Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole stopped on Vancouver Island to meet with business leaders on Tuesday, July 13.
O’Toole visited Nanaimo for a roundtable with business leaders and local politicians from Nanaimo and Ladysmith before heading to an event Qualicum Beach and ending his tour in Courtenay and Comox.
“I met with businesses, civic leaders and some people who are stepping forward to run in the next election. It was a really good visit,” he said.
Business leaders expressed their concerns about the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and pressed O’Toole to support the tourism sector which has been battered by travel restrictions. O’Toole said that the Liberal government hasn’t had enough focus on supporting small and medium-sized businesses to help them weather the pandemic.
O’Toole added that many people spoke to him about missing tourism opportunities provided by the cruise ship industry.
“This is something the Conservatives fought for months ago — to use rapid tests and keep that business. The real worry is that it wouldn’t come back,” he said.
In order to address the concerns of businesses, O’Toole launched a five-point recovery plan in March. That plan aims to provide incentivize investments in small businesses, create job opportunities for Canadians — particularly women and young Canadians who have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic job losses.
O’Toole’s plan also includes measures to toughen conflict of interest and anti-corruption laws in Ottawa, boost funding for mental health providers across the country, create a stockpile of essential items and build domestic vaccine manufacturing facilities. O’Toole also promises to balance the federal budget over the next 10 years.
O’Toole confident about Conservatives on Vancouver Island
O’Toole says that he is not in favour of an election and stated that the government’s focus should be on recovery from COVID-19.
“We put on half a trillion dollars of debt, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the G7, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there — hospitality, tourism, travel have been decimated — I think the focus needs to be the well-being of Canadians and getting people back to work.”
O’Toole said that the Conservative Party will be ready if an election is called.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Conservative candidate John Hirst finished second in both the 2019 Federal By-Election and the General Election. Hirst secured 25.9 percent of the vote, behind Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly who won with 34.5 percent.
“I’m very optimistic about Nanaimo-Ladysmith. We’ve got a long presence of doing well. We are going to speak to the needs of the Island and B.C. in general,” O’Toole said.
His visit came on the heels of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s visit to Vancouver Island. O’Toole said he believes the NDP ‘no longer stand up for working people’, whereas the Conservative Party wants to get people back to work.
“On the Island, the option really has to be the Conservative Party because Mr. Trudeau gets propped up by the NDP, the Greens and the other parties. We need a real voice from the Island.”