Still, it meant that O’Toole took on a persona that didn’t necessarily match the rest of his political career. First elected in a 2012 byelection, O’Toole has represented the suburban Toronto riding of Durham ever since. He served in Harper’s cabinet briefly, for less than a year in 2015 when Harper made him minister of veterans affairs.O’Toole has tended to be a congenial, moderate voice in the party. His voting record shows him as socially progressive and in line with mainstream conservatism on other issues.
But in this leadership race, O’Toole declared himself the “True Blue” candidate, an attempt to appeal to the grassroots, more right-wing Conservative party base — and in contrast with Peter MacKay, who O’Toole’s campaign frequently described as a “Red Tory” and “Liberal lite.” O’Toole launched his campaign in Calgary, a deliberate attempt to attract Western Canada support.
O’Toole also clearly targeted the social conservative vote, an influential voting bloc in leadership races. He made it clear that he would always allow a free vote on matters of conscience such as abortion, including for his cabinet ministers. However, O’Toole was upfront in saying he’s still personally pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage.