OTTAWA – A wide-ranging internal review of the Conservative party’s failure to win the 2021 election recommends that the party open the valves of the big blue tent by making membership free.
This is one of several recommendations contained in the report presented to the party’s MPs and senators today, the Star has learned, along with dozens of others who are investigating the big and small pieces of why the party apparently can not break through with Canadian voters. .
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole ordered the review after the Tories failed to defeat the Liberal government in last summer’s election, despite winning the majority of popular votes.
The review was led by defeated Conservative MP James Cumming. More than 400 people were interviewed and 80 written submissions were accepted in an investigation that O’Toole hoped would dispel some of the anger directed at him for the party’s actions.
One portion of the report was devoted to O’Toole’s personal performance, a conservative source told the Star, but they declined to provide specific details on what those observations were.
The full report is not expected to be made public. Conservative MPs will receive an information session and O’Toole is expected to take questions from reporters later Thursday.
The findings shared with the Star note that the issues the party faced in the 2021 campaign go back further than the summer of 2020, when O’Toole became leader.
The survey found that the party’s reputation continues to suffer among voters due to a proposal during the 2015 federal election campaign to implement a “barbaric cultural practices” telephone hotline and ban the wearing of face masks during citizenship ceremonies.
The Conservative government of Stephen Harper was defeated in that election, and the report says the party could not regain the support it had lost in cultural communities.
Consequently, it says the party needs to diversify its candidate list and voter base. Free membership has long been discussed as one way to do it.
In the 2004 election campaign, Harper posted the idea on the party’s national platform, saying there should be a voluntary voter registration system in Canada. Yet the party persisted with paid membership, even though its main rival, the Liberal Party, abandoned it.
The same year the Liberals did so, the Tories actually considered increasing their membership fees. This approach was rejected after complaints from leading Tories that the organization would create an “elitist and whites only” club to place a higher price tag on the cost of a card.
A Conservative party membership currently costs $ 15 for one year, or $ 25 for two years.
Membership peaked at about 270,000 people during the 2020 leadership race, but has probably dropped significantly since then.
The 2021 election saw the Tories win 119 seats, two less than their total in the 2019 campaign.
While picking up a few new rides, including several in the Atlantic Provinces, they lost two seats in the Tory heartland of Alberta, as well as MPs in key constituencies in the greater Vancouver and Toronto areas.
O’Toole won the leadership in part by promising to expand the party’s reach into urban centers.
The fact that his first campaign failed to break through in those areas became one of the many factors contributing to unrest below the grassroots level and his caucus, and constant calls for him to retire.
While facing membership in a leadership review in 2023, several attempts have been made to enforce an earlier vote, including a petition by a former party councilor, and another by Sen. Denise Batters, a longtime Tory organizer.
Some constituency associations have now accepted motions urging the party to speed up the process.
Two driving associations – one in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan – have already announced their motions for an earlier vote, and others in British Columbia and Ontario are now thinking of a similar approach, several sources told the Star.
While driving associations can approve any motions they want, there is no requirement for the party’s national council to grant their requests.
Whether Cumming’s review allays any of the anger below the grassroots level remains to be seen.
Before being informed of its contents, several MPs and party insiders told the Star they had little faith in the report’s conclusions, unless it firmly called O’Toole to the floor for mistakes that many believe he personally before and made during the election campaign.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
The Canadian News
Canada’s largets news curation site with over 20+ agency partners