It took less than 48 hours for the war against Erin O’Toole be publicly launched. A member of the Conservative Party’s National Council started a petition on Wednesday calling for a referendum on his leadership. And behind the scenes, it’s already being predicted that it’s only a matter of time before the chef has to step down.
Bert Chen, who sits on the National Council of the Conservative Party, accuses Mr. O’Toole of having “betrayed the principles” of the political party. His petition accuses the leader of having “broken the confidence of conservative members” by proposing a carbon pricing mechanism (Erin O’Toole had previously committed to abolish the liberal carbon tax); to “trample on individual freedoms” by proposing the creation of proof of federal vaccination; and for presenting “an ineffective plan that abandons financial responsibility” (Erin O’Toole proposed a return to balanced budgets in ten years).
Mr. Chen demands that the party take note of his petition, as provided for in the constitution of the party, and start a referendum to remove the leadership of the leader. His initiative had already collected 1300 signatures at the end of the day and others continued to be added without stopping.
In the bundle is Alissa Golob, co-founder of RightNow, which works to elect pro-life MPs in Ottawa. His colleague, Catherine Mongenais, explains that several members of the social conservative fringe of the party “are very disappointed” with Erin O’Toole and want his resignation. These activists are often very active and have led to the election, or defeat, of certain leaders over the years.
Party chairman Rob Batherson has questioned the legitimacy of an online petition. A vote of confidence is planned, as in the wake of any electoral defeat for the Conservatives, at the party’s next convention, which is due to take place in 2023.
The countdown has started
Erin O’Toole’s center shift, however, upset not only social conservatives, but some western conservatives as well.
“I think it’s done. It’s only a matter of time, ”a conservative source said on Wednesday. Some MPs have repeated the same thing to some media since Monday.
Mr. O’Toole had made the bet that by refocusing his party, he would lose some support in his western strongholds, but would succeed in filling up in Ontario to win power. “His strategy has completely failed,” reproaches him our source, who considers that it has also allowed the People’s Party to Maxime Bernier to steal support from them.
In 2019, the former chef, Andrew Scheer, had been pushed out after winning 121 constituencies and 34.3% of the vote. Mr. O’Toole was on track to win 119 constituencies and 33.8% of the vote, by the time the ballots were finished counting on Wednesday.
The leader would be more isolated, within the caucus and the large Conservative family, than his predecessor was.
Manitoba Senator Don Plett, however, rejects these “platform managers” who do not help in elections and get involved afterwards.
Mr Plett, himself a former party chairman, considers Bert Chen’s petition “inappropriate”. A member of the National Council should work “to move the party forward”, rather than do “everything in his power to destabilize the party,” he said, demanding that Mr. Chen step down.
The Conservatives won four new seats in the Maritimes, but were on track to have one fewer in Ontario, four fewer in British Columbia and three fewer in Alberta. Support declined the most in the latter province, 14 points from 2019. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, popular support fell by four and five points, respectively.
Senator Plett believes this has nothing to do with his leader’s more centrist platform. Rather, he explains these setbacks by the unpopularity of the Conservative provincial premiers and their fight against COVID-19, by opposition to health measures that helped the PPC and by the low turnout.
Still, Erin O’Toole’s team visibly felt the pressure on Wednesday. Some members took care to post messages of support from MPs to their leader all day on Twitter.
In Quebec, some conservatives accuse Erin O’Toole of procrastinating on military style assault rifles, on his plan carbone or on the right of conscience of doctors in relation to abortion. But the Quebec blues still seemed ready Wednesday to give him a second chance.