Vying to lead the Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole visited the Canadian Legion in Quyon on April 12. O’Toole has been the MP for the riding of Durham, (Ont.) since 2012 and was re-elected at the 2015 general election. He previously served as the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade.
When asked why he had chosen Quyon as one of his stops on the campaign trail, O'Toole was direct.
"I am here to earn the trust of the Conservative members of the of Pontiac in my bid to lead the party," he said. "I have a few friends here tonight who I've served with in the military and I know Ben Woodman who ran for us here last time and has worked in Parliament. Since I entered this race in mid-October, I have traveled to more ridings and have spoken to more members of the party that anyone else in this race. This is the time for our members to decide who should lead us going forward and I need to meet them and earn their trust."
O'Toole said he chose Quyon as a campaign stop for its' place in a large riding. "It's a central spot," he explained. "The riding association uses this region for their AGM. I thought, let's have it somewhere central, don't just keep it close to Ottawa."
This is O'Toole's first time in the Pontiac. "As a veteran, I have been to many many Legions and now I can add another one," he said.
Although O'Toole represents communities in Ontario, he sees similarities in the challenges facing the rural areas of both provinces.
"I know the big challenge of this region [is] not being well served by Quebec health system; I've heard that loud and clear," he said. "I am also a supporter of supply management and my agricultural policy is the best developed of any other [candidate]. My policies, in terms of job creation and supporting young people, apply everywhere. In many ways, there's areas of this part of Quebec that are similar to parts of Ontario, [which] have been struggling in the years after mill closures and manufacturing jobs moving out. We have to make sure we empower small businesses; if we can get every small business to hire one more person, that's much bigger across the country then a new plant or a car coming off the line or a new pulp mill opening up."
O'Toole is determined to lower the tax rate and bring in several measures to help facilitate hiring for small businesses, including less tax regulations.
"The biggest thing we have to do is small business creation," he stressed. "A lot of people are leaving [school] with high debt load and little opportunity. We want to free up and make sure they pay no tax in the first few years of their career. They can use that to pay down debt or start a new business."
He also considers support of supply management, and for family farms, as paramount for this region.
"People that promise corporate money for some company to relocate, often those jobs will leave when the payments from government end," he said. "We really need to foster a resurgence in small business hiring. I tell you, that's what helped us coming out of the global recession: small business."
Fourteen candidates are in the running to be the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. The election will be held in May 2017.