CPC Interview Series: Erin O'Toole

On May 27, 2017, the Conservative Party of Canada will be electing a new leader. 

This leadership race will ultimately determine who will lead the Conservative Party of Canada (Conservative Party) in the 2019 federal election.

As Canadian Muslims, it is important that we exercise our civic duty to help choose the next leader of the Conservative Party, who could be the next Prime Minister of Canada. 

How to vote?

In order to vote for the next leader of the Conservative Party, you must hold active membership to the Conservative Party before March 28, 2017.

Interview Series

Over the past few weeks, The Canadian-Muslim Vote has been sitting down with a few of the 14 candidates contesting for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

We have been profiling these candidates so that you (our readers) can make an informed voting decision on May 27, 2017.

Erin O’Toole (Conservative)

Member of Parliament for Durham (Ontario)

Offices and Roles as a Parliamentarian

  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (2015)

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (2013-2015)


1. Tell us a bit about your background and why you decided to run for the nomination to be the next leader of the conservative party and perhaps one day Prime Minister of Canada? 

My background is sort of your standard kid from the middle class who was taught to do well in school, help others, and serve your community. This lead me to join the military - I went to military college which helped pay for my school and then served in the military.  I met my wife while I was serving in Atlantic Canada. I finished my time, became a lawyer and then returned to Ontario. But I never stopped giving back and being involved with a number of causes that I was passionate about. I knew one day I would run for office, and I did when my Member of Parliament resigned and I ran in a by-election in 2012. So, I was elected a while after my colleagues Kellie [Leitch], Chris Alexander and others

I practiced law at Heenan Blaikie, articled and started my practice at Stikeman Elliott and then went to in-house counsel for Procter & Gamble for just over five years. It was a great company - I learned a lot from the exposure in-house and when I was at Heenan Blaikie so, when my MP resigned out of the blue I was suddenly running. I relied on my friends in Toronto to help raise funds and put together a team. They’re the same friends who are now helping me run for leader of the Party.

Why I’m running for leader of the party? I think we have so many good things to offer and we were doing so many good things as a government but we lost the faith of the people in the final year or two of government. Some of it was unfair; betrayals. Some of it was our own mistakes. I was part of the team and saw that. I want to try and build our next chapter, as I call it, building on the strengths of what we did before but also learn from some of the mistakes that we made, and learning to communicate and reach out better. I was the last cabinet minister appointed by Stephen harper to turn around Veteran’s Affairs, and I did that by trying to build respect with people who lost their faith, mainly veterans. We put a plan and a team together to get things back on track, including settling class action law suits, dealing with protests and I communicated. I went into rooms where people were yelling at me at first, like they did at the Clarington Islamic Centre during the election.

If you won’t hear the frustrations, then how are you going to learn someone else’s perspective? And, what’s nice about me is that I’m not a career politician, as I said, Military/Law. But more MP’s are supporting me because they saw my style and my approach as a cabinet minister. I am  someone who reaches out, doesn’t give up on any riding, on any issue, on any group. I think if we communicate better and we learn from the lessons of the election in 2015 we can win in 2019. If we don’t learn, we’ll lose in in 2019. It’s that simple. So, that’s why I’m running, I’m very committed to public service, committed to my party, and I’m very proud of my colleagues and of our work. However, I want to make sure we reconnect with people before the next election.


2. Why do you feel you’re qualified to lead the conservative party of Canada? Why should I vote for you over the 13 other candidates seeking the nomination?

Well first off, I think I’m the most qualified to lead because I’ve worn a uniform of service in the military, I was in the air force. I sailed with the navy and I was a Sea King helicopter navigator, and our crew flew missions off the back of ships. I’ve served Canada abroad in Europe alongside the Americans in the eastern seaboard, in the Caribbean, and in Canada. That gives you perspective. I’ve also worked in the private sector, and that gives you a perspective on our economy, and on the needs of competitiveness. I’ve worked in-house - Procter & Gamble is the largest manufacturer/ private sector employer in Eastern Ontario. That’s a perspective that I think is lacking. Unfortunately, there is very little private sector experience in the House of Commons.

