Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has returned Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre to the high-profile role of finance critic, but excluded leadership rival Leslyn Lewis from his list of shadow cabinet members released Tuesday.
Less than two weeks before the opening of the 44th Parliament, Mr. O’Toole unveiled the list of his senior MPs as he attempts to manage signs of discord within his own caucus, particularly over the party’s policies on the vaccination of MPs.
Mr. O’Toole said he opted to place Mr. Poilievre in the high-profile finance role because the MP is an effective communicator.
“He’s tough in the House. I see the Liberals quiver when he rises on his feet, whether it’s on the WE Charity scandal or other issues,” Mr. O’Toole told reporters Tuesday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.
Mr. Poilievre is a six-term member of Parliament and former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s governments. He was most recently the Conservative shadow minister for jobs and industry.
Mr. O’Toole had previously removed Mr. Poilievre as finance critic in February, giving the job to veteran B.C. MP Ed Fast, a former international trade minister from British Columbia.
Mr. O’Toole did not answer a question about why he is reversing his earlier decision.
On Mr. Fast, Mr. O’Toole said, “I am a big fan,” adding he values the Abbotsford MP’s advice and that he will do a good job in his new role as critic for innovation, science and industry.
Mr. Poilievre is widely viewed as a potential future leadership candidate although he recently said he supports Mr. O’Toole and has no current interest in the party leadership. He has a very large following on social media and is known for taking a brash and aggressive approach to his questioning of government ministers. His repeated comments about “unprecedented money printing” by the Bank of Canada have prompted accusations of alarmism.
Economist David Rosenberg, president of Rosenberg Research & Associates Inc., said in an e-mail that he is “not on board” with criticisms of the Bank of Canada’s approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The prices that are soaring here have nothing to do with Canadian monetary policy,” he said, attributing current high inflation to global events.
Nonetheless, Mr. Rosenberg said he knows Mr. Poilievre and offered him high praise. “I am very happy he is back in the role. And for the future, he would be a wonderful finance minister,” he said.
Mr. O’Toole left the news conference and did not respond as a reporter asked why Ms. Lewis was not included in the roster of critics. The newly elected MP for Haldimand-Norfolk came third in the 2020 Conservative leadership race that elected Mr. O’Toole as party leader.
Also left off the critics list was Sarnia MP Marilyn Gladu, who has been at the forefront of organizing a caucus of MPs and senators to defend people who refuse to be vaccinated, citing civil-liberties concerns.
Ms. Gladu issued an apology Tuesday for comments she made about COVID-19 vaccines during a weekend TV interview. Among other points, she told CTV that COVID-19 is not as serious as polio. (In fact, thousands more Canadians have died of COVID-19 than the number who died of polio at the height of that epidemic in 1953.)
“I recognize how dangerous it is to share misinformation about the severity of COVID-19 and the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I retract these comments in full,” she said in a statement.
“I apologize unreservedly to Canadians. I also apologize to my caucus colleagues and Leader for the distraction my comments have created.”
Asked if there was an effort to not include MPs as critics if they had issues with public-health recommendations on vaccines and the efficacy of vaccines, Mr. O’Toole did not directly answer the question, but said the shadow cabinet will be ready on the 22nd to work on the issues of interest to the Conservatives, including vaccine hesitancy.
Mr. O’Toole said that all MPs who show up for the House of Commons on Nov. 22 will be fully vaccinated, but he is not saying how many are now unvaccinated.
Others on the critics list include Candice Bergen as deputy leader, Gérard Deltell as House leader and Dan Albas as environment critic. Luc Berthold is the critic for health, and Michael Chong the critic for foreign affairs. As the government deals with the issue of sexual harassment in the military, Kerry-Lynne Findlay will be the defence critic. Alain Rayes is the Quebec lieutenant. Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer remains critic for infrastructure and communities.
Mr. O’Toole named 54 MPs to his shadow cabinet, including him, which leaves 65 Conservative MPs without a formal critic assignment.
The list of 65 MPs without shadow cabinet roles includes Ontario MP Scott Reid, who does have a leadership role as caucus chair. Mr. Reid declined an interview request Tuesday.
The regional makeup of the Conservative shadow cabinet includes 18 MPs from Ontario, 12 from Alberta, seven from British Columbia, six from Quebec, four from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, two from New Brunswick and one MP each for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
The Conservatives did not elect any MPs from Prince Edward Island or the three territories.
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