Abbotsford’s long-serving MP Ed Fast endorsed fellow MP Erin O’Toole for leader of the Conservative Party last weekend in his first public appearance since suffering a stroke in December.
Fast made the announcement alongside O’Toole at an event for party members at The Reach Gallery on Saturday, Jan. 21.
The event came just over a month after Fast suffered a stroke on Dec. 10, 2016.
On that day, Fast was at home and giving a live interview to CBC Television via Skype.
“Close to the end of that interview, I suddenly felt a tingling numbness go down my arm, the side of my body and down into my legs,” he said. “I knew something not good was happening.”
The interview finished and Fast called 911. Paramedics arrived soon after and took him to hospital, where he would spend the next five weeks.
Fast was walking with the aid of a hiking pole Saturday.
He said he was working with both occupational therapists and a physiotherapist to regain full motion.
“My physiotherapist is now a great encourager but is challenging me to push myself to recover fully and I’m noticing great improvements,” Fast said.
Fast said that he has been overwhelmed with an outpouring of support from people across the country.
He said individuals whom he had dealt with only a few times when he was minister of international trade sent letters of encouragement, his Conservative caucus colleagues took up his share of work in his absence and he received a call from his party’s interim leader Rona Ambrose, as well as former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Fast said his endorsement of O’Toole was the result of the candidate meeting all of the criteria he had previously decided were required in the Conservative Party’s new leader.
He said O’Toole – an MP since 2012 and former minister of veterans affairs – has “impeccable character,” broad experience outside of politics (including military, law and business), is competent and is electable.
“When I looked at all the candidates that were available, [O’Toole] really stood out from the the rest. [He] reflected in much fuller measure than the others every single character trait that I was looking for.”
O’Toole called Fast’s endorsement “amazing” and “a great boost of confidence for my campaign here in B.C. and across the country.”
“[Fast’s] work on trade and as a minister in the Harper government is well-regarded by Conservatives from coast to coast,” he said. “His confidence in me shows a lot of Conservatives that my campaign should be their first choice.”
The endorsement from Fast was enough for one party member in attendance who said he was convinced and would be voting for O’Toole when the Conservatives choose a new leader on May 27.