I’m also a do-er. I helped start the True Patriot Love Foundation for military families and injured veterans, relying on the goodwill of corporate leaders, banks, and law firms. I was involved in the Churchill Society, educating young people on parliamentary democracy. I helped launch the Vimy Pin, and helped build the Neshama playground for disabled children. My philosophy is, you take the gifts you’re given, pursue your goals and dreams but also help people along the way. “To whom much is given, much is expected” is one of my favourite biblical verses but it’s also a motto on how my Dad used to say, “don’t just rest on your laurels, it’s not just about you”. And, if you’re not doing well, you won’t be able to help. You do have to pursue your own goals and I think there is nothing wrong with that for us, especially as a middle-class value; to strive to be the best you can be and to be successful and give back. In fact, as you know I’m the MP for Durham, our Canada 150 celebration this summer is about the 150 people, places and events that make our community better. We’re going to ask people to nominate people doing good work in the community. The community is not just a collection of buildings and businesses, it’s homes and churches, mosques and synagogues and all these sorts of things. I often will say that the pool I swam in and the hockey rink my kids play in were built by grassroots teams, and my parents were involved in raising funds and volunteering for these causes. That’s kind of the example I was given and I think it’s quintessentially my middle-class experience, maybe it’s not everyone’s, but I think it grounds me. Mr. Trudeau talks about the middle class but certainly doesn’t know it.


3. In the last federal election, some would argue that conservatives ran on a platform that was somewhat divisive, do you agree with this statement? Do you believe this was the right approach?

I think that some things we did were not communicated well, in some cases not even really needed. I will often say that when I was the public safety critic before running for leader of the Conservative Party, I would remind people, including one of my friends who gets very obsessed with screening of refugees and immigrants, that we did not do that as the last government. But, I often remind people that the last foiled terror attack in Canada was from a young man named Aaron Driver. His father was in the military and they were not immigrants or refugees. So, don’t stereotype and fall victim to allowing an important issue like public safety to turn into something that’s not well explained. I see that in the race. I saw that sometimes in the way we communicated some of the things we did. I will ask the tough questions when it comes to security screening which I did for the Syrian refugee process. I didn’t want the Trudeau government to rush that. Not only for our security here in Canada, but I didn’t want there to be failures of the system for the people that are coming. Let’s make sure that there is success here. Overall, I think there was some things we didn’t communicate well, and some other issues we spent too much time on.


4. In your opinion, why did the conservative party lose the last federal election in 2015?

I think we lost the confidence of a portion of the electorate that I think wanted change. I think they wanted it for a whole range of reasons. Within our system, it’s hard to hold on to more than 10 years of government. But, that confidence, I think was not shaken on our performance on the economy or on job creation, or a whole range of bread and butter issues. I think it was because they didn’t think we were talking about issues that they wanted us talking about. They didn’t see that we had a pragmatic position on the environment, for example. They didn’t see that we had a plan for being more collaborative with the provinces on healthcare, because the Prime Minister wouldn’t do provincial/federal meetings with the premiers all the years. You had all these premiers grumbling about us all the time. What happened after a while was there was a sense that ‘they’re stuck in the old ways’. I’m not sure how best to describe it. It was a loss of confidence because I met voters across the country that praised our work on the economy, on taxes, on jobs, rebuilding the Canadian Armed Forces, and a whole range of issues that they were happy with but they said, ‘you just gotta go’, or ‘Harper’s gotta go’ or whatever they said. They couldn’t really put their finger on it. I say we lost the confidence and it could have been because of a range of issues but they didn’t feel that we deserved that extra term. I think we have to learn from that. 

That means, I think, we have to have pragmatic, principled responses and policies on issues Canadians want to hear our views about. We can’t avoid talking about greenhouse gas emission reduction. On First Nation issues, we were seen as holding up the missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry, even though we made huge strides. We had the truth and reconciliation commission, we had a good story to tell. But because we weren’t willing to engage on one specific topic we portrayed as having no background.


5. In your view, since the Liberals were elected in 2015, what have they done wrong?

On a personal level, I like Justin Trudeau, as a lot of Canadians do. He said whatever it took to whatever group he was in front of to win. That’s not leadership. First Nations are a great example, [he said] we’re going to heal the rift, we’re going to achieve reconciliation to problems that are not just multi-generational they’re foundational to our confederation’. He said, I’m going to accept all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings- personally I don’t even think he read them- and all will be good in the land, but there’s complaints about the inquiry. Within a few months, he had his Minister step down from not only all of the commitments of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also from the UN Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples. The conservative government was not going to sign on because we’re responsible for our own people, First Nations and non-First Nations, not the UN. But they (the Liberals) said whatever it took to seem that they were going to solve that. They did the same for Veterans. They said “we’re going to bring back the old system of the pension”. I’ve spent a year explaining why the new changes were bringing and the minor pension I was bringing for the seriously injured was a superior way to go.

