O'Toole and MacKay debate how the government should handle coronavirus

Erin O'Toole and Peter MacKay differ on how best to fight coronavirus. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into the conservative leadership race.
Quinn Patrick Montreal, QC

Erin O'Toole, a candidate in the Conservative leadership contest, has called for the country to be placed on a "war footing,. in an attempt to combat the spread of coronavirus, according to CTV News.

Already, the pandemic has thrown a significant wrench into the Conservative leadership race, with some candidates calling for the it to be delayed entirely.

O'Toole also wants to see the federal government invoke the Emergencies Act in order to prohibit travel and enforce self-isolation. As well as this, he suggested mobilizing the military to aid the health system during this escalating crisis.

"Now is the time to put our government and our economy on a war footing, with leadership from the top," said O’Toole in an email.

Public health officials nationwide have already mandated restrictions on travel and gatherings. Both of these factors are, by nature, rather problematic for a leadership campaign. Contestants who wish to be on the ballot must submit $300,000 and 3,000 signatures by March 25—a feat that is already difficult without a gloabl pandemic.

O'Toole and MacKay remain the only candidates who've been able to reach those targets, with six others candidates still racing to gather the funds and signatures.

Rick Peterson, for instance, suspended his own fundraising efforts last Tuesday. Peterson said he was looking into alternative sources to finance and asked for the deadline be moved to April 17.

"No matter how important this leadership race is, the health and well-being of family finances trumps everything today," he said. "We'll not be asking individuals to send money to a political campaign at a time when every dollar counts."

Candidate Marilyn Gladu agreed with Peterson, saying that it is morally wrong for anyone to be campaigning at all.

"Canadians are appropriately focused now on the health and safety of their families and communities," she said,

"There will be more than sufficient time to engage them in an effective leadership campaign when the immediate threat of pandemic COVID-19 has been eliminated."

Having said all this, the leadership organizing committee has yet to announce that they will be making any major changes.

Both the O'Toole and MacKay campaign have accused the other of continuing to hold public events despite promising not to.

In response to O'Toole’s demand that the military be brought in to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, MacKay called for the government to quit spending its own money and instead fight the economic challenges being created by the spread of the virus.

"Before the government spends on new programs, we should help people help themselves with their own money," said MacKay, suggesting tax changes would be a more effective way to get cash flowing in Canada.

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