Whether by chance or by design, many of the questions at the session that I attended, and others that I watched, were on issues that polls show resonate the most with Conservative voters, such as the budget deficit and rolling back recently strengthened gun controls. But at least two people called for action on climate change far beyond what the Conservatives are proposing.
The session had the feel of a video stream of a talk radio show. Its moderator was Michael Barrett, a Conservative member of Parliament from Eastern Ontario, who never challenged any of Mr. O’Toole’s claims and promises, the way an independent host might.
The vast ballroom-turned-studio, dominated by a flag lined stage that vaguely evokes the interior of the Parliament buildings, was utterly devoid of campaign atmosphere during the session.
The only people physically present during the town hall were professionals. In addition to me, the very socially distanced, in-person audience consisted of a television producer, a television network camera operator, a handful of Conservative Party technicians running the show, Mr. O’Toole’s bodyguards and, briefly, a photographer.
Despite the absence of a crowd, let alone crowd energy, Mr. O’Toole remained enthusiastic and energetic for the entire hour.