Skip to main content

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole speaks to the media at a drug rehab centre, Aug. 22, 2021, in New Westminster, B.C.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Erin O’Toole entered the second week of the federal campaign continuing his efforts to redefine what it means to be a Conservative leader by appealing to workers and promising progress on all the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Speaking from an empty stage at the party’s virtual broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa, the Conservative leader pledged an O’Toole government would require federally regulated workplaces earning more than $100 million in yearly revenue and which employ more than 1,000 people to have worker representation on their boards of directors.

The party says the measure would apply to more than 100 corporations, such as those in the airline and oil and gas sectors, and mean boards must have at least one voting board member that represents workers starting in 2022.

O’Toole’s campaign promise to give workers “a real voice” reflects his attempts to play for the votes of union members — something he set out to do after winning last August’s leadership race.

The Canadian Labour Congress criticized his announcement as “short on details,” questioning how board CEOs would be held accountable to take such a step, while New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh slammed O’Toole as being “no friend to Canadian workers.”

O’Toole also opened Monday by talking about his party’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous people and its plans for the Truth and Reconciliation’s calls to action.

The Conservative party’s platform only commits to a plan to implement six specific items that deal with the deaths of children in residential schools and the sites where they were buried.

The issue was catapulted into the spotlight this spring after First Nations in British Columbia in Saskatchewan located hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites.

The Tories have pledged to fund investigations at all former residential school sites where unmarked graves may exist, including where those have already been discovered.

But many more of the commission’s 94 calls to action are directed at the federal government, and when asked about them on the campaign trail Monday, O’Toole said he would partner with First Nations and Indigenous leaders to come up with an action plan and set priorities based on their needs.

“All the calls to action are important and we will have an action plan to tackle them,” he said.

“We’re going to make progress on the TRC calls to action because they’re very important and they should be beyond politics.”

O’Toole attacked Trudeau for promising big on the commission’s recommendations without delivering on the followup.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.