Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has criticized fellow leadership contender Peter MacKay on his ability to speak French.
Writing on Twitter, O’Toole asked his followers, “How can you represent Quebeckers when you can’t speak their language?” In this tweet, he also shared a Maclean’s article that had the headline, “Why Can’t Peter MacKay speak French?”
As well as this, O’Toole has been sharing articles that feature critical opinions of the native Nova Scotian. O’Toole, for instance, shared a National Post article that had the headline, “Erin O’Toole warns that Peter MacKay would turn Conservatives into ‘Liberal party lite’”
The French language issue has popped up as a major point of contention within the Conservative leadership race. When MacKay officially announced his leadership bid, the commentariat quickly pointed out MacKay’s errors: “Peter MacKay’s French is an insult to Canada’s French speaking people,” said one Quebec-based journalist, Sophie Durocher.
Having said this, Peter Mackay has not yet answered questions in French—making it difficult to gauge the current quality of the candidate’s bilingualism.
Some political observers, such as publisher Ken Whyte and Washington Post columnist J.J. McCullough have argued a leader doesn’t need to speak French or need to win Quebec in order to become prime minister.
O’Toole, who represents the riding of Durham in Ontario, has pitched himself as a leader who could unite the Conservative factions in western and central Canada. To do this, O’Toole is reaching out to Conservative members who would have previously voted for Pierre Poilievre.
Now that Poilievre is out of the race, the large and powerful western Canada voting bloc is up for grabs. O’Toole followed this tune on Tuesday, by saying “this Ontarian will stand up for Albertans.”
Correction: a previous version of this article claimed that Erin O’Toole had not yet answered questions in French. O’Toole has answered questions in French.