My real favourite chestnut to describe was “we’re going to run a deficit but never more than ten billion dollars”. But we’re running a deficit because Canada is in a recession and we need an infrastructure stimulus to get jobs created. That entire statement was a lie, and they broke it within three months. There was no recession. The money has not been spent on infrastructure. There have been no jobs created. And the deficit was not 10, it was mid 20’s-30 billion dollars. I could go on...there is the issue of electoral reform. Mr. Trudeau was very crafty and cloaked his messages in aspirations of hope. I hope if I win, to run against him on his record in 2019 because it is a litany of broken promises at a pace that is actually unrivalled in our history.


6. Tell us a bit about your policy platform, what are the top three policies you’re campaigning on?

Wow top three! That will be hard for me to narrow down. I’ve got a lot in there. In fact, my policy is called “Great Country” and it takes from a Sir John A. Macdonald quote. It tries to address what I think is lacking, if people loved our economic record but thought we were climate change deniers (we weren’t by the way),  but if they thought that because we didn’t talk about the environment enough they wrote us off. If they liked our performance on another issue but didn’t see a policy coming from us, another person would write us off. So, I’ve tried to say, these ideas are where I think the puck is going for Canada, to use a Wayne Gretzky analogy. I think conservatives should skate to it to address the needs of Canadians.

My centrepiece is called the Generation Kickstart policy. It’s to address the millennial underemployment problem, unemployment but more severely underemployment. You know, the Master’s degree at Starbucks, that sort of scenario. For the young person with a great education but $80,000 in debt. Trudeau and [Bill] Morneau have said that young people just need to get used to job churn, that was their comment. I call that the modern equivalent of letting them eat cake. We’re in charge but we’re so disconnected from your (millennials) needs. So, what are young people facing? The highest tuition debt in history. As a society, we deregulated tuition 20 years ago. Highest rental and housing costs in history, especially in Toronto and lower mainland Vancouver. And, the bleakest employment prospects out of college or university in 50 years. You know, with our generation if you did the right thing, got your skilled trade, got your university degree, became a professional, you literally found something within six months. That’s not the case now. I think society owes it to young people to do things differently. I’m going to change the personal basic exemption that people get from $11,000 to $33,000 for three years for everyone if you’re out of an accredited program under 30. But, here’s the kicker, if you’re in a high demand occupation or trade, the ones that we’re losing to the States -computer engineers, coders, computer game designers even some skilled mold and tool die makers that are in demand that we have temporary foreign workers for in Ontario- that extension goes to five years. 

Why? Because you have to be here, as lawyers know, it’s residency for tax in Canada. If you leave, you lose this advantage. If somebody goes to Waterloo and then goes to Silicon Valley for two years we can lure them back because they still have got three years to use up that exemption. I’ve been consulting with a lot of people on this, I think it’s the way the Federal government can do things, and it makes university more accessible. Why? Because young people will say: look my parents can’t afford to help me but if I go into one of these high demand areas, I will essentially pay no tax for my first five years. That will allow me to get my student debt down. The Federal government does not control education but if we can nudge people into areas where there’s productivity holes in our economy why would we not do that? And here’s the kicker, and why it’s my centerpiece, we need it to save our country. Because Justin Trudeau has made changes to old age security, that his own expert panel run by McKinsey has said was foolhardy. We need people working longer and we have to recognize that people are living longer. When we created old age security as a benefit in Canada, it’s not a pension, it’s paid for out of general revenue, there were six to seven people entering the workforce for every one person going on old age security. Now it’s about three. In 10 years, it’ll be just over two people entering the workforce for every one person leaving and going on old age security and living to 100 by the way. We can’t have those two people fail and, we can’t have one of those two people going to the States, after we’ve helped prepare them for a productive career. So, that’s my centrepiece.

I have some other great policies on bringing flow through shares that would’ve been very successful in the resource industry and exploration over to start-up life science and tech companies. I’ve got a range of I think very innovative policies. But the kickstart is the key and I think young people know the conservatives as, yeah, I know my grandfather used to vote for [them], they’re pretty good on the economy, they’re pretty good on job creation...hey and now, they have a policy that speaks to me and my needs. That’s my pitch.


