Erin O’Toole’s convention speech: It’s time for a new plan (Full transcript)

In a much-anticipated speech, O’Toole called for a focus on new ideas. ‘We are never going to win over Canadians just by relying on Justin Trudeau to continue to disappoint.’

O'Toole walks to the podium at the start of a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 26, 2021 (CP/Adrian Wyld)

O’Toole walks to the podium at the start of a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 26, 2021 (CP/Adrian Wyld)

Erin O’Toole spoke at the Conservative Party convention on Friday night at a pivotal moment in his leadership. His party is struggling to improve in the polls and an election seems likely this year. He has faced criticism for not presenting clear positions on major issues. As one MP recently told Paul Wells, “There’s no danger of a coup, but people are saying, ‘Let’s go. Tell us what you stand for and we’ll get behind it and support it.’” Here are O’Toole’s remarks: 

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. Canada has changed. Our Party has to change too.

Le Canada a changé. Notre Parti doit changer aussi.

The courage of Canadians has helped our country weather the storm of this last year. The courage of our nurses and doctors on the frontlines. The courage of Personal Support Workers who put their health at risk to help our seniors. The courage of families caring for a loved one or comforting their children. The Conservative Party must show that we too have the courage to meet this extraordinary moment, and change.

We have lost two elections in five-and-a-half years. In that time, we have had four leaders. We must present new ideas, not make the same arguments hoping that maybe this time more Canadians will come around to our position.

Justin Trudeau has called small business owners tax cheats. He has broken countless promises from increasing the carbon tax to ending boil water advisories on reserves.

M. Trudeau et les libéraux ont fermé les yeux sur de nombreux scandales :WE Charity et Frank Baylis. Pendant que les Canadiens souffraient, les amis libéraux en profitaient.

But he still got re-elected.

We are never going to win over Canadians just by relying on Justin Trudeau to continue to disappoint. His scandals, as outrageous as they often are, will never be enough to defeat him.

The Liberal government has used the worst health and economic crisis in generations to help some well-connected friends get ahead. While hundreds of thousands of Canadians got left behind. But even that will not be enough to defeat him. The Conservative Party can defeat him. But only with the courage to grow. To move beyond a party that does well only in certain parts of Canada, while leaving other Canadians out.

We need to be the party for all of Canada. We need to be a Conservative Party with the courage to be bold. And a Conservative Party with the courage to change.
We owe it to our country to be that courageous.

Canada is now more divided than any other time in our history. Look at how far behind Canada has fallen in the last 18 months since the last election. Look at how devastated families are from coast to coast to coast.

Malheureusement, plus de 20,000 Canadiens sont morts de la COVID-19. Des centaines de milliers de personnes sont toujours sans emploi. Des millions de familles ont de la difficulté à joindre les deux bouts, tout en aidant leurs enfants à apprendre à la maison. Plusieurs femmes ont été agressées dans des hôtels de quarantaine. Sans oublier la lenteur du déploiement des vaccins, ce qui a repoussé la relance économique de plusieurs mois.

I take no pleasure in this laundry list of incompetence. We wanted the government to succeed because Canadians needed them to succeed. We could not have seen this pandemic coming in 2019 when we lost the election. But now we must acknowledge that the true cost of our defeat was so much bigger than to just our party. Our defeat cost Canada.

Do I think things would have been different with a Conservative government at the helm? Absolutely, I do. Ordinary Canadians are relying on us to win the next election. Because, my friends, the very future of Canada is what is at stake now. We cannot afford to lose because Canadians cannot afford for us to lose.

Canada is at a crossroads. The two paths before us could not be more different. One veers off into the unknown, with more risky shutdowns and unfunded, unknown and untested changes that will leave millions more Canadians behind. That is the path of Mr. Trudeau’s reimagined economy. One where an Ottawa-knows-best approach picks and chooses which jobs Canadians should have, in which sector and in which region. It’s a path where the connected few get richer, while working families get left behind.

But there is another path. A path of security and certainty. It may not be the most glamourous route, but it will get all of us safely to our destination. It will deliver us to a Canada where those who have struggled the most through this pandemic get back to work. A Canada where manufacturing at home is bolstered, where wages go up, and where the dream so many families in Canada have of affording a better life for their children can be realized. But Canadians need to elect a Conservative government to take that path and secure a strong future for our children.

Ce n’est pas le temps de réimaginer notre économie. 

Who else is going to stop Mr. Trudeau’s “reimagining” of the economy? Jagmeet Singh isn’t going to. Yves-François Blanchet ne va pas le faire. En fait, il ne peut pas le faire. We are. This outstanding Conservative team. Our passionate caucus. Our incredible volunteers.

