Erin O’Toole out as Conservative leader as Durham MP loses leadership review

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Published February 2, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Sean Kilpatrick Canadian Press

Erin O’Toole’s journey to the middle ground of the Canadian political landscape has cost him his job after the overwhelming majority of his fellow Conservatives voted to remove him as leader of the party today.

The vote of the 119 Conservative members of Parliament, who cast their ballots via video conference, was 73-45, with caucus chair Scott Reid declining to vote. The vote came after one-third of the members signed a notice that triggered a leadership review.

After the vote, Conservative MPs thanked O’Toole for his service but said they were ready to move on.

Conservative MPs must now choose someone to serve as the party’s interim leader in a vote that is set to take place later today. Then the party will head into a leadership race for the third time since former prime minister Stephen Harper lost power to the Liberals in 2015.

New Brunswick MP John Williamson threw his hat into the ring to be the party’s interim leader.

On Monday night, after news of the coming leadership review came out, O’Toole put out a social media post that painted his dissenters as believing the party should hold more extreme views resembling those of Ontario MPP Randy Hillier and ex-MP Derek Sloan.

Before the vote, Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer also shared a statement with caucus from 21 former Conservative MPs, including former agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, that called for a new leader.

“Erin O’Toole has not only failed to unite the party, his words and actions in recent days have created greater disunity,” read the statement obtained by The Canadian Press.

“It is time for him to step aside for the good of the Conservative Party and the nation.”

 O’Toole, a 49-year-old Ontario MP representing the Riding of Durham and based in Bowmanville, took over the reins of the party in August 2020.

The corporate lawyer and Air Force veteran was first elected in a byelection in 2012 and served as a cabinet minister for veterans affairs in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government before it fell to the Liberals in the 2015 election.

He then put his name forward to be interim leader but lost. He tried again, this time for the party leadership in 2017, but placed third behind Andrew Scheer.

One of the major knocks critics had against O’Toole began after the 2020 race, where he ran as the “true blue” candidate over former cabinet minister Peter MacKay. Once in power, O’Toole told party members changes were needed if it hoped to make gains in vote-rich regions like the Greater Toronto Area.

In an attempt to modernize the party and differentiate himself from Scheer — whose social conservative views dogged him in the 2019 campaign — O’Toole promoted his support of access to abortion and LGBTQ rights.

He also embraced carbon pricing and tried to attract more voters by putting a more moderate stamp on the party.

He also raised the ire of firearms activists and social conservatives by reversing course on promises midway through the race that were inked into his platform when he was being attacked by the Liberals.

Critics pointed out that O’Toole finished with two fewer seats than Scheer did in 2019 and failed to make gains the party needed in major cities and suburbs.

 

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