Erin O’Toole is forced to relinquish the helm of the Conservative Party of Canada. The deputies of the group – the official opposition in Ottawa – took part in a vote of confidence in their leader on Wednesday. 45 MPs supported him, but 73 chose to show him the exit door (62% of the total). O’Toole, who has been under his own fire for several months, will continue to represent the Durham, Ontario constituency in the lower house. The politician had emphasized on several occasions that his party needs a change to adapt to the new times. For him, a shift to the center is essential to defeat Justin Trudeau’s liberals. The majority of Tory MPs have decided otherwise.
A law passed in Canada in 2015 allows MPs from any party to stage a vote of confidence in their leader if at least 20% of them so request. The newspaper The globe and mail announced on Monday that a petition had received the necessary signatures to proceed to a vote. It is the first time in Canada that a partisan leader has left office through this procedure. Tory MPs cast their votes in secret on Wednesday.
Erin O’Toole confirmed her resignation in a social media video. Initially, he addressed all political forces, inviting them to “listen to all voices, not just the echoes of their groups.” He called for the unity of his political party, stating that Canada needs a conservative party “that is both an intellectual and a governmental force”. O’Toole said it was an honor to have served as leader, adding, “Canadians deserve a conservative party that is balanced, thoughtful and inspired.” Deputy Pierre Paul-Hus, one of the few to speak publicly about this decision, said the lack of confidence in O’Toole was widespread and his leadership was no longer up to the task.
O’Toole, 49, a lawyer and former Air Force helicopter pilot, became Conservative chief in August 2020. At the time, he claimed to embody “true blue leadership,” referring to the party’s signature color. He has been a federal deputy since 2012. His faction failed to beat the Liberals in last September’s election (although Justin Trudeau’s party won 1.1% in the popular vote). It was the third consecutive election in which the Conservatives were defeated. O’Toole opted for more moderate social proposals during the campaign. At one of the meetings, he stated: “We are no longer the same conservative party as our parents.”
After the defeat, the water within the formation started to stir as some voices doubted a successful future with Erin O’Toole at the helm. In December, Canada signed a ban on so-called “conversion therapies,” practices that promise to impose heterosexuality on people from the LGBT community. O’Toole played an important role in making the project run smoothly. However, several deputies saw it as a gesture against the most traditionalist sectors of the party. In recent days, O’Toole has been criticized by Tory figures for failing to support the caravan of truck drivers protesting in Ottawa — along with other groups of protesters — against mandatory vaccination for cross-border drivers and other health measures. O’Toole met some of these truckers last Friday; he also stated that he was in favor of the right to demonstrate, but against any violent or hateful expression.
In Wednesday’s parliamentary session, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to O’Toole. “We disagreed on many things, but he has served his country and I want to thank him for the sacrifices he made,” he said. Candice Bergen, an MP from the Portage-Lisgar constituency, Manitoba, was appointed interim head of the conservative caucus. The next federal election is scheduled for October 2025. However, as Trudeau’s Liberals rule in the minority, the option is open to bring the election forward.
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