Erin O’Toole, who failed to lead the Conservatives to power in the 2021 federal election, and was later voted out as party leader by his caucus, has announced that he is leaving politics.
On Friday, Mr. O’Toole said he would not seek re-election in the Toronto-area Durham riding he has held since 2012. He added that he would resign his seat at the end of the spring session of the House of Commons.
In a statement, the former military navigator and lawyer did not explain why he was leaving now, but said he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to advance issues of interest, such as the mental health of veterans, military preparedness and Arctic sovereignty, during his political career.
“I am a proud Conservative and had the unique privilege to lead our party amid a challenging time for our country,” he said in a statement.
Mr. O’Toole, 50, said he was confident the party will return to government.
“I will help any way I can, but will leave public life satisfied knowing that my efforts and ideas will continue to resonate in the years to come,” he said.
He did not say what he would do next professionally, nor did his office respond to questions about his announcement.
Mr. O’Toole disclosed his plans to exit politics in a speech to the Clarington Board of Trade in his riding. Sheila Hall, the board’s executive director, said members had come to a gathering with the MP expecting an update on federal issues and were surprised by his announcement.
“Although this is sad news for our riding, we wish Mr. O’Toole great success in his next ventures,” Ms. Hall said in a statement.
Pierre Poilievre, who succeeded Mr. O’Toole as leader, said the House will be a lesser place without Mr. O’Toole’s experience and statesmanship.
“Erin can leave his role as their member of Parliament knowing that his community is far better off because of his years of sacrifice and service for the people of Durham,” read a statement issued by Mr. Poilievre’s office.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also congratulated Mr. O’Toole. “Thank you, Erin, for your service to Canadians. I’m wishing you, Rebecca and your entire family all the best as you head into your next chapter,” Mr. Trudeau said in a tweet.
Mr. O’Toole was a veterans’ affairs minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper. Subsequently, he ran twice for the party leadership, winning the second time in 2020 over his chief rival, former cabinet minister Peter MacKay, after promising to be a “true blue” Conservative.
However, he took the party to the centre, advocating deficit spending and a carbon price. Those measures angered some party members, including MPs who endorsed him in the leadership race.
He led the party in the 2021 election but lost to the Liberals, who retained a minority government. In February, 2022, Mr. O’Toole was ousted by his caucus in a 73-45 vote.
The push to remove him began with a core group of MPs unhappy with the changing positions on everything from a carbon tax to gun control, and criticism of what they saw as his lack of consultation with caucus members.
Outside of leadership, Mr. O’Toole worked on a podcast called Blue Skies that he had launched in 2016, but paused while he was leader.
In a September, 2022 interview with The Globe and Mail, he said he was content to serve his constituents and keep a relatively low profile, even in caucus meetings.
Still, he spoke up on various issues, warning about the polarization of Canadian politics, and talking about the challenges of leading his party during the convoy protest in Ottawa.
He ruled out quitting politics after being ousted by his caucus, saying that such an action would have been at odds with the life lessons he taught his children. Mr. O’Toole and his wife have a son and daughter.
In his Friday statement, he said his family had been his “rock and inspiration” throughout his political journey and that he appreciated the political sacrifices they had made.