Running from behind, Erin O’Toole gets a high-stakes chance to reintroduce himself

DM

For Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, what could be a make-or-break effort to define himself in the eyes of voters starts now. Polling suggests his party begins a summer campaign behind the governing Liberals, who are eyeing a majority. The numbers also show that O’Toole, a former veterans affairs minister from a riding in the battleground Greater Toronto Area, is not particularly well-known or popular. It hasn’t always been easy for O’Toole to get a word in edgewise since winning the Conservative leadership last August. His debut as party leader in the House of Commons was postponed after he and his wife contracted COVID-19. For most of the year, O’Toole — like other leaders — wasn’t able to travel to different parts of the country. He’s struggled to generate buzz against the backdrop of a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis and a Liberal prime minister willing to spend big to tackle it. As election speculation reached a fever pitch over the summer, O’Toole argued that with Canadians worried about a fourth pandemic wave and the spreading delta variant, it was no time to go to the polls.

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