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

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
Second case of COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health has confirmed the new case is unrelated to the one announced Sunday

Three vehicle crash on Highway 33. Twila Amato, Black Press Media.
UPDATE: Three-vehicle crash involving bus on Highway 33

Highway 33 is slow going in both directions

More than 6,000 people attended the popular Downtown Vernon Association summer concert series known as Civic Sounds. (Peter Solymosi)
Vernon organization requests $20K to bring back park-based fun

Downtown Vernon Association seeks funding for 2021 programming

Welcome Inn will offer 20 beds, but site coordinators Jason Siebenga and Tara Tschritter hope to offer up to 40. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Winter shelters spaces opening in Kelowna

The move comes as winter conditions are setting in earlier this year

Comedian Mike Delamont will take the stage at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre for two socially-distanced shows Nov. 14 at 5:40 and 8 p.m. (Contributed)
Comedy returns to Vernon’s stage amid COVID-19

Cabaret-style shows let audience in on the live action once again

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

Salmon Arm RCMP responded to a seven-vehicle chain reaction collision early Monday morning, Oct. 26. (File photo)
One person injured in seven-vehicle chain-reaction collision in Salmon Arm

Snow packed to ice, speed contributing factors behind collisions

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm early Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm man killed in collision on Highway 1

RCMP say slippery road conditions contributing factor behind collision

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Parents not giving up, after official search for Manning Park hiker suspended again

‘We are determined, but eventually the money is going to run out.’

Most Read