Mike Harris and other conservatives call the party to give Erin O’Toole a chance

OTTAWA – Conservatives past and present are emerging to express their support for the beleaguered federal party leader Erin O’Toole as she seeks to defend herself against calls for her resignation over her party’s inability to make progress in Monday’s election.

Former Ontario CP Prime Minister Mike Harris, as well as a host of current MPs, say they are proud of O’Toole and while there needs to be discussions about what worked and what didn’t in this election, his leadership was not the problem. .

“The best thing the Conservative Party of Canada can do is work hard over the next period of time to help it develop a credible, conservative platform that focuses on the issues Canadians are concerned about, including fiscal responsibility,” Harris said, who was prime minister from 1995-2002, in an opinion piece.

“So unite behind a proven activist who can and should be our next prime minister.”

Preliminary results show that the Conservatives are on track to exit the election with 119 seats, two less than their total in the 2019 campaign.

While they did win some previously held seats in Atlantic Canada, they have lost constituencies in Ontario, BC and even Alberta, the heart of the party.

Being barred from urban centers after O’Toole promised that his centrist platform would help win those same voters has infuriated many party members who see him as a traitor to the core values ​​of what it means to be a conservative in pursuit of support that never materialized. .

Among them is one of the party’s national advisers, Bert Chen, who launched a petition aimed at forcing a referendum on O’Toole’s leadership.

His efforts have been criticized as divisive by some in the party caucus, but they come after three days of many complaints about O’Toole’s future, by everyone from sitting down and defeated MPs, grassroots activists and strategists and lifelong watchers.

It remains to be decided whether the referendum Chen wants to launch will take place. Even if it gets the required number of signatures, the party’s constitution gives the 19-member national council of the Conservatives, of which Chen is a member, the last word.

The constitution also contains a provision for a leadership review at the party’s next convention after an election in which the Conservatives do not form a government. The next convention is scheduled for 2023.

But what will come first is a meeting of O’Toole with his MPs where they will have to decide whether they would like to launch a leadership review of their own, a power they have under a law designed to give MPs more voice. in managing your caucus.

The MPs who have emerged to back O’Toole in the past two days represent some of the party’s most important voices, including Deputy Leader Candice Bergen and Alberta MP Garnett Genuis.

“Conservatives must stand together, uphold our principles, and focus on providing Canadians with better government. We must learn the lessons of the elections, share constructive feedback and stand united behind @erinotoole”He wrote on Twitter.

Members of the Quebec caucus, a tight-knit group within the larger blue tent, also seem to rally behind O’Toole.

Gerard Deltell, who served as the party’s house leader in the last Parliament, noted that under O’Toole the party’s share of votes in Quebec grew compared to 2019.

“More than ever, Erin is the man for the job,” wrote one of several Quebec MPs who expressed a similar sentiment.

While it is true that the party won more voters in Quebec than in the last campaign, its total seats remained the same, a problem that plagued them across the country.

Michael Chong, the Wellington-Halton Hills MP who pushed for legislation allowing MPs to have a voice in their leadership, tweeted that he was proud to be running in the election under O’Toole.

“We have laid the foundations for victory.”

But other longtime conservatives say too much ground was given to liberals.

“It was when the leader of our party began to discuss some of the policies that we had presented and it was not clear that I believe that Canadians became insecure and did not want to continue looking at our party as an alternative,” said the Conservative MP. Chris. Warkentin (Grande Prairie-Mackenzie) told the City and country news.

“I think that was the beginning of the polls backing down in favor of the Liberals.”

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