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Conservative leader Erin O'Toole said the good news from the election is that has gained new members throughout the country.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Erin O’Toole said he is disappointed with the Conservative Party’s performance in the federal election and is launching a review of the Tories’ electoral strategy.

Mr. O’Toole, coming off his first campaign as leader of the party, told a news conference on Tuesday that details of the review are being finalized. He said it will involve participants from all areas of the party, and that it will look at what went right and wrong, as well as how the party can do better in the next election.

“While we didn’t get the results we had hoped for, I am proud of our team for holding the Liberals to a minority in this pandemic election,” Mr. O’Toole said.

Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party brace for an ugly war over his shift to the left

As of Tuesday, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 ridings – 12 seats short of the 170 required to form a majority government. This means they will need the support of one of the three main opposition parties in order to win votes on bills and motions in the House of Commons.

The Conservatives were leading or elected in 119 ridings, two fewer than the party won under former leader Andrew Scheer in the 2019 election.

Mr. O’Toole said the good news for the Conservatives is that, as a result of the election, the party has gained new members throughout the country. He noted that in 30 of the ridings his party did not win on Monday, it came within 2,000 votes of the Liberals.

But the Conservative leader did not directly answer questions about whether he would trigger a leadership review, or about why he deserves to continue leading the Conservatives.

“I will continue to work tirelessly with our caucus, campaign team and party members to keep building the support we need in key areas of the country, like the Greater Toronto Area, Metro Vancouver and Quebec,” he said.

Mark Strahl, the Conservative MP for Chilliwack-Hope in British Columbia, who was re-elected to a fourth term on Monday, said on Twitter that the party “lost a solid, diverse group of MPs” on election night.

“We need to determine why we lost major ground in the GTA and Metro Vancouver. We owe it [to] our party volunteers, donors, members and activists to critically examine every aspect of the campaign,” he wrote.

Former Conservative leadership contender Marilyn Gladu, who was re-elected as an MP for the Ontario riding of Sarnia-Lambton, said in an interview that she believes the far-right People’s Party of Canada split the Tory vote, and that her party must work to avoid that outcome in the next election.

She said that Conservatives were impressed by Mr. O’Toole’s platform and his performance in the debates, and that she supports him staying on as leader.

“Nobody has an appetite right now for a leadership review or a leadership race,” she said.

Mr. O’Toole cast himself as a “true blue” conservative in 2020, during his successful run for Conservative leadership. But, heading into this year’s election campaign, he presented himself as a moderate, with pro-choice views on abortion and a friendly relationship with the LGBTQ community.

He broke with Conservative tradition by promising to put a price on carbon emissions. And, despite frequent opportunities to do so, he never explicitly ruled out the possibility of provinces and territories keeping the Liberal carbon tax if the Conservatives were to form government.

“We’re not your dad’s Conservative party anymore,” he said on a number of occasions.

Even so, Mr. O’Toole’s opponents found opportunities to portray him as a hardline conservative on the campaign trail. He struggled at times to explain his positions on issues such as gun control, which he favoured loosening, and vaccine mandates, which he said people should be allowed to circumvent if they submit to frequent COVID-19 tests.

Ms. Gladu said that she supports Mr. O’Toole’s opposition to mandatory vaccinations and doesn’t think it hurt him at the polls. “There are legitimate reasons why people choose not to take them, and we need to use other measures: rapid testing, COVID protocols, etc.” she said. “Vaxxed and unvaxxed alike can get it and transmit it.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole spoke to supporters early Tuesday morning after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau won another minority government. O’Toole criticized the early election, shared an inclusive vision of the party and vowed to lead the Conservatives in the next campaign.

The Globe and Mail

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