Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will learn from his defeat in the 2021 federal election, and will accept an election campaign review, after the Conservative caucus voted to give MPs the power to potentially replace him in its first post-election meeting.
O’Toole said his party’s caucus remains “fully united,” after Conservative MPs met in Ottawa on Oct. 5 to vote on a series of issues that could give them the power to oust him and launch another leadership race.
“As leader, I am accountable; accountable for what went well, and accountable for where we fell short. I’m also accountable for where we failed in executing on our plan for Canadians,” O’Toole said in a press conference after the caucus meeting.
“I take that responsibility very seriously. I’m resolutely committed to reviewing every element of our campaign,” he said, adding that the caucus is “united as a team. This is about having a fair and transparent process that a team must have when it respects one another.”
O’Toole announced that James Cumming, the former Conservative MP for the Alberta’s Edmond Centre riding, will chair the election campaign review. He said the review will “ideally” conclude before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, O’Toole also said he will ask the House of Commons to bring back motions lapsed in the last parliamentary session, particularly several motions put forth by the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, regarding a health committee order that requested the release of documents on the government’s COVID-19 pandemic management, and the firing of two scientists from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab.
“Our team will be asking to bring back the most important issues facing Canadians, particularly in economic recovery, but also serious questions about coverups the Trudeau government committed before the last election. The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg [is] one example, pandemic documents that they refused to release. The Trudeau government was willing to take Parliament to court rather than to be accountable,” O’Toole told reporters.
O’Toole attributed the Conservatives’ failure to win the election to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the COVID-19 pandemic to divide Canadians.
“I had a plan for us to win the confidence of more Canadians. We fell short. The simple reason for why that happened is Mr. Trudeau used the pandemic to divide Canadians,” O’Toole said. “We did not. Did we pay a price for it? Perhaps we did.”
When asked by a reporter about criticism that he has been taking the party “towards the centre” and whether he plans to continue with that approach, O’Toole said he wants “to make sure we speak for suburban and urban families, many of whom were considering voting for us midway through this election.”
“I want to say we’re going to continue to talk about economic recovery, we’re going to continue to talk about transparency and government trust, and I think we will win more seats,” he said. “I think the pandemic prevented us from securing the vote of enough Canadians, but I’m proud that we are drawing men and women from all backgrounds in all parts of the country.”
Prior to Tuesday’s Conservative caucus, at least one member had openly called for a leadership review.
Under legislation passed in 2015, each party’s caucus is required to decide after an election whether it wants to empower its members to trigger a leadership review, which requires a written notice backed by at least 20 percent of the caucus.
Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative MP for the Lakeland riding in Alberta, who said she had won 15 percent less votes in the 2021 election compared with 2019, called on O’Toole to give a full accounting of how he plans to win back Conservative supporters.
“I believe there needs to be an accounting on how it is that we are going to maintain Conservative voters, maintain confidence among Conservative voters and supporters,” Stubbs said before entering the caucus meeting.
“The reality is that today, after the 2021 election, Conservatives are more rural, more homogeneous than we’ve ever been before. And we lost great, strong, necessary colleagues in big cities in every part of this country,” she said.
With files from The Canadian Press