19894 Erin O’Toole: Hard Work and Sound Choices
By 27832 OCdt (II) Cardona, 12 Sqn
Erin O’Toole, originally from Port Perry, Ontario, spent his grade 12 summer working in Kingston on a TransCanada Pipeline. While living in the Queens Student neighbourhood, he frequently ran to RMC for exercise and fell in love with the scenic campus. Additionally, the future MP also had a strong desire to serve his country.
“I always wanted to serve my country,” he recalls, “and on top of that, I’ve always had a deep admiration for members of the military.”
The Port Perry native enjoyed his four years at the College. In particular, he found that RMC provided an ideal environment for close friendships to form between individuals from diverse backgrounds. He describes his friendships as elements of the Canadian story, from Vancouver to the Maritimes.
“The real strength of the education isn’t only the lectures,” reminisced the ’95 grad, “it’s also learning through experiences, through friendships.”
First and foremost, of course, RMC is an academic institution, meant to produce well-educated leaders for the Canadian Forces. Mr. O’Toole found that his education at RMC was second-to-none. The small, “hands-on” classes gave him the tools to develop critical thinking abilities and to learn to debate complex questions with distinguished professors.
In addition to the social and academic aspects of the College, the accomplished politician also spoke to the importance of the other three pillars. In particular, the focus on military leadership and Second Language Training greatly contributed to his professional success. That, along with the high fitness standards, made RMC a unique place to earn a university degree.
The military pillar, in particular, gave him the opportunity to learn to be a leader. As a Cadet Flight Leader (CFL) he had to learn to lead by example and to look out for subordinates, both of which were not easy tasks.
“I think something that’s important to mention is that to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower as well” advises Mr. O’Toole.
After he graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and was commissioned as an RCAF Officer, subsequently being posted to 8 Wing in Trenton. Afterwards, he was posted to 17 Wing in Winnipeg to train as an Air Navigator and then was posted to Shearwater, serving as a navigator on Sea King helicopters.
Flying on the Sea Kings with outstanding crewmates was clearly the most rewarding aspect of his career. During his time on the Sea Kings, he was deployed on exercises spent tracking American submarines alongside the Navy.
In 2000, the former RCAF Captain transferred to 406 Squadron, a reserve unit, where he served as a training officer while he worked on achieving his lifelong dream: becoming a lawyer. In 2003, he graduated from the University of Dalhousie’s law school and moved to Ontario to practice corporate law. During his law career, he worked with a variety of clients, learning to put himself in other people’s shoes.
His political career began when he was first posted to Trenton. He volunteered with his father’s campaign for provincial office and developed an interest in politics. He also supported John Hamm’s campaign in 1999, who became the premier of Nova Scotia. (Mr. Hamm has since endorsed Erin O’Toole’s candidacy for Conservative leadership.) He was first elected in the 2012 federal election as the Conservative Party’s candidate for the Durham riding and was re-elected in 2015.
“So far, the best moment of my political career was being chosen as the Minister [of Veteran’s Affairs],” said the 44 year-old, “because, as a member of the Air Force, I have a passion for serving our men and women in uniform and I knew that I could fix some of the problems in the department.”
Erin O’Toole announced his candidacy for the Conservative Party leadership in October 2016. He believes that his experience, knowledge and time in the military and as a lawyer make him the ideal choice to lead his party and, possibly, become Canada’s Prime Minister.
“As a politician I won’t be seeking to make controversy or be too focused on Public Relations,” he said. “Instead, I’ll work hard on behalf of Canadians, make sound choices and continue my track record of leading and building great teams.”