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COMMENTARY: Don’t call me Canada’s Donald Trump, Erin O’Toole says

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Erin O’Toole wants you to know that he’s not Canada’s version of Donald Trump and that his Conservative Party is nothing like Trump’s bitterly divided Republicans.

O’Toole’s assurances come after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals launched a new effort to brand O’Toole and the Conservatives as “Trump North.”

Read more: Trudeau shuffles cabinet as poll shows Liberals flirting with majority territory

After the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, followed a week later by the second impeachment of the president, the Liberals are keen to paint O’Toole’s Conservatives with the same ugly ideological brush.

“Mr. O’Toole raised no concerns with his party’s deputy leader choosing to wear a camouflage cap emblazoned with ‘Make America Great Again,'” the Liberals said in a new fundraising letter.

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“It’s unfortunate that Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives are doubling down on deeply divisive politics.”

The fundraising pitch accuses O’Toole of several other Trumpian political sins, including:

  • promising to “Take back Canada” in a Trump-style campaign for the Conservative leadership
  • agreeing to an “exclusive interview” with the extreme-right Rebel News
  • accusing Justin Trudeau of “rigging the next election” in an echo of Trump’s false political rhetoric

O’Toole insists all these claims are just slimy political cheap shots with about as much value as a degree from Trump University.

“The Conservative Party is totally different from the Republican Party in the U.S.,” O’Toole told me.

“Mr. Trudeau is trying to scare and deceive people.”

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Conservatives slip as Liberals maintain solid lead nationally: Ipsos poll – Jan 12, 2021

He said that picture of Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen in a MAGA hat was taken “years ago” and is misleading because she does not support Trump.

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“It’s not her hat,” O’Toole said. “Someone gave it to her to pose for a photo. Who do you think sat on this photo for several years to drop it into the Twittersphere this week?”

He suggested the Liberals ignited the MAGA stink bomb against the Conservatives to coincide with Trump’s final days in office.

He said the “exclusive interview” with Rebel News was actually an e-mail exchange between the controversial news site and a party staffer.

And the Trump-style “rigging-the-election” stuff happened years ago when Andrew Scheer was Conservative leader, he added.

“I want a strong and diverse Conservative Party,” O’Toole told me, condemning Trump-style division and hate.

“That’s why I’ve been reaching out to new Canadians, Indigenous Canadians, LGBTQ Canadians.”

Of course, that won’t stop the Liberals from portraying O’Toole and the Conservatives as “Trump Lite.”

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“Mr. O’Toole needs to be very careful that he’s not trying to stir up the kinds of divisions that exist the United States,” Liberal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told me.

“That’s not something Canadians want.”

Get set to hear more of this, especially with Trudeau preparing for a possible snap election this spring.

Trudeau just shuffled his cabinet in what looked like an obvious pre-election staging move.

“I find it actually shocking that the prime minister of Canada, in the middle of a pandemic when there are curfews being imposed in Quebec and Ontario going to stronger measures, that he could possibly be thinking of an election,” O’Toole said.

Trudeau said he doesn’t want an election, but noted an election is always possible in minority parliaments. The Conservative leader told me he’s ready to fight an election if one happens, saying he wants to protect Canadians from Liberal tax hikes.

“They’re already looking at taxing your house, they’re already looking at raising the GST,” O’Toole said.

But now it was the Liberals’ turn to accuse O’Toole of serving up a plate of phony political baloney to Canadians.

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“Mr. O’Toole should stick to facts,” Wilkinson told me, insisting the Liberal are not planning a home equity tax or a GST increase.

I asked Wilkinson if the Liberal can guarantee no tax hikes of any kind under a Trudeau government.

“I don’t think anybody can ever take completely taxes off the table,” he said.

Ah, just the opening the Conservatives are looking for! Watch for the attacks to sharpen in the days ahead.

With the Liberals accusing O’Toole of dabbling in Trumpism, and O’Toole accusing Trudeau of planning secret tax hikes, it sure sounds like an election is approaching.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at mike@cknw.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

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