In a fiery speech, O’Toole says Canada ‘drowns in debt and division’ on Trudeau’s watch

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole painted a bleak picture of Canada’s future in a fiery speech to her caucus colleagues this morning, accusing the re-elected Liberal government of pushing for inflation and regional divisions at a delicate time.

During a 12-minute speech to kick-start the new parliament, O’Toole said opposition conservatives “will not keep quiet” while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threatens the country’s prosperity and national unity with huge public spending and an anti-oil and gas agenda.

O’Toole said Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh have formed a “coalition” to enforce left-wing legislation that he said would prove “catastrophic” for the country.

The two parties have ruled out any formal agreement, but Singh has said he will support some forthcoming liberal bills, such as one that bans conversion therapy – the discredited practice of forcibly converting LGBTQ people to heterosexuality – and new criminal sanctions for anti-vaccination protests at hospitals, among others.

O’Toole also accused the Liberals of ignoring workers struggling with a sudden rise in consumer prices as inflation hits levels not seen since the early 2000s. O’Toole blamed the government’s COVID-related spending for this “crisis” and said Tuesday’s trontale did not suggest any solutions to curb price increases.

Experts argue that inflation in Canada and much of the Western world is tied to generous COVID-19 relief programs, limited supply chains, limited energy stocks and a labor-driven labor shortage that has pushed up wages.

While central bankers like Tiff Macklem, the governor of the Bank of Canada, have suggested that inflation would be “transient”, price increases across the economy are proving to be more resilient. Statistics Canada’s consumer price index rose 4.7 percent year-on-year in October – the largest increase since February 2003.

And as Canada’s house prices hit even more conspicuous levels, O’Toole accused the Liberal government of standing still as more and more young people give up the dream of owning a home.

SE: O’Toole speaks to his caucus the day after the throne speech

Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole speaks to her caucus the day after the throne speech

O’Toole criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government, saying they sow division among Canadians and push for a coalition with the NDP and the Green Party. 1:47

“What is Justin Trudeau’s answer? Instead of standing up for Canadians, we have a Prime Minister who always puts his own needs ahead of yours,” he said.

As promised in the last election, the Liberal government is expected to introduce a number of new incentives for first-time home buyers in the coming weeks to help meet soaring average property prices.

Later in the question period, O’Toole said Trudeau is either unaware of inflation or “just does not care” that families are struggling with higher bills.

Conservative Vice President Candice Bergen pressured Trudeau to tell the Commons when he last filled a car with gas or bought a can of beans or a packet of bacon, calling the prime minister “out of touch” with everyday realities.

“Everyone knows what the No Name tag is, except maybe the Prime Minister. The only thing he can worry about is if the price of surfboards rises,” said Bergen – a reference to the prime minister’s favorite water sport.

SE: Candice Bergen asks the Prime Minister about inflation

Deputy leader of the Conservative party Candice Bergen asks the Prime Minister about inflation

During the first full day of the 44th Parliament, Bergen took Trudeau to task over his priorities, and what the Conservative Party says are the highest inflation rates in Canada’s history. 4:29

Trudeau said the Conservatives are fixated on “scoring cheap political points,” adding that the government is “extremely concerned about the rising cost of living.”

The prime minister then announced his plan to flow billions of dollars to the provinces to reduce the cost of childcare. “When will the Prime Minister stop just talking about day care?” said Bergen in response.

Trudeau ‘shockingly silent’ on threats to pipelines: O’Toole

O’Toole also aimed at the government’s promise to set a tough ceiling on emissions from the oil and gas sector. The measure – part of the government’s efforts to meet its commitment to reduce Canada’s emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 – would limit growth in Alberta’s oil territory.

O’Toole said Trudeau and his team unfairly targeted what he described as “the cleanest, most ethical, most environmentally conscious and most indigenously committed energy sector in the world.”

He said Trudeau had been “shockingly silent” about environmental activist David Suzuki’s controversial warning that “pipelines will be blown up” if political leaders do not act on climate change.

“What happens in this country when the Prime Minister does not want to condemn language like this?” said O’Toole. “Instead of uniting, the Liberal government has split. Instead of building up, the Liberal government is determined to close.”

Trudeau is leading an “ideological cabinet focused on shutting down industries and stopping investment in our country at a time when Canada is drowning in debt and division,” O’Toole said, adding that the Conservatives are “the only party that stands up for the Canadians “.”

O’Toole pressed for the prime ministerial term in question to condemn Suzuki’s comments. “Any remark that advocates or serves to incite violence is unproductive and potentially dangerous,” Trudeau said.

O’Toole’s aggressive speech to the caucus comes as he faces an internal challenge to his leadership.

Conservative Sen. Denise Batters last week launched a petition calling for an accelerated leadership review after the party suffered what she called “significant losses” in the recent federal election.

O’Toole threw her out of the national caucus, but her colleagues in the Senate have kept her in the conservative fold in the Red Chamber.

Just a week after launch, the signature collection has already collected more than 5,000 signatures, according to a spokesman for Batters. The petition’s latest high-profile endorsement came from former Conservative party councilor Sam Magnus, who had a leadership role in the party for more than a decade.

Conservative Senator Denise Batters of Saskatchewan is making a petition calling for a vote on Erin O’Toole’s leadership. (Chris Rands / CBC)

Under the party’s constitution, a referendum can be launched if five per cent of the Conservative members sign a petition calling on the party to vote on a number of issues. Batters has 90 days to gather enough signatures to pressure the party to hold a referendum on an O’Toole leadership review. The party’s president, Rob Batherson, said last week that the petition was “out of order”.

O’Toole also still deals with vaccine-related caucus issues. Liberal Government House leader Mark Holland is calling for a stricter review of the “medical exceptions” that some Tory MPs have claimed to avoid getting a COVID-19 shot.

O’Toole has declined to say how many of his caucus colleagues have been able to circumvent the Commons vaccine mandate by demanding an exception. According to the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE), the committee of lawmakers that essentially governs the House, a lawmaker can be exempted if they have evidence of “a medical contraindication to full vaccination.”

The Netherlands told reporters after the Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday that he had heard from MEPs with compromised immune systems “on all sides” of the Commons who are concerned about the presence of unvaccinated MPs in the packed Commons chamber.

“I think the Canadians expect us to come down to the country’s businesses. They think we’ve spent enough time discussing the question of whether people should be vaccinated or not,” Holland said.

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