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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

county
After unsuccessful attempts to contact owner, Throne property going to tax sale

Bidding will be closed as of the first council meeting in February of 2021

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Damien Kurek
COLUMN: Local MP Damien Kurek on ensuring that there is a plan for recovery

‘Canadians deserve answers, and the Official Opposition has been there trying to get them.’

Heart
Online sessions help participants improve heart health

Heart Wise offers effective strategies to manage cholesterol and blood pressure

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read