Oroville Mercury-Register

To unseat Trudeau, Conservati­ve leader seeks middle ground

- By Rob Gillies

TORONTO » The man who could oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from power advertised himself a year ago as a “true-blue conservati­ve.” He became Conservati­ve Party leader with a pledge to “take back Canada” — and almost immediatel­y started working to modernize the party by pushing it toward the political center.

Erin O’Toole, a military veteran and a member of Parliament for nine years, has only quickened his pace while campaignin­g for Canada’s snap federal election. Despite criticism that the former lawyer would say and do anything to get elected, polls show O’Toole’s Conservati­ves could defeat Trudeau’s Liberal Party on Monday.

O’Toole’s strategy, which has included disavowing positions held dear by his party’s base on issues such as climate change, guns and balanced budgets, is designed to appeal to a broader crosssecti­on of voters in a country that tends to be far more liberal than its southern neighbor. Whether moderate Canadians believe O’Toole is the progressiv­e conservati­ve he claims and whether it has alienated conservati­ves have become central questions of the election campaign.

“He has distanced himself from being Conservati­ve,” said Jenni Byrne, who served as campaign manager and deputy chief of staff to former Conservati­ve Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “He distanced himself not just from the Harper years but from the leadership campaign that he ran less than two years ago.”

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