Sean Kilpatrick/CP Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds his first news conference as leader on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 25.

Sean Kilpatrick/CP Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds his first news conference as leader on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 25.

COVID-19 aid bill, Tory leader O’Toole’s speech headline Parliament’s first full week

O’Toole’s throne speech reply will recast that approach as a pitch to the country as a whole

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and the Bloc Quebecois chief Yves-Francois Blanchet are expected to take their seats in the House of Commons this week after being benched due to COVID-19.

Their respective replies to the Liberals’ speech from the throne will come as MPs are also set to debate new COVID-19 relief measures — and potentially pass them into law — during the first full week of operations for the pandemic Parliament.

O’Toole’s response to the speech from the throne will be his first statement in the Commons since becoming party leader just over a month ago.

O’Toole used his victory speech as new Conservative leader last month to focus on how he’d expand the so-called “big blue tent” and make the party relevant beyond its base.

His throne speech reply will recast that approach as a pitch to the country as a whole.

Yet while his first comments in the House of Commons as Tory leader will be important, grand speeches delivered on the floor of the Commons matter less in the digital era, suggested Ginny Roth of Crestview Strategies.

Even as he was stuck in his basement, the party was pushing out video clips in a bid to introduce him more broadly to the country.

One was about his mother’s death when he was a child and the pivotal role his hockey coach played in helping him through that time. Another, his message on Labour Day, saw O’Toole make an unusual conservative pitch directly to workers — political turf more traditionally home to the NDP or Liberals.

With people online far more often these days due to the pandemic, direct content can have far more impact than a single speech, Roth said, as being a strong performer in Parliament doesn’t necessarily translate to votes in a general election.

“His biggest challenge is his name recognition, people just don’t know who he is,” Roth said “He’s using the format that works the best for people and seems to access people the most right now: online video content.”

O’Toole’s remarks in the Commons will draw on his experiences waiting to be tested for — and ultimately diagnosed with — COVID-19. But he’ll also use the opportunity to set a tone for how he’ll seek to lead the official Opposition in the coming months and win the country in the eventual next election.

“We’re going to oppose, and we’re going to challenge and hold the government to account,” O’Toole said in an interview last week with The Canadian Press. “But we’re also going to offer some contrasting vision.”

O’Toole’s Tories came out fast against the throne speech last week, arguing it didn’t go far enough to offer support to Canadians impacted by the pandemic. The Bloc Quebecois said absent a federal government plan to transfer billions more for healthcare to the provinces, they aren’t sure they can support it either.

But the NDP have now said that if their demands for a stronger COVID-19 safety net are in the new relief bill before the Commons this week, they will likely support the speech from the throne.

The bill sets up a replacement for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which gave $500 a week to nearly 9 million Canadians during the early phase of the pandemic to help those who’d lost their jobs.

The new approach will provide the same sum — one of the NDP’s conditions — via the employment insurance program.

There will also be a new, temporary Canada Recovery Benefit for those who don’t qualify for EI as well as a sick leave benefit and another benefit for those who must stay home to look after a dependent who falls ill or has to self-isolate.

The NDP have yet to disclose what improvements they managed to secure from the Liberals to the sick leave portion of the bill.

Applications for the recovery benefit are to open Oct. 11 and, for the other two benefits, on Oct. 4.

READ MORE: Opposition blames Liberals as talks around return of Parliament near 11th hour

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusParliament

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read