Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Advertising Subscribe Reuse & Permissions
Hill Times Events Hill Times Books Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now

‘Some people just can’t leave the campaign behind’: O’Toole rips libertarian website run by Bernier supporters

By Peter Mazereeuw      

A handful of other Tory MPs either endorsed or shrugged off the new third-party group, Conservative Futures.

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole, who finished third in the party leadership race behind Maxime Bernier and winner Andrew Scheer, questioned the motive behind the establishment of a new group that aims to promote libertarian ideas, and is run by a former staffer for Mr. Bernier's campaign. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

Conservative MP and former leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has harsh words for a new pro-libertarian organization started by a former aide to Maxime Bernier, calling it a continuation of Mr. Bernier’s campaign for the Conservative Party leadership even after that race wrapped with a victory for Andrew Scheer in May.

“All campaigns need to step away for a while, including that one,” said Mr. O’Toole, who came in third in the contest, just behind Mr. Bernier.

The Conservative Party itself, and a handful of other Tory MPs, either endorsed or shrugged off the new third-party group, Conservative Futures, as another avenue to spread conservative ideas.

The group could also help conservatives fight back against influence from third-party groups supporting left-leaning parties, said Conservative MP Alex Nuttall (Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte, Ont.), who supported Mr. Bernier (Beauce, Que.) in the leadership race and penned a blog post for the recently launched Conservative Futures website.

A coalition of centre-left interests pooled money in 2015 under the banner of Engage Canada to run third-party attack ads on former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper before the writ dropped for that year’s election.

However, Conservative MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-University, Sask.) who also ran for the party leadership and came in fourth, said while he supported and ran on many of the policies espoused by Conservative Futures, “There’s going to be questions asked, because it’s all Maxime Bernier’s old campaign team: ‘Is this his campaign team in waiting?’” for a future leadership race, he said.

“I think they’re going to have to address that question, and reassure Andrew Scheer and his people that they’re not seeking to undermine his leadership.”

‘I don’t really understand the motive’

Conservative Futures is an attempt to build a movement in Canada for libertarian ideas—smaller government and freer markets—said Brian Storseth, a former Conservative MP and former Team Bernier campaign co-chair, who sits on the board of the new non-profit organization. The website includes campaigns targeting Canada’s gun laws and corporate welfare, for instance. It features opinion pieces by conservative activists.

“What we want to do is push forward these ideas, gather Canadians to support these ideas, and effect change,” he said.

Conservative Futures is being led by executive director Emrys Graefe, who previously worked as Team Bernier’s digital director, and as a senior political adviser to Mr. Nuttall, and before that as a deputy director of political operations for the Conservative Party of Canada. When contacted, Mr. Graefe referred comment to Mr. Storseth.

Former Conservative MP Brian Storseth helped to manage Maxime Bernier’s leadership campaign, and is now on the board of Conservative Futures. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

Mr. Storseth declined to name other members of the board without their permission, but said it was a group of “like-minded young conservatives.”

Conservative Futures is using its website and Facebook page to raise money, recruit followers, host events, facilitate members-only discussions, and more. The group is about ideas, not political parties, said Mr. Storseth; the webpage lists policy proposals such as privatizing the CBC, scrapping the supply management system for agriculture, and opposing the Paris climate agreement, and promoting free speech and same sex marriage, though it also includes campaigns to stop Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, and Ontario’s Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne.

“It is ridiculous, really,” said Mr. O’Toole, adding those sorts of discussions already happen within the Conservative Party that Mr. Scheer was just selected to lead.

“I put out a lot of podcasts and blogs and stuff, and I do it just as a Conservative MP. I don’t need to belong to some special group. So I don’t really understand the motive for it,” he said. “Perhaps some people just can’t leave the campaign behind, but that’s not the case with us.”

Mr. Bernier, who also authored an article for the Conservative Futures blog, told The Hill Times he has no role with the organization, and that it was not his idea. He said he may write more blog entries for the site.

“I’m very pleased that people decide to promote Conservative ideas, and that’s what they’re doing,” he said.

When asked to explain why members of Team Bernier decided to found or support Conservative Futures, Mr. Storseth said, “there is no Bernier team campaign anymore,” and said the connection was based upon shared ideals. Mr. Bernier campaigned for the Conservative Party leadership on a libertarian-leaning platform, with promises to scrap supply management for agriculture and the group that controls maple syrup production in Quebec.

