Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says she is confident that her 118 elected representatives back her, despite voting to give herself the power to review her leadership and potentially kick it.
Conservative MPs met Tuesday for the first time in person since the party’s electoral defeat two weeks ago that saw them win two fewer seats than former leader Andrew Scheer.
The party suffered losses of incumbent deputies, including five elected people of color, and failed to make the crucial breakthroughs needed in the greater Toronto, Quebec and Metro Vancouver area.
Despite that, O’Toole has spent time since the election highlighting the positives, including how the party increased its share of the vote in Ontario and won new seats in Atlantic Canada.
Conservative MPs met for about six hours Tuesday and during that time they voted for a provision that gives them the power to trigger a review of O’Toole’s leadership.
“This is not a sword of Damocles hanging over my head,” O’Toole told reporters after the meeting.
“We are united as a team. It’s about having a fair and transparent process that a team must have when they respect each other.”
Under the Reform Act passed in 2015, each party’s caucus is required to decide after an election whether it wants to empower its members to trigger a leadership review.
For a leadership review to take place, a deputy must send a written notice to the president of the national caucus, which must be signed by at least 20 percent of the party’s elected members. This will be followed by a secret ballot.
O’Toole said he has always supported the Reform Act measures, which also empower MPs to elect their own caucus chair and decide whether to expel or admit MPs.
He said he encouraged elected members to vote for all the provisions, but did not say directly whether he would ask the party rank and file to vote on his leadership in the next six months.
O’Toole says the conservative caucus is united even though the votes give MPs the power to topple him. #CPC #CDNPoli #ErinOToole
Alberta’s reelected MP Shannon Stubbs believes members should be able to have a say in O’Toole’s leadership in the next six months rather than having to wait two years for a review scheduled in 2023.
Many of the MPs who attended the caucus meeting expressed support for O’Toole remaining as leader. Among them was Leslyn Lewis, a former leadership rival and favorite among the party’s social conservative voter base, as well as Pierre Poilievre, who answered “no” when asked if he had leadership ambitions.
Poilievre briefly mounted a leadership campaign in 2020, but never formally participated in the race.
Stubbs was the most publicly critical of the Conservatives’ election performance, saying she lost a 15 percentage point share of the vote in her career, still winning with more than 60 percent support, and wants to see O’Toole. outline a plan. to win back conservative supporters who disagreed with the direction the party has taken.
O’Toole promised billions in spending during the campaign and caused some confusion when he added a footnote to his platform’s promise to repeal the liberal ban on some 1,500 types of firearms. Its footnote said the ban would remain pending review.
In general, he tried to portray conservatives as more centrist and progressive on social issues, despite presenting himself as a “true blue Tory” to win the base during last year’s leadership race.
Stubbs said before the meeting that he wanted to hear from O’Toole about how he would “maintain trust among conservative voters” and what he meant on election night when he said the party needs to have confidence to change.
“If now what we are talking about is changes in our policies, our values, our principles, then for me, that means that it is even more important that the members can have a direct voice,” he said.
O’Toole said his entire caucus is disappointed with the election result, no one but him, and so he announced that defeated Edmonton Center MP James Cumming will conduct a conservative campaign review.
He promised it would be a “360” review, involving the caucus, the national council, the Conservative party and its fundraising arm to ensure a thorough investigation of where the party fell short, as well as what it did well, from so that he can win an election that O’Toole predicted could come in the next 18 months under the current minority Parliament.
Ontario MP Michael Barrett, who served as one of O’Toole’s critics in the last Parliament, said the caucus also heard from the national campaign manager and that there were some “mixed emotions” in the room.
Eric Duncan, a fellow MP from Ontario, described the discussions as “constructive” and “productive.”
The mood of Tuesday’s meeting differed greatly from when the caucus convened after losing under Scheer, according to a MP.
“In 2019, it was much more aggressive, there was much more anger. From now on, there was disappointment, we were defeated, but at the same time, we are looking forward and striving to change what we need to change,” said Pierre Paul-Hus. , a deputy from Quebec, in French.
O’Toole said he accepts responsibility for the election result, noting that he had a plan to win the trust of Canadians and “we fell short.”
But he added that he believes the simple reason for the loss was that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to “divide Canadians.”
“We didn’t. Did we pay a price for it? Maybe we did.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 5, 2021.