Maguire backing Erin O’Toole for leadership

May 26, 2020, 11:43 am
Kevin Weedmark

Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire in the House of Commons

Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, whose riding covers southwest Manitoba, says he is supporting Erin O’Toole in the federal Conservative leadership race. Editor Kevin Weedmark spoke with him last week about the race. The complete interview follows:

Who are you supporting in the leadership race?
Mr. Erin O’Toole.

What were the main factors that went into your decision?
Well, just the fact that I’ve known Erin for the seven years he’s been a member of parliament.

I know Mr. MacKay as well—he’s a very outstanding person and he covered a number of portfolios.

But Erin brings a lot of integrity and experience. He was our Veterans Affairs minister. He’s had experience in international trade after his law degree working in international trade on Bay Street in Toronto.

He is certainly well known throughout Ontario and we do need to win seats in Ontario.

I think he’s got a perspective of all of Canada because he has lived in B.C., he’s lived in Edmonton, in Winnipeg at 17 Wing when he was in the air force. He comes from Bowmanville just east of Toronto, he took his law degree in Dalhousie in Halifax. He is fluently bilingual as well so he will do very well in Quebec as well.

Was it a difficult decision to decide who to support or did you know you would support Mr. O’Toole as soon as he announced he was running?
Well I backed Mr. O’Toole the last time and he finished third behind Mr. Scheer and Maxime Bernier. This time it was different. I did wait until after the candidates were all named and the deadline was passed before I announced that I would be supporting Erin, but I certainly do know his work ethic and his ability to understand the average Canadian’s needs and be able to be very straightforward with the media, and I think that is extremely important.

Do you think the average voter knows a lot about Mr. O’Toole at this point?
Well if they have been paying attention to politics they do! He has been very outspoken in regards to many of these issues. Taiwan being part of the World Health Organization, for one. I know he has backed that publicly and a number of different policies, but I think between he and Mr. MacKay they are the two most well known members running, and Ms. Leslie and Ms. Lewis is running a good campaign as well.

I always say people didn’t know much about Larry McGuire at some point either when I was first running, but when you become the member, or in this case when you become the leader, you are well known instantly across the country. Then you’re on display and it is up to you to make sure that you get your message across and I think that Erin could do that very, very easily and in a very relaxed manner. Yet it is the most important and serious position in Canadian politics, that’s for sure.

Does Mr. O’Toole have a lot of support among your colleagues in caucus? It is pretty clear on how the support is breaking down?
I think he does. I haven’t asked a whole bunch, I haven’t seen a list, but I do know that he has good support here in Western Canada and I know that he has strength down in Ontario and the Maritimes and support in Quebec as well, and everyone thinks he has done well in B.C. as well.

So I think the regional base is there in all the regions. He has support right across the country. He didn’t have any trouble getting his 3,000 names in or raising the $300,000 that was required to be a candidate in this nomination race, and with that I think he will be very successful.

Do you think overall there is a pretty strong field of leadership candidates this time around?
Yeah I do. I think that we’ve got three or four very strong candidates I know three of them very well but I think Mr. O’Toole and Mr. MacKay are the two most well known across the whole country. Mr. MacKay of course from his previous time in parliament being the person that brought the parties together, but Mr. O’Toole I see as the one that could unite the party and keep it as a very strong faction against Mr. Trudeau in the next election and against the Liberals.

How is the actual race being impacted by Covid-19? Is it much different because you can’t have the same type of gatherings?
Well there is no doubt it has impacted it. The party did recognize that and basically shut down the nomination race for a month. It’s been reopened and the deadline has passed last Friday for selling memberships in the race. The ballots will all be mail in ballots that will come out later in June and early July probably, and they will be having to be returned by August 21, and so at the end of August there will be a new leader announced for our party.

What do you think are the prospects for the next leader and next election? Do you think the party is in a good position to form government after the next election with the right leadership?
Absolutely. We are one of the strongest opposition party ever in Canadian history with 121 members, so I think we are very well staged across the country to be able to keep the Liberals honest. That’s why we want to get back into parliament on a daily basis this year to have not 338 members but a hybrid parliament as they are doing in Britain and other areas of the world.

We’re sitting one day a week with a very minimal 35 or so members in the House now every Wednesday, but the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc and the Greens do not want to be there any more then that and yet there are many, many questions coming up from Canadians still every day in regards to what’s needed, and a great many of the suggestions that the Conservatives put forward have been accepted by the Liberals, including the 75 per cent wage subsidy—the increase from 10 percent to 75 per cent for the wage subsidy.

People were complaining about not being able to access the $40,000 loans program because of the barriers, and this morning we took out the rest of the barriers to that so that small businesses that basically don’t have a business number or aren’t incorporated can also apply for that loan assistance now as well, and that is quite significant for our small businesses which make up 83 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in Canada.

How has Covid-19 changed the way you’re doing your job?
We’ve had our door locked and we’re going to open it up again in June, but we’re busier than we’ve ever been, taking phone calls from people because of the coronavirus.

We’re just steady on the phone. First it was trying to get people back to the country, then ever since the programs were announced, helping people figure out how they qualify, do they qualify and those sorts of things.

I’ve also been working to make sure we can keep things like our pork plants here in Manitoba, at Neepawa and Brandon, at full slaughter so we can help the pork industry as much as we can.

The prices are already in the tank because of the number of facilities that are closed in the U.S. and the North American price-setting mechanism in the market, but our beef industry is devastated as well because of the coronavirus and the fact that High River and Brooks, Alberta have had problems.

We have had great export markets because of the Free Trade Agreements set up by Mr. Harper, with the TPP with Japan and a number of countries, which led to tariff reductions on our beef. It worked out very well and we were able to expand our exports and our agriculture industries. For the time being it’s great to see we’re able to get some product through the plants. It’s certainly backing up on the farmers on the beef side, though, on feedlots and ranches.