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Politics

Erin O'Toole V. Erin O'Toole: A Conversation Between KUNC's Radio Host And The Newly Elected Leader Of Canada's Conservative Party

A man in a suit sits in front of a laptop speaking via video call
Courtesy Erin O'Toole
Canadian politician Erin O'Toole speaks with KUNC's Erin O'Toole via Skype.

Last Monday, Colorado Edition host Erin O’Toole started getting a flood of new Twitter mentions and follows. She soon realized all those messages were not exactly meant for her. A quick search of the news revealed there is another Erin O'Toole, north of the border, who was just elected leader of the Conservative Party in Canada.

Hilarity ensued, and KUNC’s Erin O’Toole quickly became a darling of politically engaged Canadians — even acquiring honorary Canadian citizenship and the unofficial title of “Twitter Ambassador” of Canada.

News of the mix-up reached the offices of the Canadian Erin O’Toole. The Conservative Party politician had an excellent sense of humor about his newfound American doppelganger. The two had a chance to meet via Skype to discuss their unlikely connection.

Interview Highlights:
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

KUNC’s Erin O’Toole: I love your name. Let me just start out by saying that.

Canadian Conservative Party’s Erin O’Toole: I do as well. I knew you existed and I knew there's a few others. I seem to be the only guy Erin O’Toole in the mix. But it's been fun to see the story about your Twitter followers and this is great to talk to you.

Yeah, I should thank you for the the boost. Tell me just briefly about your Sunday night into Monday morning as you learned the results of the election.

Canada's Erin O'Toole
Courtesy Erin O'Toole
Erin O'Toole, Leader of Canada's Conservative Party.

Well, it was a long night because we had a few problems with the vote count machines. They were damaging a few ballots. So, there were several hours of delay. I gave my victory speech at 1:30 am, which is not prime time to reach a lot of Canadians. But as I joked with my wife, Rebecca, I would have waited up until sunrise for the result we got.

The first night was great. I think my nine-year old son Jack has never stayed up as late as he did. But we worked very hard. And of course, we've all pivoted with COVID-19 and the new normal. It was a great result. I had a great team and it was just such an amazing night.

Do you do a lot of mail-in or drop-off voting?

Oh, this one was all mail-in. This was for members of the Conservative Party. We have a different system in Canada. We don't have this primary system. We had almost 200,000 people vote by mail, and it was a preferential ballot. There were several rounds — and that's why it was so important to make sure those ballots weren't damaged, that every vote counted. And it was a great result. We set records. More people voted for me to become the conservative leader than ever before — more than the liberals that voted for Justin Trudeau a number of years ago — all amid a pandemic. So, I'm really proud of my team, our party. And I think there's a real desire for some change here in Canada.

When did you become aware of the Twitter name mix-up?

I think my director of communications, Melanie, told me maybe Monday or Tuesday. I found it hilarious. I felt like saying, “Well, I'd love to chat with this Erin O'Toole. And is there any way we could send all the trolls on Twitter to the Erin O'Toole in Colorado, as opposed to me?” But I wouldn't do that to you. You don't deserve that.

It was a lot of fun to hear how your account went up. Mine has as well. As I said, I've encountered many Erin O’Tooles when I was buying domain names as a new politician years ago. It's been fun to connect with you directly.

I had another Erin O'Toole reach out to me. She's actually not on Twitter. But she does have the original Erin O'Toole Gmail, I think, and she said she gets some messages for you from time to time.

ErinOToole_KUNC_studio.jpg
Erin O'Toole / KUNC
KUNC's Erin O'Toole in the studio.

Well, there's an artist in California — she's a gallery curator — so when I got in I wanted to get Erin O'Toole dot com, she already had it. I was kind of late to the Erin O’Toole race for social media. I was a lawyer and I was in the military before I became a politician. When I was a lawyer, I always had to use Mr. Erin O’Toole because most mail I get is for Ms. Erin O’Toole. But I'm used to that by now. I love it. But I've never been interviewed by myself! In many ways, it's like I'm looking in a mirror.

In many ways, I'd have to agree. I'm not wearing a tie, but other than that…

You share my birthday too, or we share a birthday, which is also a very crazy twist to this.

It really is: January 22nd — commence the birthday cards. There were a few mathematically inclined people on Twitter who volunteered to kind of figure out the odds of not only sharing the same name but sharing a birthday. It was very, very low.

Well, we should both go out and buy lottery cards tonight because we have the luck of the Irish already, Erin. I'm clearly older. I don't know what year attaches to your January 22nd. But I think I'm much older.

I'm curious how much you pay attention to U.S. politics there in Canada. I mean, does what we do here in our administration have an impact on politics and policy in Canada?

Oh, yes. You know, one prime minister put it that it's like sleeping next to the elephant: we feel every twitch and grunt. Actually, Justin Trudeau’s father said that. We know that the U.S. are our closest friends, neighbors, allies. There are family connections. When I go to Arlington, as both the Minister of Veterans Affairs and as an MP, I go to the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice in Arlington, because thousands of Americans died in World War One serving in Canadian units.

We have a special relationship that is far beyond any other two countries, for trade, for security for foreign affairs. You guys are in a very high profile and COVID-impacted election campaign now, and I will work as prime minister, if I'm fortunate to be elected, I will work closely with whomever the U.S. president is on areas of mutual interest. And there are so many of those.

I've done a few interviews this week with Canadian broadcasters, which has been amazing and so much fun. A lot of people have asked if I've ever been to Canada, which I have. I'm wondering if you have ever been to Colorado?

No, I have not. I almost got to Colorado Springs when I was in the Air Force, because, of course, NORAD — Canadians serve alongside our American allies in Colorado Springs. I remind a lot of people, including when I go to Congress, that a Canadian was on duty as the senior officer on 9/11. I wanted to visit that base, but I never got there. But if I do get the chance, perhaps I can have my follow up interview with Erin O'Toole.

It would be great to do this in person, especially once the pandemic is over. I would like to invite you for a Colorado craft beer, or a coffee, whichever is your preference. Is there anything else you would like us to know or anything that you want to ask of me?

Well, I extend the same offer to you Erin O'Toole, if you ever find yourself coming to Ottawa. I love craft beer. Our beer is stronger and better than American beer. So if you want a better craft beer, there are a number of them here. I will give you a tour of our Parliament, because while we are very closely ingrained with the U.S. we also have a very different political system. I think it's the best in the world, and I would love to give you a tour.

And back atcha. I can tour the state Capitol, at least. It sounds like Canadians have as much pride in their local beer as Americans do.

Absolutely. Erin, on behalf of the Erin O’Toole family in Canada, sending best wishes to the Erin O'Toole family in Colorado.

This conversation is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for Sept. 1. You can find the full episode here.

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    On Sunday night, Canada's Conservative Party chose Erin O'Toole as their leader in the upcoming election for prime minister of Canada. Many Canadians took to Twitter and accidentally found not the Erin O'Toole north of the border, but KUNC's very own Erin O'Toole, co-host of Colorado Edition. We sit down for a virtual Q&A to give the rest of the world a glimpse into the life of a public radio host in Colorado.