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O'Toole resigns as Conservative leader, will stay on as MP


Erin O’Toole has resigned as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada but will stay on to serve as the Durham, Ont. member of Parliament.

The majority of caucus voted to remove O’Toole in a secret ballot on Wednesday. In a decisive revolt, 118 votes were cast at the virtual morning meeting, 73 MPs voted in favour of replacing O’Toole, while 45 MPs voted to endorse his leadership.

Chair of the 119-member caucus, Scott Reid, said he did not vote.

Following this vote, O’Toole submitted his formal resignation to the party, effective immediately.

“Our party founded this great nation, I believe it can and should lead Canada out of these troubling times for our country,” he said in a video statement.

“I want to thank the people of Durham who I will continue to serve as Member of Parliament, I never lose sight of what an honour it is for me to serve my hometown in Parliament and there is not a bad seat in the House of Commons.”

He also thanked his wife, Rebecca and his children, Mollie and Jack.

One-third of the caucus signed a letter earlier this week to force the leadership review, an expression of what party insiders said was a broad dissatisfaction with O’Toole’s performance.

Under the Reform Act powers that enabled this vote to take place, O’Toole needed to secure more than 50 per cent support to hold on to his job, a threshold he failed to meet.

O’Toole spoke to caucus before the vote, but he was not successful in swaying enough of his MPs to allow him to remain at the helm until the party’s scheduled leadership review in 2023.


Over the last few days both current and former MPs spoke out, issuing open letters making their case to their colleagues as to why they feel it’s time for O’Toole to go. Following O’Toole’s ouster MPs were quick to weigh in on what the major political move means for the party.

Alberta MP Matt Jeneroux called the removal of O’Toole as an “opportunity” for the party.

“We must rebuild trust amongst Canadians and show them that we are strong and stable leaders who are rooted in our conservative values while also understanding that we can evolve, learn, and modernize our party to reflect all,” he said.

Asked if the party is once again grappling with whether it should move more towards the right or the centre, Conservative MP Michael Barrett said the party has to have more conversations, starting with who will lead in the short term.

“I want to make sure that our party elects a leader who represents the views of Conservatives across Canada and gives us the best opportunity we have to replace a tired, corrupt, tax-and-spend Liberal government that that Canadians are growing very tired of,” he said.

Caucus secretary Ontario MP Eric Duncan, who has been vocal in his support of O’Toole when he faced internal leadership challenges in November, said he welcomes the change.

Alberta MP Garnett Genuis, who was one of the 35 MPs who signed the original letter prompting this vote, said he remains hopeful about the future of the party.

“There are many significant, challenging, and complex issues facing this country and I remain extremely optimistic about the future of the Conservative Party of Canada,” he told reporters on the Hill on Wednesday, declining to expand on why MPs ultimately chose to oust O’Toole.

“I would like to thank Erin O'Toole for all his hard work and wish him and his family well,” said Ontario MP Scott Aitchison.

Alberta MP Blaine Calkins said in a statement that he is looking forward to “a robust debate” on the issues central to the party and to hear from candidates’ ideas for a path forward.

Manitoba MP Raquel Dancho and Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who ran against O’Toole in the last leadership race, acknowledged that the role of opposition leader is a difficult one, especially in a pandemic.

When asked if she would run again, Gladu said “I’m thinking about it.

Alberta MP Ron Liepert gave more insight into the general sentiment of caucus.

“There were a number of caucus members who felt that in order to pull this disparate bunch together, we needed to start fresh and that Erin wasn’t going to be able to do it,” he said.

He added that he voted to keep O’Toole at the helm because he made a commitment to move up the party membership’s voting timeline to elect a new leader.

“To me, that’s really where that decision should be made anyway. It was party members who elected him as the leader, it should be party members to determine whether or not he stays,” he said.


O’Toole had been fighting to hold on to his role to some degree since the Conservatives’ September 2021 election defeat, reaching this point after a handful of electoral district associations put forward calls for a leadership vote before the one scheduled at the party's national convention in 2023.

In retaliation for launching a petition calling for an early leadership review, O’Toole booted Sen. Denise Batters from the national caucus in November. She said Wednesday she was happy with what’s transpired, saying it provides a “clear direction” for federal Conservatives.

“Thousands of CPC members made their voices heard and Conservative MPs listened to them. Now we move forward together, unified in our resolve to demand better for Canadians,” Batters said.

The embattled leader framed this vote as “a reckoning” where the party needed to make a choice about what kind of party it wants to be going forward, a question the Conservatives have been grappling with for some time.

Among the concerns expressed by current and former MPs before his ouster were that O’Toole flip flopped on key issues, and that the party lost seats and MPs in key regions of the country despite leading in the polls for the early part of the 2021 campaign.

Others felt he failed to stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms during the pandemic, and failed to unite the party.

There has also been inner-party disagreements over O’Toole’s more moderate positions on conversion therapy, deficit spending, and pricing carbon, after he framed himself as the “true blue” choice during his leadership bid.

After the election, O’Toole tapped former Alberta MP James Cumming with conducting an election post-mortem to determine how the party’s 2021 campaign ended in defeat.

The report looked at everything from party infrastructure to the leader’s performance. Following its release, O’Toole reflected on the findings, noting that some found him “too scripted” and his main communication platform– a TV studio in Ottawa – proved ineffective.

A Conservative source told CTV News party infighting and a lack of candidate diversity also contributed to the loss.

Prior to entering the political ring, O’Toole spent more than a decade in the Royal Canadian Air Force and had a short stint as a corporate lawyer following his military service.

O'Toole won the Durham, Ont. byelection in 2012, following Bev Oda's resignation. He was the minister for veterans affairs under former prime minister Stephen Harper before the Liberals came to power in 2015.

He took his first run at party leadership in 2017 as one of the lesser-known candidates. He ultimately placed third behind Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier. He announced his second leadership bid in late January 2020, going on to beat out Peter MacKay for the job in August of that year.

The coming leadership race will be the second one the party has faced since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

O’Toole’s removal comes amid a trucker convoy rally in Ottawa protesting vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions. While one of the main objectives of the rally was to oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it is his main rival that has been toppled while the truckers are in town.

“What I find really surprising is the same Conservative MPs who are promoting the convoys against Mr. Trudeau, seem to have played a role in taking down Mr. O'Toole,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus on his way up to Parliament Hill.

O’Toole offered some parting thoughts on how the party should position itself going forward.

“This country needs a Conservative Party that is both an intellectual force and a governing force. Ideology without power is vanity, seeking power without ideology is hubris. Canadians deserve a government that delivers exemplary management with a foundation based upon values and our decency as a country,” he said.

“What Canadians deserve from a Conservative Party is a balance of ideas and inspiration.”


O’Toole was not in the House of Commons on Wednesday, with Deputy Leader Candice Bergen leading off for the party in question period.

Before fielding questions, Trudeau thanked O’Toole for his service.

“There is a lot we don’t agree on for the direction of this county, but he stepped up to serve his country and I want to thank him for his sacrifice and also, particularly, Rebecca, Mollie, and Jack for being part of what is a very, very difficult life for even the most successful of us,” he said.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said O’Toole has shown “great vigour and commitment” to Canada, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also thanked the former leader for his service.




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