erin o'toole

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole on meeting his wife while he was in the Air Force

Rebecca was the first and last girl he ever brought home

Erin O’Toole is the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and member of Parliament for Durham (Ontario). He, along with his wife Rebecca and two kids, are just settling into their new home in Ottawa as he settles into his new post. Here he shares the story of how he met and married Rebecca.

How they met

Rebecca and I met at a Halifax Mooseheads’ game while we were both living on the East Coast. I was a navigator in the Air Force from Ontario, and she was a student, in her last year at the University of King’s College, from a small town outside of Halifax. A mutual friend had invited us both to the game — and I knew immediately that she was one Nova Scotian I needed to get to know.

The first date

We went on our first date at Tom’s Little Havana, a quaint tavern in Halifax. We instantly connected and were even dancing by the end of the night to “True” by Spandau Ballet, which was our first dance at our wedding. Not your typical first dance song! That was in November 1998 — 20 plus years and two kids ago.

The courtship

It was definitely what some would describe as a whirlwind romance. I knew from the moment I saw Rebecca that she was special. We fell for each other fast and hard. After three weeks, we started talking about what we wanted for our future. I am a little biased, but Rebecca is one of those warm, loving people who make every moment special. There are lots of great moments that come to mind — but our first Christmas truly stands out to me. It was only a month after we had first met, but I knew that I wanted to take her home to Bowmanville to meet my family. Being the oldest of five kids, this was a big deal. But I knew I wanted her with me so I bought a pair of plane tickets and showed up at her door with them. She was the first and last girl I ever brought home.

The proposal

It was the first day we were moving into our first apartment together. It was the beginning of our next chapter, and I knew that I wanted it to be one we would remember forever. Rebecca loves Chinese food, so we ordered takeout. We were still living in Halifax, so we ordered from the Great Wall — a great locally owned spot that’s still there today. When she cracked open the fortune cookie, her fortune read, “Rebecca, will you marry me?”

Luckily, she said yes. The funny part was, the fortune I replaced said, “Answer what your heart prompts you.” Some things are just meant to be.

The wedding

We just celebrated our 20-year anniversary this year. We were married Aug. 18, 2000, at Saint Mary’s Basilica in Halifax. Then, we honeymooned on Prince Edward Island.

The kids

We have two amazing kids. Mollie is 14 years old, and Jack is nine years old.

Balancing work and marriage

Politics keeps me busy — but it’s all about making time for what’s truly important. Sunday nights are our chance to have a family dinner and hang out around the fire outside to start the week strong.

Life after retirement

What I look forward to is the time we’ll have together. Our lives can be busy, but I see retirement as a chance for us to relax and enjoy our time together. We have quite a few years to figure it out, but I could see us retiring somewhere like Chester, Nova Scotia — close to Rebecca’s family, or like Kingston, Ontario — close to mine.

Secret of success

It really all comes down to communication.

Article exclusive to TRNTO