Hoback focusing on region, preparing for election after shadow cabinet shuffle

If a federal election is called this fall, Canada’s Conservative Party is ready. It just came off a leadership race that saw Erin O’Toole chosen as Andrew Scheer’s successor. O’Toole beat out fellow candidates Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan to win the leadership bid.

The House of Commons is not currently sitting, as it was prorogued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of a planned Throne Speech on Sept. 23 Trudeau says will outline a new direction for the country, and an overhaul of its social safety net.

The speech will also likely outline his party’s plan to take Canada through a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The throne speech will also see a confidence vote. If it fails, Canadians will go to the polls this fall

Earlier this week, O’Toole announced his Shadow Cabinet. Despite having years of experience in high-profile critic roles, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback, who endorsed MacKay, did not get named to any critic portfolios this time around.

“Erin had these people who supported him throughout the campaign and he has to give them an opportunity to prove themselves and let them serve in different roles in the shadow cabinet,” Hoback said in a phone interview Thursday.

“That means there’s not room for everybody.”

The shadow cabinet has supporters of MacKay and Lewis, along with former leader Andrew Scheer.

“(O’Toole) is trying to figure out a path forward, including all the different leadership teams. In Saskatchewan, I’m just the odd man out,” Hoback said.

“I’m going to work hard to be the odd man in, but for now I have to sit on the sidelines and work my way back, which is what I plan to do.”

Now that the leadership race is over, the conservatives will work to build party unity and prepare for any potential early election calls.

Leadership races “can be a little divisive,” Hoback said.

“We have to make sure we heal those wounds. It’s just like a training camp for a hockey team. Some players get their elbows up, some players scrap, but they make the team and then they’re on the same team and have to get together and focus on the opposition. That’s exactly what we’re doing as a party as a whole.”

It’s unclear how long the current minority Liberal government will last.

Some predict an election as early as this fall, while others say it won’t be for another year or two at least. It depends, in part, what Trudeau’s government wants to do, and in part on how long opposition parties, such as the NDP, want to prop the government up.

“There are talks on (Parliament) Hill that the prime minister would rather go before the committee comes back and puts more of a light on the WE scandal and other scandals surrounding this government,” Hoback said.

“The reality is going to come home here pretty quickly when CERB ends and people are sitting there with no CERB payments and businesses going to bankruptcy. We’re not out of the woods yet, especially if we see a strong second wave. I think they’d rather get out ahead of those numbers rather than wait until afterwards. They may look at this for the window for them to go. If it is, we have to be ready.”

That’s easier in conservative strongholds, such as Saskatchewan, where all 14 federal seats are currently held by conservatives.

The key for the party, if they want to win back power, will be to convince voters in Ontario and Quebec that they’re the best choice.

“I think we’ve got a really young, dynamic team that’s going to attract younger voters and look at things a little differently than in the past,” Hoback said.

“We’ve got a new leader who’s very decisive, a very good communicator and very smart. It’s going to be a very different campaign than we saw last time and it’s going to be very interesting to watch. I think we’re going to see breakthroughs in Quebec and Ontario, which is what we need.”

While the party is focusing on readying for a potential election, Hoback is focusing on his constituent.

His focus, he said, is always on the people of the riding, making sure they’re represented.

“Making sure that any issues they have — CERB or old age security or Phoenix Pay System, that we’re there to make sure we get them through the weeds to get the results that they deserve or require,” Hoback said.

“That will be our number one focus.”

Federally, the opposition will keep asking questions about the way money is being spent, Hoback said. He accused the liberals of spending $340 billion in pandemic response “with very little oversight.

“Now is the chance to see exactly how they spent the money and look at ways they could have done it better, and ways they just wasted money. There’s going to be lots of things to chew on going forward until Christmas.”

A federal election would mean three elections this fall in Saskatchewan, with the province set for an Oct. 26 vote and municipalities/school boards set for Nov.9.

While having three elections at once isn’t ideal, Hoback thinks Saskatchewanians are chomping at the bit to get back to the federal ballot box.

“There is probably more of a desire to change the federal government than any other government in Saskatchewan,” Hoback said.

“That’s what I hear — take him down, get rid of him. He’s killing our country. He’s dividing us, has no plan and is spending like a drunken fool. Though nobody wants to have three elections at the same time, if there was one election they would like, it would be a federal election.”