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Conservatives name Candice Bergen as interim leader after O'Toole voted out


The Conservative Party of Canada has named Candice Bergen as interim leader following a private vote late Wednesday evening.

Bergen, who had the role of deputy party leader, finished tops among nine candidates in a private preferential ballot.

Bergen has represented the Manitoba riding of Portage—Lisgar since 2008. She is replacing Erin O’Toole, who was ousted earlier Wednesday when 73 MPs voted to replace him.

“I want to express my gratitude and respect to [O’Toole] for his leadership and the sacrifices he’s made for our party and caucus,” Bergen tweeted earlier Wednesday. “Thanks also to Rebecca and the O’Toole family for their dedication and support. Erin is an asset and will continue to be a valued member of our team.”

Bergen has previously held the role of Minister of State for Social Development in Stephen Harper’s government and served as Opposition House leader under Rona Ambrose.

Lori Turnbull, director of Dalhousie University’s School of Public Administration, said Bergen brings experience and name recognition to the Conservative party leadership, which can be “a blessing and a curse.”

“A lot of people who know her -- for better or worse -- would associate her with Harper, with Erin O’Toole, with Andrew Scheer,” she told CTV News Channel. “If you’re deciding whether the party’s going to go in a new direction or keep continuity, she’s definitely the continuity candidate.”

Turnbull added that Bergen’s first order of business would be to try to unite the party, which could be a challenge.

“She knows the party really well, she has the trust of people, but whether or not she’s going to be able to bring together factions of the party that actually fundamentally disagree on really important questions, I don’t know that she’s going to have the time or the space to do that,” she said.

Ron Liepert, a Conservative MP from Alberta, said it will be difficult for Bergen to unify the party.

"It's going to be a bloody tough job," he told The Canadian Press.

Meanwhile, other MPs embrace the change as a chance for a fresh start.

"Erin was a long time coming," said Edmonton MP Matt Jeneroux. "You can't run in the leadership on one thing and then do something else."

Bergen faced stiff competition for the role, as eight other MPs threw their names in the hat for a chance at leading the party, though not all the candidates stated their intentions publicly.

Among those interested in the position were Marilyn Gladu, a Conservative MP for Sarnia–Lambton. 

“I’ll put my name forward and see what the caucus has to say about that and then we’ll see where we go from there,” she told CTV News Channel’s Power Play earlier on Wednesday.

“I think this is an opportunity for a fresh start to unify the party. We definitely need to see that kind of unity and I think the grassroots needs to weigh in on the policy positions that we took in the last election, so we can be successful, expand the base and win the next election.”

John Williamson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, announced in a tweet that he too was among those interested in leading the party.

“I know how to keep us united around the things that matter most to us as Conservatives,” he said in a statement posted online. “We must demonstrate to our supporters and future voters we’re fighting for them – every day – with a consistent plan.”

Rob Moore, MP for the Fundy Royal riding of New Brunswick, had also thrown his name into the ring. Moore is currently the shadow cabinet minister for Justice.

“Now, more than anytime since prime minister [Stephen] Harper left office, our party needs sensible, experienced, and above all else, principled, Conservative leadership,” he said in a statement.


When it comes to who might be interested in leading the party long-term,there are also several high-profile Conservatives who’ve stated they don’t intend run.

In a statement to CTV News, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said she isn’t interested.

“It’s really hard to see what’s happening and not jump back in to help,” she said. “My heart says yes but my head says no. I’m not going to go back at this juncture in my life. Our kids are at the age where they need us and I am enjoying being in business.”

Earlier this week, both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said they are not interested in federal leadership and are instead focused on their respective provinces.

“My hands are full,” Ford told reporters on Tuesday. “I love being premier of this province. That's my job.”

“I'm just 24/7 working on getting us out of this pandemic.”




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