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Jason Kenney endorses Erin O'Toole for leadership of Conservative party

Erin O'Toole addresses the crowd at a federal Conservative leadership forum during the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative party in Halifax on Saturday, February 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

OTTAWA – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, king among leaders of the conservative movement in Canada, is endorsing Erin O’Toole to lead the federal party.

His seal of approval comes as O’Toole revs up efforts to catch up to Peter MacKay, whose campaign has now raised upwards of $1 million in his quest to win the contest.

While MacKay has secured endorsements from many current Conservative members of Parliament, Kenney’s endorsement was one of the most coveted in the leadership race.

Though now premier of Alberta, Kenney was instrumental in expanding the current Conservative party, especially among suburban Canadians.

His efforts saw the Tories steadily make their way from a minority government in 2006 to a majority in 2011.

Both O’Toole and MacKay sat in cabinet with Kenney in that majority, and Kenney said Thursday it is O’Toole who has what it takes for the party to win power again.

In an email to members throwing his support behind O’Toole, Kenney took a dig at a remark MacKay made after the last federal election when he called current party leader Andrew Scheer’s socially conservative values a “stinking albatross.”

“No one will have their deeply held beliefs dismissed as ‘stinking albatrosses’ under Erin O’Toole’s leadership,” Kenney said in the statement.

“Erin O’Toole respects the breadth of our big tent coalition.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2020.