7. You’ve seen a lot that’s been happening over the last couple years, south of the border. In different ways, that news always plays up here, and we hear it and it affects the way people perceive themselves. What do you think of the Trump administration’s current immigration policies including the travel ban that’s been imposed on 6 majority Muslim countries?

There were two conservative leadership candidates that commented on it. You should tell me which two! I was one of the two. There were two that were critical of the ban, Michael Chong and myself. I’m not sure if others praised it. But what I said is that we should have picked up the phone immediately, the Prime Minister should have and said to the President: “if you’re really actually worried about security, let’s work together on it”. This is a false sense of security and when I was asked about it by a journalist, I used the example I mentioned to  you already. The radicalization issue, Mr. Driver in London, Ontario was the son of a Canadian armed forces member. The killings in Quebec were from a young radicalized Quebecois. These aren’t people travelling in, these aren’t refugees, these aren’t permanent residents. Now, if there’s risks within that population, we can identify that usually by intelligence and security, but bans that allow stereotyping allow a false sense of security.

“We’ll solve that, we’ll just ban”. That wouldn’t have solved any Zehaf people. The guy who came into parliament - and I was there - and killed Nathan Cirillo. [He was] not a refugee, not a permanent resident. This is an area where I think we have a serious conversation, and I’m known as pretty hard core on defense and security issues, I’m a veteran. But, I don’t allow it to descend into false narratives and stereotypes because that’s actually not going to solve anything. In fact, it will mean that we get less intelligence from sources. If they know we’re not trying to stereotype, we may get people helping our security agencies.


8. With the recent refugee crisis in Europe and subsequent reaction by countries around world, the UK’s Brexit and the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies, where do you see Canada’s role in this global context which is becoming increasingly framed by fear mongering and alienation?

I think we need an honest discussion. The honest discussion includes, as I said, being critical of bans that are not effective to what they try to achieve and actually allow stereotyping that is not only unfair but masks the real issues. Secondly, it also means having the honest conversation. There is a radicalization problem. Let's not overstate it. It's small and very isolated but the impact can be profound. You know, we saw that with Mr. Bibeau in Ottawa. Fortunately, that wasn't as bad as it could have been. These are isolated cases but let's get down to working with all agencies and working with effective communities to try and stand out the issue or address the risks or try and make sure that that's not an option anyone goes down. 

You know, what I see in Ottawa is talk of that, of blocking the study at committee. When the UN Secretary General came, they took the Secretary General on a tour of the Anti-Radicalization Centre in Montréal, but [they] wouldn't let parliamentarians go and tour it as a committee. This is my concern: Trudeau will try and have his foot in both camps on all issues. [For example, Trudeau’s thoughts were:] "C51 is terrible but we're going to vote for it". And, they did. I've tried to have an honest discussion and that might mean that some people like to think that the media makes too much about radicalization. No, there are threats. Let's not overstate them but let’s not mask the media because I don't think it helps the entire issue of making sure that Canada is an opportunity for everyone, including people who are brand new to the family. So, that's how I think. [Let’s have] an honest, respectful discussion and then work with the community whether in Montreal, whether in Toronto, Ottawa, whichever radicalization problem, or Calgary, let's talk about it, not hide it.


9. So, is that to say in the global context, the role is to really set the example through the domestic conversations and how we address the problems of radicalisation domestically?

Yeah, and I think not allowing ourselves to have knee jerk responses, such as a travel ban or something like that. What we have to do is to make sure that the conversation is focused on what really needs to be done and not allow an attack in Paris or something like that to cause a movement in either way. You know, us lawyers used to say "laws reason devoid of emotion" or whatever the old Aristotle quote is. Let’s make sure that we have a rational discussion on this topic. But, that also means having the discussion. What the Liberals are trying to do with C51 is say "Oh. We're going to change the horrible sections of it, but we're not even going to state what those horrible sections are, but we're going to change something. So, we voted for it". I don't think that does anyone a service either. So, I always try to be a straight shooter on this and that means, not allowing stereotyping like a ban does, [it’s] not only profoundly unfair, it masks the real issue.


