O’Toole faces caucus uprising as 35 MPs sign letter calling for vote on leadership revision

Canada’s Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole Speaks During Question Time in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 31, 2022. REUTERS / Blair GableBLAIR GABLE / Reuters

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is facing a caucus uprising with 35 MPs signing a letter calling for a leadership review vote on concerns about the direction of the official opposition party, sources said.

The letter, which was sent to caucus chairman Scott Reid on Monday, would require a vote on the leadership review of conservative MPs already at Wednesday’s regular caucus meeting. If Mr O’Toole were to lose the vote, he would have to resign immediately.

MPs would then have to vote for a temporary caucus leader, while the Conservative Party calls a leadership contest. Sources say they have at least 63 MPs out of the 119 elected Conservatives who are willing to oust Mr O’Toole in a caucus vote.

The 2013 Reform Act, sponsored by Conservative MP Michael Chong and passed by parliament into law, forces any party to revise its leadership if a written statement signed by at least 20 percent of caucus members is submitted to the party’s caucus chairman.

Internal discussions have taken place over the weekend in the conservative ranks to trigger a vote in the caucus leadership, several sources say.

Discussions intensified after Mr O’Toole’s office became aware of an attempt by dissidents to gather at least 24 MPs to force a vote to oust the leader, according to six sources. The Globe and Mail does not identify the sources who were not authorized to discuss internal party cases.

Conservative party whip James Bezan called dissidents MPs on Sunday and Monday, warning of the consequences if they tried to oust Mr O’Toole, according to sources. Mr. Bazan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sir. O’Toole was advised to put an end to the internal disagreement by using his own supporters to force the caucus vote and give him respite to present a mainstream alternative to the Trudeau Liberal, sources said.

A senior source close to Mr. O’Toole said he had been advised to trigger the vote already at Wednesday’s caucus meeting. His office was unaware of the letter signed by the 35 MPs.

The internal disagreement comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attacked Mr O’Toole on Monday because some of his MPs – including some critics of his leadership – expressed support for the anti-vaccine protest on Parliament Hill, with some protesters waving Nazi and Confederate flags. and danced on the tomb of the unknown soldier.

James Cumming, the former Edmonton lawmaker who wrote a post-election report for Mr O’Toole, had recommended that the belligerent leader hold a secret ballot to end the internal sniper, two sources said. At present, Mr O’Toole is not required to face a leadership review before the next National Assembly of the Conservative Party in August 2023.

Mr. Cumming would not comment when contacted by The Globe and Mail on Monday. But two sources said that Mr. Cumming told Mr. O’Toole that convening a caucus vote was a legitimate tool and would demonstrate that he has majority support from MPs.

Mr. O’Toole cannot, on his own orders, vote for his leadership. He would need 24 or more MPs, saying in writing that they want an audit vote. However, he has the power to persuade to get loyal members to request a vote, according to a Member of Parliament who is in favor of such an action.

The same rule applies to dissenting MPs, who according to sources have now gathered 35 MPs to ask the caucus to vote for a management review.

A dissident MP said the anti-O’Toole faction would support a clear vote in one way or another.

A senior Conservative MP who supports Mr O’Toole but calls for anonymity to speak honestly said the leader needs caucus support to function. The source said the majority of the 119 elected MPs support Mr O’Toole.

Sir. Cummings ‘internal review of the Conservatives’ election campaign in 2021 showed that Mr O’Toole came to seem overtrained and needed to be more confident. The report also called on the party to review its team of senior advisers, reduce conflicts and do a better job of reaching out to racialized communities, sources said.

Mr. Cummings report also recommends that the party improve its electoral preparedness by modernizing its voter identification and contact practices and changing its nomination rules

As a sign of Mr O’Toole’s weakened leadership, Saskatchewan’s Tory MPs recently decided to confirm Senator Denise Batters as a member of their regional caucus, even though Mr O’Toole threw her out of the national caucus in November to launch a petition that challenged his leadership.

Ms. Batters has promoted online a Nanos poll showing that respondents prefer Mr Poilievre as leader over Mr O’Toole.

Last Thursday, the party’s Nipissing-Timiskaming equestrian association became the fourth to call for a leadership review to be held before this summer, rather than in 2023 as planned.

With a report from Ian Bailey

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