime minister.
Last year, after he was elected Tory leader, O’Toole said he reached out to Trudeau to talk about a range of subjects like energy independence, trade, Norad and the environment; however, a summary of their phone call became public one-hour prior.
“There was not a high degree of sincerity on his part,” he said of Trudeau.
On the question of LGBTQ+ policies, O’Toole claimed he has a stronger voting record than Trudeau, noting, “I’m in politics to defend the rights of Canadians.”
O’Toole also took questions about outsourcing manufacturing, climate change, military procurement, the upcoming auditor general’s report, the national debt and the global pandemic.
O’Toole, who contracted COVID-19 with his wife last September and has since recovered, criticized the Grit government for its talks with a Chinese pharmaceutical company to deliver a vaccine when Pfizer and Moderna were already pushing ahead with their remedies. He said Canada is behind on rapid testing compared with its allies, and the the federal government “has been very opaque with information.”
Should a snap election be called this year, as hinted by Trudeau last Friday, O’Toole said that Canada’s “most ethical party” will campaign for lower taxes, less regulation and a tax stimulus to help the economy recover.
And he suggested the federal government needs to bring confidence to the private sector — with many businesses now facing insolvency — and to partner with local governments and First Nations to encourage jobs and investment.
“The vaccines will allow us to round the corner but we have incredible economic challenges ahead,” O’Toole said, adding, “Our focus is going to be security and safety that comes with a salary.”