10. If we look at hate crimes in our country, we know that hate crimes have been on the rise. Different communities are affected differently. The Muslim community and islamophobic hate crimes in particular have been rising at a dramatic rate over the last two years. You saw the mosque that was fire bombed in Peterborough last year and you saw what happened in Quebec in January. Do you think that islamophobia is the problem for Canada right now?

Well, I wrote a blog on this issue - absolutely. In the blog, I tried to express the fact that if you actually want to go back to - even - when the Irish, my family, came here, my close family that are ancestors during the Irish Famine, there were waves of immigration to Canada. Every time, it led to some degree of backlash or reluctance or some sort of unfair treatment, but over time, I think those subsided. It's almost something, I think, that as a mature country, we have the ability to be mindful of - and to try to make sure - we are a welcoming society for everyone.

In my thesis, I said that this is a community, in which Muslim Canadians have been subjected to discrimination. In some cases, even just unease because for some people its new. When I talk to the Imam in our area and the Board of the mosque, they actually have done some great work to open up and demystify the mosque and all these sorts of things. I think that's great because what I would say what some people would perceive to be islamophobia is really just a lack of knowledge. I think what we have to do is to make sure everyone is free from discrimination and we have an inclusive society. I think we have the chance (and this was the blog’s subject), to make sure that what we've seen in the past whether it was Ukrainians who we interned in WWI, or the Japanese who we interned in WWII, Italians, Sikh - I think we have a chance to make sure that we don't allow a rational fear of new people coming lead to discrimination. That was the premise of my blog.


11. Ok. So, please tell us, what did you see as the intention of M103?

I wrote a blog on M103 and I spoke to MP Khalid on the motion. This was not her motion. This was the Prime Minister's office’s motion. Because, I'll tell you where it came from. 

First, there was an e-petition introduced in the House by Tom Mulcair. It was from a gentleman in Montreal, an NDP supporter. This is kind of the mundane proceedings of Parliament, but there's a time when petitions are read in the House of Commons. Now, there's e-petitions, so you can have electronic petitions, but they’re in routine proceedings, there's a time where you raise the petitions. The MP stands [and says] "Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by however many people on this" then it’s tabled in the House of Commons. Tom Mulcair stood up after question period, not the time to table petitions and asked the House for unanimous consent on a petition that nobody had even seen or heard of. Why did he use that time? Because, after question period, all the cameras are out front, waiting for the scrums with the leaders, after question period. He wanted to go out and condemn the Conservatives or whomever denied unanimous consent. Regardless of what was in the petition, that was a political stunt done to satisfy the gentleman who started it.

The day it was tabled, MP Khalid stood up and introduced her private member’s bill. Now, she had been on the order paper, she drew a good number in the lottery for private members’ bill. For example, my friend who had a private member’s bill lottery number, one after Iqra, he introduced his private member’s bill a year before and it was on PTSD. And usually, if somebody gets a good number, the first 80 or so, you know that you're going to get to a second reading vote, and following potentially to a committee. So, normally, people have it tabled long before.

The e-petitions completed, tabled. Instantly, the motion was drafted, she based it on the e-petition and it was a continuation, in my view, of a stunt meant to divide. When I called her to talk about it because I hadn't made up my mind on how I was going to vote, my discussion with her made it apparently - abundantly - clear that it was not her motion because when I was talking about "well, why don't you just take out the reference to the e-petition, keep the word islamophobia, keep everything else, but end this stunt by the NDP. Take out your reference.. [She said] “I don't, I see your point”. I had a good conversation, which I said publicly, I had a good conversation with her, she said "well, I'll have to run this by the Prime Minister's Office" and I never even got the courtesy of a response from MP Khalid. But, a day or two later, I read through a tweet from Katie Telford that [said] "she is standing her ground. No movement”! As I said, I'm a straight shooter. So, I voted it down because it was a continuation of a stunt.


12. Would you have voted in favour if she would have taken your suggestion and pulled that sentence out?

I told her, perhaps I would have, yes and [would have] even recommended it to my friends. I gave her three options actually. That was the easiest one. The other one would have been an insertion of other faiths, which is what other people in my party said. But, I said: “look, there's sometimes single faith motions all the time”.

Read my blog. I'm willing to talk about these things. I'm not avoiding discussions. I've criticized Kellie's whole campaign. Sadly, her slogan was "hope and hard work", and that was when she launched. 

