Erin O'Toole

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole speaks at a party event Tuesday at Time Winery in Penticton.

Conservatives are fighting a “five-front war” against the left, and leadership hopeful Erin O’Toole says the only way for the party to win the battle is by staying true to its right-wing roots.

“We’ve got the Liberals. We’ve got the NDP. We’ve got the Green Party. We’ve got the CBC. We’ve got the Toronto Star. And they’re all telling us what they think we should do,” O’Toole told a crowd of about 40 people Tuesday.

“The media is saying, ‘Just go over to the middle and just be a little to the right of the Liberal Party.” That’s not going to work,” he said in Penticton as he campaigned through the Okanagan.

“As Stephen Harper showed, you can be a principled and unabashed Conservative, but you have to have ideas for the country’s future, you have to speak to Canadians, and you have to defend your principles.”

In a wide-ranging speech that included frequent jabs at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the media, O’Toole laid out a three-point plan to rebuild the party

after its loss in the 2019 election with Andrew Scheer at the helm: “keep the movement united; grow it by speaking to people that felt left out; and win where we need to win so we can take back Canada.”

The Ontario MP, who spent 12 years in the military and 10 years as a corporate lawyer before entering politics in 2012, also took shots at Peter MacKay, the perceived front-runner in the 10-person leadership contest.

“I’m the underdog in this race, but,

increasingly, working people in Canada are becoming the underdog in Justin Trudeau’s Canada,” said O’Toole, who claimed he’s “not a career politician”

and “no one rolled out the red carpet” for him.

On the economy, he argued in favour of international trade deals that open up domestic and foreign markets, more support for the energy sector, and greater government control over pipelines and other such projects that are in the national interest.

O’Toole, a former minister of veterans affairs under Stephen Harper, acknowledged the need for a “principled and costed” plan for the environment, and mentioned he’s long supported small-scale nuclear reactors and carbon-capture technology that can also be sold commercially to other countries.

The CBC, he continued, would be in for a big shake-up if he becomes prime minister, suggesting the corporation should refocus on radio.

“They’ve totally lost their way, so we’re going to help them find their way again — with a lower budget,” said O’Toole, who also ran in the 2017 Conservative leadership race.

And finally, with regard to attracting support from women and minority groups, O’Toole said all are welcome, as long as they subscribe to Conservative ideals like liberty, free enterprise,

respect for institutions and smaller government.

“Anyone who shares those values, I don’t care if they’ve been in Canada five minutes, 50 years, if they’re LGBT, if they’re young, old, they are welcome in our movement,” said O’Toole, “because we are a party that has principles.”