VANCOUVER, Canada (AP) — Former Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has been elected leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party in a vote whose results were delayed by technical problems.
The party used an all-mail-in ballot Sunday to choose O’Toole, 47, to face Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next general election.
O’Toole, a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran who had finished third in the 2017 leadership race, defeated former Defense Minister Peter MacKay and two other candidates in the third-round of a ranked-choice voting system.
“You put your faith in me to lead this historical party,” O’Toole said in his victory speech. “I promise you I will not let you down.”
A federal election could be triggered as soon as this month if the three main opposition parties join together when a new session of Parliament begins.
O’Toole said his party is prepared.
“Today you have given me a clear mission to unite our party, champion our Conservative principles, to show Canadians what we know so well, that Justin Trudeau and his team are failing this great country,” he said.
“The world still needs more Canada, just less Justin Trudeau.”
O’Toole campaigned on a promise to scrap the Liberal government’s carbon tax, cut taxes and take a harder line on China’s involvement in the Canadian economy.
Trudeau won a second term last October despite losing the majority in Parliament. It was strong result for Trudeau following a series of scandals that had somewhat tarnished his image.
Following that loss, Conservative leader Andrew Sheer resigned.
Around 175,000 ballots were received, with nearly 270,000 people eligible to vote. Announcement of the winner was delayed by more than four hours because more than 4,000 ballots were damaged by machines used to open the envelopes containing the ballots.
O’Toole and MacKay, 54, who also served in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, were considered the front-runners in the race.
Leslyn Lewis, 49, who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica as a child and is now a lawyer with a master’s degree in environmental studies made a surprisingly strong showing.
Also seeking the leadership was Derek Sloan, 35, a rookie Ontario MP who made headlines for tweeting his belief that being gay is a choice.
A points system was used to determine the winner, with each riding in the country allocated 100 points. The winner needed 16,901 points.
The party also used a ranked ballot, so if no candidate received that majority after the first count, the candidate with the lowest number of points was dropped off and their supporters’ second choices were tallied.
MacKay led after the first round of voting but fell short of the 16,901 points. O’Toole was second after the first round and Lewis third. O’Toole led after the second road of voting, setting the stage for his victory in the final round.
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