As I've said in debates, I've asked questions in the House of Commons on screening of Syrian refugees. But, I did it in a way that stuck to the very narrow issue. I have always said, we want people coming to have success, they're joining the family. If you don't communicate these things well...  which I think Kellie hasn't done in this campaign, and I think MP Khalid did not do with M103. Is there some lunacy on the internet related to M103 and conspiracy? Absolutely. But, when I said to her: "look, work with me here, just take out the e-petition". That would have been a show of goodwill. [By doing that], you're removing it from what the NDP [did]. Because then, the NDP said "oh. We started this whole debate, we are the ones that are standing up for this community, not you”.

I'm hoping in politics, I can keep the same approach which I've always had, which is respectful, informed debate, being straight with you and never making promises that I can't keep.


13. January 29th was a terrible day for the Muslim community in Canada this year. And, I did not personally know any of the community in Quebec that was impacted by the tragedy but I can tell you that I knew a lot of people that called me and were afraid to go to the mosque, that were afraid to send their kids to school, that were in some cases [saying] “should I even be going to the mall?”. That sentiment, for a group of almost 1.5 million people across this country to feel, is a terrible thing. Potentially, as Prime Minister of this country and leader of this nation, what practical steps would you take to prevent Canada from experiencing that sort of tragedy again? 

Well, a couple of things. I think, I would certainly work with community leaders and law enforcement leaders on specific issues.

My family is originally from Peterborough, and that incident at the mosque there, [it] was shocking because Peterborough’s kind of a quiet, sleepy little town - my parents live there now, they're retired, living in a little cottage - and, so, sometimes, you can't foresee such things, but if there's risks that a community feels or law enforcement feels, those need to be addressed. Whether it's local law enforcement or whether it's RCMP or CSIS, I think that's something the Prime Minister should respond to but, then going back to what I talked about earlier, this sadly another example of radicalization, this young man had an irrational hatred that fueled him. Where was the source? Was it online?

 The radicalization piece is not just in one direction. You know, the worst terror attack prior to 9/11 in the United States was the Oklahoma City Bombing and that was from an army veteran radicalized by this sort of anti-government movement, freemen or whatever movement there is. So, it's not just Islamic terror or it's not radicalization. Radicalization can happen. We need to make sure it's studied and law enforcement is given the tools to address it and if there are ways communities can identify risks before they culminate into a horrific act. 

It’s a tough to discuss some of these things but, that is what Parliament is for, that is what committees should do. The fact that in our first year - I was Public Safety Critic - we were denied the ability, for the committee, to go and tour the very radicalization centre in Montreal that they bragged about to the UN Secretary General. That's public policy. I don't want to score political points when it comes to public safety and other things. I've tried to work with Minister Goodale, I was a Critic on the Security Intelligence Committee and other things related to the safety of Canadians. I love to take as much politics out of it as possible. On something like this, it would be working with the community and law enforcement, and I think those radicalization tools can also provide some degree of safety and risks to adhere to.


14. In your answer, you used the words "Islamic terror". Is there such a thing as Islamic terror or is terror [just] terror no matter who it is perpetuated by?

I think you have to be able to have a pragmatic discussion about it. I know certainly that this so called Islamic state does not speak for the faith at all. It is repugnant to the underpinnings of the faith. But, at the same time, the young man that attacked the mosque - you know, the media will portray that as the extreme right. Well, I'm on the right, “don't use that term”. Well, it is the term. Does he represent me? No. Did Mr. Bibeau represent your faith? Absolutely not. But, I think you have to show the willingness to talk about it and say "look, I don't say that this represents what it is”, but let's not also ignore these discussions or ignore a committee hearing on radicalization because that would be unfair as well.


15. Given the multicultural fabric that makes up our country and, there's been a lot of discussion. You know, we hear this from the Liberal Party all the time, their mantra is "diversity is our strength".

I have a great line: "except, if it's diversity in opinion on a matter of faith, his inability to accept someone who has a pro-life view in his caucus”. I think [this] is a good example of lack of diversity. You have to recognize even on moral issues, sometimes, you'll have disagreements but could still be part of the same movement.


16. What does diversity mean to you, as a Canadian?

I like to describe Canada as an opportunity. It doesn't matter if you've been here 5 minutes or 50 years or 5 generations. It's an opportunity to provide for your family, excel - as I was saying at the beginning - it's OK to want to be the best in whatever you want to do.

