Canada's Conservatives pick O'Toole to challenge Trudeau in next election


By Steve Scherer and Kelsey Johnson

OTTAWA, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Canada's main opposition Conservative Party on Sunday elected Erin O'Toole, a former cabinet minister and armed forces veteran, to be its new leader and the primary challenger to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

O'Toole replaces Andrew Scheer, who failed to unseat Trudeau in an election last year. He beat out second-place candidate Peter MacKay, who co-founded the Conservative Party in 2003.

O'Toole defeated three other candidates in a campaign overshadowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Almost 175,000 members voted by mail and the results were announced during a virtual convention broadcast from Ottawa. The results were delayed for at least five hours due to mechanical problems with the machines opening the ballot envelopes.

O'Toole, a 47-year-old father of two, describes himself as a "true blue Conservative" and has vowed to "put Canada first" while helping families and the economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

A bilingual member of parliament from Canada's most populous province of Ontario, O'Toole had twice before lost bids to lead the party.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Tom Hogue, Robert Birsel)

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