Erin O'Toole snags high-profile endorsement of Gérard Deltell in Conservative leadership race

Conservative leadership contender Erin O'Toole has scored the endorsement of high-profile Quebec MP Gérard Deltell.

Ontario MP's campaign boosted by support from former ADQ leader who joined the federal Conservatives in 2015

Conservative leadership contender Erin O'Toole has won the endorsement of Quebec MP Gérard Deltell. (CBC)

Conservative leadership contender Erin O'Toole has scored the endorsement from high-profile Quebec politician Gérard Deltell.

O'Toole announced the backing during a news conference at the National Press Theatre today.

Deltell is the Conservative finance critic. Prior to running for the federal Conservatives in 2015, he was a prominent provincial politician in Quebec, serving as the final leader of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) until it merged to form the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) in 2012.

Deltell praised O'Toole's "impressive" track record in the military and as a lawyer and cabinet minister, and said his "pragmatic" policy approach will unite Conservatives and Canadians.

"He right for the party, he's right for the country," he said.

Deltell said he has great respect for all the candidates, and took time to carefully evaluate all 14 in the race before concluding O'Toole is best to lead the party.

Focus on track record

O'Toole launched his leadership bid in October, promising to deliver experience, fresh ideas and a "track record of getting things done."

The former veterans affairs minister and current MP for Durham is a former Canadian Armed Forces captain.

O'Toole heaped mutual praise on Deltell, calling him a leading voice of the future of the party.

The leadership candidate said his newest supporter will strengthen the campaign's ground game in Quebec, where Deltell is well-known and well-regarded. He will add to the "positive swell" for his campaign, O'Toole said.

"That will help me get my name out more in ridings I'm going to visit with Gérard, and we will explain our ideas, including defending supply management, which has become an issue in this campaign," he said.

A CBC analysis based on endorsement, fundraising and polling data shows that with less than two months to go before voting begins, Maxime Bernier and Kevin O'Leary are the front-runners.

The analysis, which was compiled before Deltell's endorsement, put O'Toole in fifth spot in the field of 14 candidates.

Scheer's mother passes away

Andrew Scheer, who was in third place, announced today he is temporarily scaling back his campaign due to the death of his mother Mary.

"I have been grateful for your messages and thoughts and prayers this week as my family gathered here in Ottawa to say our goodbyes," he said in a statement.

"I have some immediate commitments that have been planned well in advance and I want to honour them, but I will be scaling back my campaign duties over the next few days as we make plans for her funeral, and celebrate the incredible woman that she was. I would ask for your continued prayers at this time."