After winning the Conservative Party leadership in Ottawa early Monday morning, Erin O’Toole had a lot of people to call.
High on that list? His friend and former federal cabinet-mate, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
During a press conference Tuesday, Kenney said O’Toole called him Monday to discuss how the new Tory leader could work with Alberta to address western alienation.
“Erin called me yesterday, we spoke for half an hour further about these issues and I’m confident he’ll be a very strong voice for us,” Kenney said.
Kenney said he was “delighted” and “very happy” to see O’Toole win the leadership.
The Alberta premier and O’Toole have been friends for years, dating back to their time together in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, where O’Toole served in the veterans affairs portfolio while Kenney was minister of national defense. Kenney was the only premier to publicly endorse a candidate in the leadership race.
“I have great confidence in his ability, his wisdom and his total dedication to fairness for Alberta and a strong future for our resource industries,” Kenney said Tuesday.
He cited O’Toole’s previous push for a national pipelines program as proof the new leader will advocate for the energy industry. He noted how O’Toole launched his leadership campaign in Calgary, and has spoken extensively about Alberta alienation.
“One of the reasons I endorsed Erin is because he has been a consistent, longtime leader on issues, real priority issues for Albertans,” Kenney said.
On Tuesday during his own press conference, O’Toole said he would “stand up” for the province. The Tory leader said western alienation was one of the main topics he spoke about during his first conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I raised my deep concerns about western alienation and the need for a plan to address real and serious national unity issues,” O’Toole said. “Because western alienation is so significant a threat to Canadian unity, I believe we don’t even have a day to spare.”
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Specifically, O’Toole called for the throne speech upon Parliament’s return to include an economic rebuilding plan for the oil and gas industry, and for the federal government’s relationship with Alberta to be about “collaboration, not confrontation.”
“They’re planning a throne speech and an economic rebuilding plan, and if they continue to leave out the ability for our resource sector to get Canadian resources to market, we’re going to see more western alienation,” he said.
“It’s about respecting our constitution and the provincial autonomy.”
Kenney praises Leslyn Lewis
During Tuesday’s remarks, Kenney also praised the campaign of Tory leadership hopeful Leslyn Lewis, who he personally helped recruit to the federal Conservative party.
“I was very excited to see the tremendous support for my friend, Dr. Leslyn Lewis,” Kenney said.
A Toronto lawyer and the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Lewis was widely seen as a distant third heading into the leadership vote. However, backed by the social conservative vote, she dominated vote totals across the prairies, and even placed first on the second ballot in Alberta.
“She overcame enormous barriers and has become a very powerful voice in our national politics and I hope and expect to see great things from her,” Kenney said.
Kenney pointed to her success, and his appointment of Kaycee Madu as the first Black Minister of Justice in Canadian history on Tuesday, as proof that rural conservatives can and will support diverse candidates.
“I think that sends a very important message about how this truly is a country characterized by quality of opportunity and about how the conservative movement embraces people of diverse backgrounds,” Kenney said.
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