OTTAWA – Circle October 5 in blue, policy watchers.
That’s the day Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is expected to hold her first meeting with her 118 MPs since the Sept. 20 federal election, and when they decide whether to vote on whether to remain leader.
Those close to O’Toole are now mounting a campaign to support him, emailing campaign volunteers asking them to sign a petition endorsing O’Toole’s continued leadership.
“Erin O’Toole is resolutely committed to continuing to grow our party as a leader,” reads the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Star.
“Justin Trudeau made it clear that if he didn’t get a majority, he would call another election in 18 months. The conservatives must be united and continue to take the fight to the liberals. “
According to the changes made in 2015 in the operation of Parliament, the members of the caucus of each party can vote in their first meeting after an election on whether or not they should be given power over certain aspects of its operation.
The key to the October 5 meeting is whether MPs can trigger a leadership review.
Anger, frustration and disappointment run the party ranks over O’Toole’s failure to defeat Trudeau last week.
And while the Conservative leader will automatically face a leadership review at the party’s next convention, that’s not scheduled until 2023, and there are those who think he needs to face a reckoning much sooner.
Some are trying to convince the party’s national council to hold a referendum, while others are advocating that MPs launch a review at their first meeting.
In the hours immediately before and after last week’s elections, those voices seemed to drown out supporters.
But, in recent days, those who want O’Toole to stay, including many MPs, have started to raise their hands.
Fraser Macdonald, who launched the petition cited in Sunday’s email, said he did so to show that there is grassroots support for O’Toole as well.
Despite being a leader for only a year, and in the context of the pandemic, O’Toole managed to keep liberals in a minority, Macdonald said.
He also cited his experience running the party’s campaign in Pickering-Uxbridge as proof that the Conservatives have momentum, and should think twice before wasting it and launching a civil war.
The party increased its share of the votes from 29 percent in 2019 to 36 percent last week.
“You’re never going to call a loss a win, but I think a stalemate was a pretty good result, given where we are,” Macdonald said in an interview.
“I think he is the type of leader who can grow the party and grow the support of the party and I believe in that strategy.”
O’Toole has also reached out to newly elected MPs and defeated candidates for comment and thanks, as well as to amend some fences; One piece of advice heard loud and clear by his inner circle is that the direct approach to the caucus has been lacking.
The letter to supporters came from one of the party’s newest MPs, Dan Muys, who won the Flamborough-Glanbrook seat in the Hamilton area.
He is one of several new Conservatives joining the opposition bench in the Commons, although his seat has been Conservative Blue for years.
While the Conservatives did win some new seats and won the general popular vote, there are still fewer Conservative MPs in Parliament after this election than after the 2019 one.
The party has also lost much of the diversity on its team, failing to re-elect at least five deputies from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Still, the party is trying to put on a positive face, noting changes within its ranks in Sunday’s email: “We now have a younger group with more women, indigenous and LGBTQ + representation, and greater regional diversity with our growth in Atlantic Canada. “
It is not yet clear whether the October 5 meeting will be in person, virtual or hybrid.
If MPs vote for a leadership review, the next step would be to notify the caucus chairman in writing, signed by 20 percent of MPs. The written notice must be made public and then a secret ballot will take place.
If the majority of the members vote to replace the leader, an interim leader is elected immediately.
After the 2019 elections, Conservative MPs refused to give themselves the power to launch a leadership review.
However, then-leader Andrew Scheer resigned several weeks later after coming under intense external pressure to resign.
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