As doubts swirl about whether his election performance deserves him staying in the job, several re-elected Conservative members of Parliament – along with a past leadership rival – are standing up to argue that others should unify behind leader Erin O’Toole.
A member of the party’s national council has already initiated a petition to provide members a chance to assess O’Toole’s leadership sooner than 2023, claiming he has betrayed their confidence.
It had roughly 2,300 signatures as of Thursday, but the party’s president criticized it as an invalid approach to trigger a referendum because a review is scheduled for later, and the petition could have been signed by people who aren’t members of the party.
While others say O’Toole should step down, Alberta legislator Garnett Genuis took to social media to urge Conservatives to avoid “another round of internal dispute or public navel-gazing” after the campaign’s failure.
He tweeted on Thursday, “We must study the lessons of the election, provide constructive input, and remain together behind Erin O’Toole.”
Michelle Rempel Garner, a high-profile MP who was most recently the party’s health critic, said she expected the campaign to be evaluated and that “our members’ and caucus concerns will be thoroughly addressed.”
“Given that we are in the midst of a major crisis in Canada, I will accept Erin O’Toole at his word that he would accomplish this, and I will participate in the process.”
Former leadership opponent and freshly elected Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis lent her support as well.
She was welcomed to run after her performance during the party’s 2020 leadership race. As a relative unknown, she won the backing of many social conservatives from the party’s grassroots, who O’Toole drew on to support his win under the ranked ballot system.
“I believe that the rush to apply judgment on our former leader Andrew Scheer, before we had a chance to complete our review of the 2019 campaign, and while emotions were still high, was unwise,” Leslyn wrote in a Facebook post Thursday evening.
“I believe that doing the same to Erin now would be equally unwise.”
The Conservatives are projected to finish with 119 seats, two fewer than the party won during the 2019 federal election under Scheer.
The former leader made bigger gains than O’Toole did, but resigned after pressure mounted for him to leave as he continued to be dogged with questions about his socially conservative views around abortion and LGBTQ issues.
O’Toole has said he’s trying to grow the party and has taken a more progressive stance on such matters. He also introduced a Conservative carbon price on fuel after winning the party’s leadership on a promise to be a “true blue” candidate and axe policies like the Liberals’ carbon price.
He’s committed to staying on as leader and admits the party didn’t make the gains it needed to in Metro Vancouver, the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec to defeat the incumbent Liberals.
“I expect a full review of our campaign, and I expect our member’s and caucus concerns to be thoroughly addressed. Given that we are in a significant crisis period in Canada, I take Erin O’Toole at his word that he will do this and I will contribute to that process.”
Re-elected Calgary MP Ron Liepert said going into the election O’Toole wasn’t well-known and ended up effectively holding Trudeau to a draw.
“Anybody who’s calling for a leadership review in the Conservative Party today needs to shake their head and give themselves a pinch,” he said.
“How can you as a party continue to, election after election, change leaders and expect the public to have any confidence in you when it comes to the next election? So I am 100 per cent supportive of Erin.”
Liepert believes the election came down to vaccines since a significant majority of people in his riding support immunization and a vaccine passport scheme.
“Any votes we lost, in my opinion, were due to our lack of firmness in requiring people to be vaccinated and obtaining vaccine passports.”
Michael Chong, the party’s foreign affairs critic, and Candice Bergen, who served as the party’s deputy leader before the election, are among the Conservative MPs who have openly indicated their support for O’Toole’s leadership.