Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole would not distance himself Sunday from comments made by a longtime Conservative MP who warned constituents the Liberals are preparing for a “climate lockdown.”
Cheryl Gallant, who is running for re-election in the Ottawa Valley riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for the eighth time, asked constituents in undated correspondence sent before the election started if they are in favour of a “climate lockdown.”
The document asked constituents to “make the coming election a referendum on more lockdowns” and says Canadians need to ask a series of questions before agreeing to a “climate emergency lockdown.”
She also discussed the subject in a video posted to YouTube on June 18, where she accuses a professor who wrote an article on climate change of pushing a radical, “socialist agenda.”
The video is structured to appear like a television newscast, and the images next to Gallant include the planet earth behind bars and one of Trudeau with his tongue out and what appears to be a noose around his neck.
“How long do you think it will take before the Trudeau Liberals start calling for a climate lockdown?,” she says.
Gallant continued, saying: “Trudeau is counting on Liberal-minded Canadians not looking too closely at his agenda. If they did, they might realize Trudeau’s a con man and climate change may be his biggest grift.”
Gallant did not immediately respond to request for comment on the matter, but O’Toole was asked to address his candidate’s statements while campaigning in a city east of Montreal.
He did not answer when repeatedly asked whether he found Gallant’s statements to be acceptable, though he has said his party is both focused on running a positive campaign and has a plan to tackle climate change.
When pressed, O’Toole said that Canadians are tired of lockdowns and reiterated his focus is on talking to residents about his party’s plan to help the country’s economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re not running on things that were said five months ago, five years ago,” he said.
O’Toole’s campaign stop in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., also saw the Tory leader propose a tax credit he said is meant to help small businesses bounce back from losses incurred during pandemic-related lockdowns. The incentive dubbed the “Rebuild Main Street tax credit” would allow individuals who invest up to $100,000 in a small business to claim a 25 per cent tax break over the next two years. O’Toole also pledged to offer loans of up to $200,000 to small and medium-sized businesses.
Climate change has long been a thorny issue for O’Toole and the party he leads.
In March, Conservatives rejected a motion to declare climate change as real during the party’s convention, a result O’Toole said was a distraction. He later released a climate platform that for the first time saw Conservatives include some form of carbon pricing.
Liberal candidate and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that O’Toole needs to denounce conspiracy theories. “He won’t because this is what his Conservative Party stands for,” it read.
“O’Toole is trying to pretend he’s modern and moderate, but he lets his candidates spread nonsense conspiracies like this and refuses to condemn it.”