The people participating in this convention in the middle of a pandemic. You are here because you love our country. I love our country too and that is what motivates me as Conservative leader. Together, we will give Justin Trudeau the fight of his life. Because there is one thing the Liberals fear more than anything else: a Conservative Party with the courage to grow, to be bold, and to change. And that’s the Conservative Party that many Canadians are waiting for.

They are waiting at those crossroads to show up. To say we have learned. To prove we have grown. To show that we have the courage to lead this country along the right path to a Canada that is stronger than ever. A Canada where no one is left behind.

How are we going to do that? Today, I am introducing Canada’s Recovery Plan. A plan to secure our future. Every Canadian deserves the security and dignity of a secure, stable and well-paid job. Canada’s Conservatives will enact a comprehensive jobs plan to recover the million jobs lost during the pandemic within one year. And we won’t stop there. We will take immediate action in the hardest hit sectors, helping those who have suffered the most, including women and young people. We will rebuild Main Street by assisting small business and providing incentives to invest, rebuild, and start new businesses. And we will create opportunity in all sectors of the economy and in every part of the country.

Second, we will enact the toughest accountability and transparency laws in Canada’s history. It’s time to clean up the mess in Ottawa with an anti-corruption law. We will toughen the Conflict of Interest Act and the Lobbying Act and impose higher penalties to end abuse by Liberal insiders. We will shine the bright light of transparency to end Liberal cover-ups once and for all.

Cela a assez duré. Les Canadiens sont tannés de ce gouvernement. Il faut rétablir la confiance des Canadiens à l’égard de leur premier ministre, de leur Parlement et de leurs institutions fédérales.

Third, this last year has deepened the mental health crisis our communities have been struggling with across Canada. Mental health is central to the wellness of families and communities and we must take immediate action to treat it properly. There isn’t a Canadian family that hasn’t been impacted by mental health challenges during this pandemic. My own included.

The isolation has been excruciating for so many people. The rate of youth in mental crisis has skyrocketed in numerous ways in the last year from anxiety to eating disorders. The rate of domestic violence and addiction has gone up. And in British Columbia more people have died in the past year of drug overdoses than COVID-19. The opioid crisis has become the pandemic of tears within the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian families are worried about their children. After a year of isolation, missed classes, cancelled sports seasons and little socialization, I know as a father of two that we need to take this very seriously and act now. Canada’s Conservatives will introduce a Canada Mental Health Action Plan and boost funding partnerships with the provinces for mental health care. We will provide incentives to employers to provide better mental wellness coverage to employees. And we will create a nation-wide, three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

Fourth, I will ensure our country is never unprepared for a crisis again. Canada’s Conservatives will make Canada more resilient, reduce our reliance on foreign countries like China, and take seriously our responsibility to protect the health of Canadians. We will partner with pharmaceutical companies to increase production of critical medicines and active ingredients in Canada. And we will build domestic vaccine production capacity. We will use government procurement and investments to strengthen domestic production of PPE and other critical products. And we will overhaul Canada’s National Emergency Stockpile System to ensure the things we need to rapidly respond in a crisis are there when we need them.

Finally, a Conservative government will secure Canada’s economy by getting the budget back to balance over the next decade. Spending to protect Canadians during the pandemic is the right thing to do, and Conservatives have supported it. But we can’t pass unsustainable debt to our children and future generations. Once the recovery starts, the Conservatives will get spending under control.

As Canadians are vaccinated and the economy re-opens, we will wind down emergency support programs responsibly. We will ensure that stimulus measures are targeted and time-limited to avoid a structural deficit. And we will get the economy growing again to secure the revenue needed to pay for the government services Canadians depend on.

This is the Canada recovery plan we will bring to Canadians in the coming weeks. Together we will show Canadians that we are in this for them. And we are ready to lead.

Nous sommes prêts à diriger, et je suis fier du plan que je viens d’élaborer avec vous. Un plan qui met l’accent sur:

–  les emplois et la reprise économique
–  une nouvelle loi anti-corruption
–  le bien-être et la santé mentale des Canadiens
–  une préparation adéquate pour faire face à toute prochaine crise sanitaire
–  et le retour à l’équilibre budgétaire d’ici une décennie

Il faut aussi protéger nos acquis, autant culturels qu’économiques. 

Il y a une nation québécoise, dont le cœur est le Québec français. Les conservateurs ont reconnu la nation québécoise en 2006. Mon Canada, c’est celui des deux peuples fondateurs avec la contribution des Premières Nations. Cette notion doit demeurer au centre de l’idée du Canada. Je veux protéger la culture québécoise, son patrimoine, son identité. La langue française n’est pas seulement un outil de communication. Elle fait partie de l’identité de notre pays.

C’est un héritage qu’il faut préserver. C’est pourquoi j’invite les nationalistes québécois, fédéralistes ou autonomistes, à venir partager le pouvoir avec moi à Ottawa.

