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

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

"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

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

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

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

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’

Most Read