I think that same opportunity has responsibilities to it. If you have had success, how can you help others? How can you make sure that it's just as fair for somebody who came five weeks ago to have the same success that I have had for someone whose family came a long time ago? Well, actually, my late mother came after the war - she was born in London - partially, long time Irish folks and partially the son of someone who came (to Canada), but how can we ensure that that same opportunity exists for everyone?

It's respect, it's the charter, it is freedom, it's the rule of law and tolerance. I think we do it better than most countries. “We are perfection in the making”, it would be a good description of Canada. But, I think that Mr. Trudeau does a lot of things for the photographs and for the catch phrase. I think we have to talk about things and be very proud that we do have diversity. 

As I said to MP Khalid, going back, her maiden speech was a great speech. What an amazing fact that she can stand in Parliament. An immigrant family - whose daughter is representing the community in the House of Commons, that's an amazing achievement. It's not a lot of countries where that can happen, and Canada is one of them. We should be very proud of that. I'm on the opposite side of the House but I said to her: “I did not know much about you. But, I appreciate your personal story, it's impressive”. She was very open with me with the trials and tribulations that she's had. I feel bad for her. I said in the House of Commons, some of the things that were said to her as a result of the motion represent hate speech, some of it was horrific personal attacks that no one should ever be subjected to, it's terrible. So, there's another element of respect that I have for her even though I disagree. I use the term opportunity a lot for Canada, and I think we have to make sure that opportunity exists for everyone.


17. There are a significant number of Muslims in the country. We're at one million. By 2030, it is expected that the Muslim community - in its many different shapes and forms - will grow to 7 per cent of the entire population. Given the increasing level of engagement within the Canadian-Muslim community, what will you personally do to appeal to this particular group as potentially the leader of our nation?

I already tried to. But, as I said, the respect - and, as someone [who tries] to engage people that want to be part of the community, part of the country - I don't mind if they've been here five minutes or fifteen years. Part of my role was when the mosque opened in Clarington was “how could I help”? I went to the first Eid festival, they invited me. I went and a lot of people were shocked when I went. A lot of people, after some time, came over and were chatting, some shared that they didn't like our foreign policy position on certain things but that's why I'm there. I don't go there for total agreement. What was wonderful was after that, I got some really good feedback and developed some friendships.

When the terrible attack happened, I asked for a call with the Imam and one of the members of the Board to express my concern and to say that “I'm there”. I was in Ottawa [at the time], so I couldn't physically be on the ground. They appreciated that. That's where the whole story of the flowers on the steps [began] and it’s reassuring for them. It's a newer mosque, probably about three years old now. I've been doing it for many years. The chair of my campaign is Muslim and I'm fortunate to have a lot of friends, very good friends, you know Walid of course. But, I've mentioned that the first mosque was not here, it was in Alberta - that's a pretty neat story in its own right, and I use that in some of my discussions to sort of show that we are an amazing country and often people take that for granted. Danny's story, he's a very good personal friend, he's a great example from founding the first mosque to having a son who is a very successful lawyer on Bay Street, that's Canada's opportunity. That's making sure that opportunity exists for everyone, and that's what makes us truly special, I think, when it’s embraced. I'm very proud of them because they're my friends. 

I think that represents the same, I'm going back to the beginning, my middle-class roots were "help others, don't judge" and, I think I'm fortunate to have diversity of friends. Many of those who helped me, from the campaign standpoint and some personal friends where our families are close - I don't say that to endear myself, it's just the way I live my life.


18. On a lighter note, tell us what you like to do to relax when you are not campaigning?

I don't have time to relax. My thing is with my kids. If I can - and my wife hates it - when I come home and my kids are still up -  they might be watching a TV show and I usually have a position where I have my son on my lap and my daughter here [beside me] and sometimes the simplest things are the best things. I try to spend time with them. My daughter likes Pokémon, so we'll go on my phone and we'll do little walks or we'll drive to a place and do some Pokémon. My little guy, the last fun thing I had with him was when we flew his first kite. I like to read and do other things but right now, at this point in my life, with spending so much time away from them, that is my happy place. It could just be sitting on my couch watching something on Netflix, but in recent weeks, it's been phone calls and Facetime. That’s why I'm looking forward to this being finished, win or lose. Because, I'll have less Facetime on the phone and more face-time of the real variety. It's the simple things for me.