Conservatives divided on fate of O'Toole, as party's MPs call for unity
OTTAWA -- The Conservative Party is facing internal strife as some insiders want to see Erin O’Toole ousted as leader, while newly elected MPs hope for some semblance of unity.
After failing to dethrone the Liberals and pick up more seats this federal election, O’Toole must shift from fighting for Justin Trudeau’s job to fighting for his own.
However, Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner says she and her colleagues headed back to Ottawa are focused squarely on their role as opposition.
“We have 120-some members of Parliament that are going back to Ottawa to deal with major issues. Parliament needs to get back to work,” she said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.
Rempel Garner added that she welcomes an election campaign review, and said the party can both look back at what went wrong and also look to the future in terms of how they want to shape policy going forward.
“We can do both as a party. We can have this review, we can address some of these concerns and we can also make sure that Canadians see a stable opposition party that is providing, you know, a clear alternatives to the Liberals,” she said.
Last week, Bert Chen, the Ontario representative on the Conservative Party’s national council, launched an online petition calling on the party to convene a referendum on O’Toole’s leadership.
The petition has garnered more than 2,700 signatures as of Friday at 5:45 PM EDT but it’s open to all Canadians, of all party stripes.
Party president Robert Batherson responded to the petition on CTV News Channel’s Power Play earlier this week.
“He never informed me or any of his colleagues that he was going to launch this petition, so we’re all kind of scratching our heads as to what is Mr. Chen’s agenda in leading this charge and putting this petition out there,” he said.
“The important thing is to take a step back and to listen to concerns from grassroots members, to ask the tough questions…but we do it through conversation, engagement, respect and professionalism.”
During another interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play, Chen said he’s heard from members disappointed with O’Toole’s shift away from what he promised during his leadership campaign.
“Erin has broken the trust of members by changing his position so drastically from when he was elected by the membership more than a year ago to lead this party,” he said.
Chen added that O’Toole’s foreign policy rhetoric on China was “belligerent” and made him and other Chinese-Canadians “uncomfortable.”
“Any federal riding that has a sizeable Chinese-Canadian population – it would have been extremely difficult for those voters to elect a Conservative with the rhetoric Erin O’Toole was using,” he said.
Rempel Garner said she will support O’Toole as leader going forward.