Conservative MP and former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is given a standing ovation as he delivers his final speech in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, June 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

O’Toole warns of ‘performance politics,’ social media perils in final Commons address

Erin O’Toole is warning members of Parliament about the dangers of “performance politics” and says social media is robbing the chamber of real debate, in his final address in the House of Commons.

The former Conservative leader and Ontario MP rose for the last time to address the Commons before he is set to retire from federal politics at the end of the month.

O’Toole was first elected in a byelection in 2012 and served as parliamentary secretary to the trade minister at the time under the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper, before being appointed as minister for veterans affairs.

After the Conservatives lost government, O’Toole placed third in the party’s 2017 leadership race to replace Harper, but ultimately won its 2020 leadership contest.

He led the party through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and was eventually voted out by his own caucus in early 2022 after losing the 2021 federal election and considerable internal strife over his struggles to moderate the party’s image.

O’Toole says he believes the country’s best days are ahead — but only if MPs avoid playing into increasingly divisive politics, which social media is fuelling.

“We’re becoming followers of our followers when we should be leaders,” O’Toole told the Commons.