Nous allons former une grande coalition conservatrice. 

Depuis la dernière année, les libéraux ont profité de la pandémie pour centraliser les pouvoirs, en plus d’intervenir dans les compétences provinciales. Je respecte les provinces, de même qu’une bonne gestion des dépenses publiques, sans couper dans les programmes provinciaux.

Nous défendons un fédéralisme de coopération, même décentralisateur. Un gouvernement conservateur va toujours être ouvert à négocier de nouvelles ententes administratives avec le Québec. Par exemple, nous appuyons la demande des Québécois pour la création d’un rapport d’impôt unique.

Au lieu d’imposer des solutions paternalistes, le fédéral doit donner les outils nécessaires aux provinces pour réussir, pour qu’elles soient plus fortes et plus autonomes.

Je m’engage aussi à défendre les intérêts du Québec. C’est-à-dire augmenter le pouvoir du Québec en culture et en immigration, assurer des transferts en santé et appliquer la Loi 101 aux entreprises à charte fédérale. Les Québécois ont besoin d’une voix forte à la table des décisions. Nous allons agir pour le Québec !

Je veux aussi m’adresser aux Acadiens, ainsi qu’aux communautés francophones hors Québec. Nous n’allons pas uniquement publier un Livre Blanc. Au contraire, nous allons passer à l’action dans le dossier des langues officielles.

But our new approach won’t stop there. There are those that say no matter what we do, we can only win elections when the NDP are stronger. Well, depending on another party’s performance is not a strategy. And I’m not going to sit around and wait for them to get serious. The NDP no longer stand up for working Canadians and their families. Private sector union workers share so many of our values of hard-work, family and community. Like us, they are proud of what we build here in Canada. They should be voting Conservative. And if we have the courage to change our approach with organized labour to open our tent to them, we will win their trust.

Il y en a aussi qui vont vous dire que pour avoir du succès au Québec, nous devons faire comme le Bloc. Être plus comme eux.

Mes amis, je ne vous apprends rien si je vous dis que le Bloc québécois ne va jamais aller plus loin que l’opposition. Le Bloc peut seulement présenter des projets de loi symboliques. Il ne peut pas livrer la marchandise. C’est mauvais pour les intérêts du Québec. Je veux solidifier l’unité nationale.

Pour ça, il faut travailler ensemble, il faut unir nos forces. Il faut s’unir, non pas diviser. C’est pourquoi nous devons présenter nos propres idées aux Québécois, avec une approche conservatrice. Une approche audacieuse qui respecte la spécificité des Québécois et des Québécoises. Il est temps d’opter pour une formation à la hauteur de vos attentes, pour une formation qui peut agir. Dès maintenant. En ayant le courage de changer les choses, nous allons y arriver.

There are those that say we need to get ahead of the Wexit movement. I say, there is no other party in Canada more committed to national unity than the Conservative Party of Canada. But there is only one thing that will help Alberta and Saskatchewan feel secure and more welcome in confederation. A Conservative government in Ottawa.

Having the courage to change means we can be a champion for hundreds of thousands of families in the West losing hope.

There are those that say we need to become Liberal to appeal to suburban voters. I say the families in the suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver want certainty from the government. They are tired of the entitlement of the Liberal Party and a Prime Minister under constant ethics investigations. These Canadians want confidence that things will return to normal and that we have a plan to ensure that no one gets left behind.

They want to be sure that we will be a government that fights for the prosperity and rights of all Canadians, including women, Indigenous Canadians, LGBTQ Canadians and new Canadians. They want to be able to display our lawn signs with pride in the next election and send a clear message that everyone is welcome in our movement.

Theirs is the trust we must earn before the next election. With courage, we will give them the certainty that they are looking for.

We must also recognize that Canadians expect us to have a real plan for the environment. We need to boldly reclaim the environment as an area where Conservatives are leaders. And why shouldn’t we be? Our party was built with farmers, hunters and anglers—people who respect and live off the very lands and waters we need to conserve. Protecting the environment has always been a core Conservative value. I care about the environment because I’m a Conservative.

Je prends la question environnementale très au sérieux. Il faut contribuer à la lutte contre les changements climatiques. Nous devons agir avec détermination pour y arriver. C’est important pour le Canada.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what I’m going to say about climate change in this speech. To those who were expecting a dramatic moment: I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. But I will say this. From the first days of my campaign to lead our party I have said two things consistently:

One. We all want a green future for our children. We cannot ignore the reality of climate change. The debate is over. But a Conservative government will not solve this problem on the backs of working Canadians. The answer is not Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax on the poor, working families and the little guy trying to make a go of it.

I’ll also say this: as important as climate change is, getting our economy back on track is more important. We can’t have a green future without jobs and growth.