Tension between the Bernier and O’Toole leadership campaigns spilled onto the pages of The National Post in mid-May, after members of Mr. Bernier’s campaign team “liked” a short video that showed someone setting flame to Mr. O’Toole’s brochure, the cover of which featured a photo of Mr. O’Toole with his wife and children, on a webpage devoted to Bernier-related memes. A spokesperson for the Bernier campaign denied any link to the webpage.

The Scheer and Bernier teams also sparred over the ability of the other to cost some of the policies they had proposed. Mr. Scheer bested Mr. Bernier in the leadership race by less than two percentage points.

‘Inappropriate’ to clear idea with Scheer

A handful of Conservative MPs reached by The Hill Times said they didn’t take issue with the establishment of Conservative Futures outside of the Conservative Party.

“Our party is a big-tent party, and includes everyone from fiscal conservatives to red Tories to social conservatives to libertarians. Any conservative-minded person who wants to go out to start some kind of conservative organization to push a few issues that they think are important, I say, ‘more power to them,’” said Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton, Alta.), who backed Mr. O’Toole in the leadership race.    

Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson Cory Hann responded to questions from The Hill Times with a similar message, writing, “It’s always positive when Canadians want to get more involved in politics, and especially when they look to help grow our Conservative movement across Canada.”

Mr. Storseth said the Conservative Futures has not reached out to Mr. Scheer as Mr. Trost suggested, and will not do so, given its existence outside of the party.

“I think that would be inappropriate, and I think Mr. Scheer’s team would find it inappropriate, to have interactions between third-party organizations and the Conservative Party of Canada. That’s never crossed our mind,” he said.

Conservative Futures is just the sort of thing the conservative movement in Canada needs if its parties are going to compete with rivals on the left, which have support from like-minded organizations like Canada 2020 and labour unions, said Mr. Nuttall.

Third-party organizations spent more than $6-million during the election period in 2015, and labour groups dominated the list of top spenders.

“We got our clocks cleaned by third parties in the last election,” he said. “If the Conservative Party is not organized and not ready, then the same thing will happen again.”



More in News

Drop in polls ‘a wake-up call’ for Trudeau’s Liberals who need to ‘work on their game,’ say leading pollsters

News|By Abbas Rana
The recent drop in public opinion polls should be a “wake-up call” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's governing Liberals who need to keep their eye on the ball and communicate what they’re doing to improve the…

Billions found in revised fiscal forecasts in 2018 budget, but Finance Canada vague on how

News|By Jolson Lim
The Liberal government expects to add $19.8-billion to its bottom line between now and 2023 in new fiscal projections, with more than half of that coming from changes to spending at the department level, but Finance…

Ford campaign team has ties to Bernier, Leitch, went all in on digital ads

New Ontario PC leader Doug Ford upended the party establishment through a campaign run by a small group with ties to the Ford family, as well as several high-profile federal Conservatives. The members of Mr.…

Feds to begin negotiations with supercluster winners

The five winners of the government’s superclusters competition will be meeting with the federal Innovation Department in the coming weeks to get started on a months-long negotiation over just how much money each will receive…

Obhrai complains to police, House security over anonymous email to constituents calling him ‘laziest,’ ‘most entitled’ MP

News|By Abbas Rana
Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai has filed a complaint with the Calgary police and the House security about a nasty, anonymous email circulated in his riding saying the seven-term MP is “the laziest and most entitled…

On the road again: how rookie Liberal MP Hutchings tackles riding bigger than Switzerland

Feature|By Laura Ryckewaert
Representing the riding of Long Range Mountains, N.L., which covers an area larger than Switzerland and includes more than 200 communities, means a lot of time spent on the road for Liberal MP Gudie Hutchings…

Mandatory anti-harassment training coming for MPs’ staffers on and off the Hill

This fall, anyone working in an MP’s office can expect to follow in their boss's footsteps and be required to take in-person anti-harassment training, following a House of Commons Board of Internal Economy decision earlier…

Poor issues management plaguing Trudeau’s team, say strategists

The public relations problems that plagued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent India trip are part of a pattern of poor issues management that politicos say will dog this government if it doesn’t change course quickly.…

Feds move to do full PS staff survey yearly, not every three years

A comprehensive examination of how public servants feel about their workplaces will now be done yearly, instead of every three years, a move welcomed by union representatives, who say there needs to be meaningful action…


We’re offering 15% off a year-long subscription to the hill times online content.