ALSO TODAY: PM to be briefed on COVID-19 response, wildfires — McKenna, Wilkinson deliver fresh federal cash for Alberta infrastructure, climate change efforts
After spending his first full day as Conservative leader settling into his new suite in the precinct — which, as CBC News reports, included a courtesy call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as extended discussions with his predecessor, Andrew Scheer — Erin O’Toole is ready for his first official close-up, as per a party-issued advisory inviting Hill reporters to a mid-morning press conference in the West Block media theatre. (11 AM)
According to the notice, O’Toole will “outline his positive Conservative vision to unite Canadians and defeat Justin Trudeau” before opening the floor to questions, at which point he’ll almost certainly be quizzed over whether his party is prepared to bring down the minority Liberal government during the first confidence test of the new session, which is expected to take place within days of the Speech from the Throne currently slated for delivery on September 23.
He may also be cross-examined over how he intends to rally both rank-and-file party supporters and his own caucus in the wake of what the Star’s Tonda MacCharles notes was “a hard-fought and at times nasty contest” against his main rival, Peter MacKay.
“The strong showing of Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, the two candidates who were unabashedly socially conservative and anti-abortion, shows a base of support that demands to be taken seriously by the party leader, and not merely pandered to,” she points out, while “O’Toole’s courting of his anti-abortion rivals — and his belated declaration that he is personally pro-choice — leave the party open, once again, to Liberal accusations of a hidden agenda in the minds of some Conservatives.”
He’ll also have to decide just how far he’s willing to go to win over MPs who publicly backed MacKay, who managed to secure more endorsements from current caucus members than O’Toole despite not having a seat in the Commons.
“A MacKay campaign source who spoke on a background-only basis said that during the race, O’Toole remarked on more than one occasion to fellow Conservatives who did not support his leadership bid, ‘How are the backbenchers doing?’” MacCharles reports.
“It may have been a quip. Or a threat. But its meaning was clear: you’re with me or you’re against me. More MPs lined up behind MacKay than O’Toole. Now they wait to see how O’Toole will shape his team for the job ahead.”
As for the prime minister, he’s booked in for a closed-door briefing on COVID-19, courtesy of Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, followed by an update on wildfires from Public Safety Minister Bill Blair before hosting a conference call with his provincial and territorial counterparts.
He’ll also make a second attempt to connect with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, whose name also appeared on yesterday’s posted itinerary.
OUTSIDE THE PRECINCT
Two Team Trudeau front benchers hit the late summer political circuit in Alberta: Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, who will deliver an “important infrastructure announcement” during a visit to Drayton Valley’s Clean Energy Technology Centre alongside her provincial counterpart, Prasad Panda, as well as local MLA Mark Smith and Drayton Valley Mayor Michael Doerksen, and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who will team up with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for a virtual funding reveal focused on the city’s “climate change initiatives.”
Back in the Greater Toronto Area, Small Business Minister Mary Ng drops by Markham-based Bluewrist Inc. to “discuss export opportunities” and “highlight” her government’s ongoing response to COVID-19 before a mid-afternoon stop at York University to unveil new federal cash for “women entrepreneurs,” which she’ll follow up by meeting with representatives from four local businesses “to discuss how CanExport is helping their businesses grow and export to international markets.”
ON THE VIRTUAL COMMITTEE CIRCUIT
Due to the prorogation of parliament, all House and Senate committee meetings are suspended until regular sittings resume in September.
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HOT OFF THE WIRES
Committee highlights courtesy of our friends at iPoliticsINTEL.
Don’t miss today’s complete legislative brief in GovGuide.ca!