A Conservative riding association is calling for the federal party to move ahead quickly with a leadership review of Erin O’Toole as a new poll shows almost half of respondents feel he has done a poor job as leader.
Late on Monday, the Foothills riding association in Alberta sent the federal party a request to hold a leadership review by June 15. Party president Rob Batherson said the association is the third to indicate support for an earlier review.
Since his party’s September election loss, Mr. O’Toole has faced a steady drip of criticism. But his opponents have not been able to convince party brass to move up the date for the August, 2023, leadership review.
The latest push for an earlier leadership vote was passed by the Foothills riding association at its Saturday meeting. In a document obtained by The Globe and Mail, it says the earlier leadership review is needed to help “ensure a united and strong Conservative Party of Canada in preparation for an imminent election.”
No one from the association, nor John Barlow, the Conservative MP for the riding, responded to a request for comment on Tuesday.
In November, Mr. O’Toole removed Senator Denise Batters from his party’s caucus after she launched a public petition challenging his leadership. The party’s national council (its governing body) also ruled her petition out of order but Ms. Batters was allowed to stay in the Senate caucus and last week was welcomed back into the regional caucus.
Mr. Batherson said last year that one riding association wrote to the party in support of Ms. Batters’s petition. And in January, another association wrote to the party to challenge its decision to rule the petition invalid. He declined to disclose the names of the associations.
He said the associations calling for a faster leadership review are in the minority and are not swaying the party’s governing body.
“Frankly, if three out of 338 electoral districts – which are less than 1 per cent – ask for something, that doesn’t really compel council to take action,” Mr. Batherson said. “It’s not as if we’re dealing with a deluge of demands to do something.”
Conservative Party spokesperson Cory Hann noted a motion passed by the Winnipeg South riding association, which on Jan. 11 unanimously said it supports Mr. O’Toole and the August, 2023, leadership review. According to its motion, the riding association decided to pass the motion because they were hearing from members who questioned Mr. O’Toole’s leadership and called for an earlier review.
The Nanos Research poll, conducted for The Globe, was released as Mr. O’Toole heads into a two-day caucus retreat, starting on Wednesday, where the party will prepare for the return of Parliament next week. As part of the gathering, the caucus will be briefed on Thursday about the results of its review of the party’s election performance. Unlike past reviews, which were only shared with a leader’s inner circle, Mr. Hann said this one would be circulated more widely but will remain an internal document.
Among respondents to the poll, 17 per cent said Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre would be the best leader in the next election, while 10 per cent said they favoured Mr. O’Toole.
Conservative MPs who garnered less support than Mr. O’Toole included Michael Chong (6 per cent), Michelle Rempel Garner (5 per cent), Gérard Deltell (4 per cent) and Candice Bergen (3 per cent).
The poll results showed 48 per cent of respondents are unsure about who would be the best leader for the Conservatives and 7 per cent favoured other unnamed candidates, who each earned less than 2-per-cent support.
Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist of Nanos Research, said Tuesday the poll indicates the profile of individuals, and is not indicative of who would win a leadership race or election.
“What this survey shows is that [Mr. Poilievre], compared to other potential Conservative leadership contenders, has higher profile,” Mr. Nanos said.
The same poll found 46 per cent of respondents thought Mr. O’Toole had done a poor job as leader, while 33 per cent said he had done an average job, 12 per cent were unsure and just 9 per cent said he had done an excellent job.
The hybrid telephone and online survey was conducted between Jan. 21 and Jan. 23 and had 1,044 respondents. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points 19 times out of 20.
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