Canadian voters should have no doubt: my focus is on jobs, getting us out of the recession, and rebuilding the Canadian economy. Only Liberals think it’s a good idea to raise taxes in a recession. We will scrap Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax on working Canadians.

Il faut aussi donner plus de latitude aux provinces en matière d’environnement.

The second thing I’ve said is that we must have a credible alternative.

We have now fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax because voters did not think we were serious about addressing climate change. And I will not allow 338 candidates to defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers. We will have a plan to address climate change. It will be comprehensive. And it will be serious.

I love this country. That’s why I served in the military. It’s why I volunteer. It’s why I ran for office. And it’s why I serve today as Conservative Leader.

I love this party. The beliefs we hold in our very core built this great country. Self-determination. Hard work. Responsibility. Respect. Helping others. The importance of community to a strong society. These ideals will lift Canada up and inspire a generation to rebuild the country following this crisis. These ideals will ensure more Canadians see a Conservative when they look in the mirror. And feel good about voting for a party that will get this country moving again.

I want all Canadians to feel welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada. Whether you’re black, white or brown. Whether you are LGBTQ or straight.
Whether you worship on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, every day or not at all. You are welcome in our party. In fact, we need your help. Canada needs your help.

We are the party of this country’s founding and this country’s future.

Nous sommes le parti fondateur du Canada. Nous sommes aussi le parti de l’avenir. Notre parti a toujours défendu la dualité culturelle du pays. Cela fait partie de notre histoire. Cela fait partie de notre identité. Nous sommes le parti de Georges-Étienne Cartier et de John A. Macdonald, où un francophone et un anglophone, où un Bleu et un Tory se sont alliés pour créer un pacte. Ce pacte est à l’origine d’un pays incroyable: le Canada.

There is an entire generation of Canadians who are being left behind by this pandemic and its economic fallout. We must secure Canada’s future for them. There are young people who feel stuck, whose lives and careers have been put on hold indefinitely. We must secure Canada’s future for them. There are families out West who have been set adrift by this government, who are losing hope. We must secure Canada’s future for them. There are new Canadians who came here with nothing but their passion and dreams, who poured everything they had into their small business. And now they’re on the brink of losing everything. We must secure Canada’s future for them. Nous devons protéger notre avenir.

We are the party that will ensure this country’s economy gets back on track after the pandemic. We are the party that will get Canadians back to work in every sector and in every region. We are the party that will ensure Canada has a real plan for reopening and rebuilding our economy. A real plan to get life back to normal.

Ideas raised at this convention will help inform that plan. As we work together on our policy platform, the most important question we must ask ourselves is: will this help us secure Canada’s future? Everything we put forward to Canadians in coming weeks and months must be singularly focused at that.

C’est au cœur de mon engagement. C’est ce dont il sera question lors des prochaines élections. Quel parti va offrir aux Canadiens un avenir économique stable après la COVID-19?

Canada is a big nation. Not because it spans a continent and touches three oceans. But because there has never been a time when Canadians, having set their minds to something, have not rallied to achieve success.

It was a young nation that took the ridge at Vimy after other countries had failed. It’s the hopeful nation that attracted immigrants to our shores with the resolute belief that with hard work and opportunity anything is possible in this country.

We need to restore that Canadian optimism. We need to restore Canadian ingenuity. We need to restore Canadian leadership. Because now, we are the nation that discovered insulin a century ago, but today we require our vaccines to be delivered to us from Belgium, Spain or India.

We are the nation that led the North Atlantic convoy, but today we can’t get ships built on time for a modern navy.

Nous avons construit le Pont Victoria à Montréal et le Pont de Québec, mais aujourd’hui, nous avons une Banque de l’infrastructure qui est seulement capable de livrer des bonus à ses dirigeants.

We are the nation that built railways across the Rocky Mountains, but today we can’t seem to build pipelines anywhere. And we are the nation that led our allies to force an end to Apartheid in South Africa, but just a few weeks ago Prime Minister Trudeau did not show up for a vote recognizing the genocide against the Uyghur minority in China.

This is what we’ve become under Justin Trudeau. But this is not who we are. Canada may be lagging in this crisis, but we will lead again. We will be leaders for human rights around the world. We will be leaders for equality and liberty.

And when we win the next election, we will be leaders in the pandemic recovery with job creation that ensures no Canadian, from any walk of life, gets left behind.

Canadians are weary after a year of national crisis. Families are tired of the lockdowns and isolation. But Canadians are resolute and united in the belief that our country’s greatest days are ahead of us. Je suis fier de diriger ce formidable parti. Je fais campagne pour devenir premier ministre du Canada.

I am proud to lead this great party. I am proud to be a kid from Bowmanville running to be Prime Minister of Canada. And together, we are going to secure the future for this great country.