Politics

Conservative leadership hopeful Erin O'Toole says he will not move party to the middle

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O'Toole says he will not try to move to the middle in his campaign to succeed Andrew Scheer and will present a platform that sits well right of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Former Veterans Affairs minister says Conservative leadership now a 2-horse race

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O'Toole says the race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada is now down to a contest of two. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O'Toole said he will not try and move to the middle in his campaign to succeed Andrew Scheer and will present a platform that sits well right of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

"We have to be conservative," O'Toole told CBC News Network's Power & Politics Tuesday. "I don't think we go to the middle. I think that's what another opponent in this race will be suggesting: we just go to the slight right of Justin Trudeau. 

"That's not the answer for me. I think we need ideas for the future," he told host Vassy Kapelos. 

O'Toole said that despite other declared candidates, such as Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu and former conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, the race to helm the Conservative Party of Canada is down to two people. 

"There's other names as well and they're all going to put their perspectives out, but it's a decision about going forward — and sort of the next generation of leadership — or maybe going back," he said. 

The candidate that would represent a move backward, suggested O'Toole, is former federal Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay, who helped former prime minister Stephen Harper unite the Canadian Alliance and the PCs under a single conservative banner. 

MacKay, who sat as an MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, but decided to leave politics before the 2015 federal election, recently jumped into the race, but his first two weeks on the campaign trail were beset with missteps.

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O'Toole says the race is not a coronation for rival Peter MacKay. 8:47

No coronation

O'Toole said that anyone who considers MacKay as the natural leader in waiting should look at the first few weeks of the Ontario MP's campaign before they make up their mind. 

"I would say judge his first two weeks, by my first two weeks, and you can see there's not a coronation," he said. 

The member for Durham riding, east of Toronto, also dismissed persistent rumours that one of his former Conservative cabinet colleagues, John Baird, would soon announce his leadership aspirations and complicate the race. 

"I've a lot of respect for John. I don't think he will, but he could. He has a lot of respect in our party," O'Toole said. 

Baird is enjoying his work in the private sector too much to jump back into politics, O'Toole said. 

Who's running -for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. (CBC News)

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