By ROB GILLIES – Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada faces a revolt from lawmakers in his party and could be ousted as early as Wednesday.
If successful, he would be the third major political rival that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped bring down.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who has angered some by trying to shift the party more to the center, said Monday night his party’s lawmakers had a choice between extremism or inclusion that better reflects the Canada of 2022.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “It’s time for reckoning. To settle this in caucus. Right here. At present. Once for all. Canada needs us to be united and serious. »
He said the choice was anger over optimism and he would accept the outcome of the vote.
Garnett Genuis, a Tory MP, tweeted that a third of Tory lawmakers had signed a letter calling for an end to O’Toole’s leadership.
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Genuis went public after numerous news outlets reported on the revolt which is now out in the open. He accused O’Toole’s team of attacking members of his own party.
That O’Toole remains Conservative leader has big implications for the Conservative movement in Canada. If removed, the group could retreat further to the right.
One of the main candidates to replace him, Pierre Poilievre, has met with anti-vaccine truckers who are protesting in Ottawa. Over the weekend, many Canadians were outraged by images of protesters urinating on the National War Memorial and dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A number carried placards and flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
“I just spoke with hundreds of happy, salt of the earth Canadians who are giving your shirt off at the truckers protest. They choose freedom over fear,” Poilievre tweeted.
O’Toole presented himself more than a year ago as a “true blue conservative”. He became leader of the Conservative Party with a promise to “take Canada back”, but immediately began working to push the party towards the political centre.
O’Toole’s strategy, which included disavowing his party’s cherished grassroots positions on climate change, guns and balanced budgets, was designed to appeal to a wider range of voters in a country that tends to be much more liberal than the United States.
Whether moderate Canadians believed O’Toole to be the progressive conservative he claimed to be and whether he was alienating mainstream conservatives became the central issue of the campaign. O’Toole failed to win more seats in and around vote-rich Toronto, Canada’s largest Liberal city.
Trudeau gambled that Canadians didn’t want a Conservative government during a pandemic and voiced the concerns of Canadians unhappy with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
After last year’s election defeat, Tory MPs gave themselves the power to vote for O’Toole’s leadership.
In correspondence with Tory lawmakers on Monday evening, Scott Reid, the Conservative Party’s caucus chair, said the advice he had received was valid and that more details would follow on when a leadership vote would take place. .
Conservative lawmakers are due to meet on Wednesday. A vote on O’Toole’s leadership, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, would be by secret ballot.
Alberta Conservative lawmaker Bob Benzen, who previously backed O’Toole, said the leader had flip-flopped on party policy and it was time for party lawmakers to decide his fate.
“Mr. O’Toole campaigned in the leadership race as a principled Conservative voice that unites the party. However, since Mr. O’Toole took over as leader, there have been many instances about-faces and questionable judgement,” Benzen wrote.
He cited O’Toole’s failure to stand up for the rights of Canadians during the pandemic as one of the problems.
“I believe the Conservative caucus gave Mr. O’Toole more than enough opportunity for a course correction to address the concerns of many rank-and-file members of our party,” Benzen wrote. “Given Mr. O’Toole’s record as leader, I believe a review of caucus leadership is the only way to avoid a dangerous split within the Conservative Party that may not be fixable.”
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