Some conservatives, including former Ontario premier Mike Harris, are expressing support for federal Tory Leader Erin O’Toole, as others criticize the party’s election results.
The Conservatives won 119 seats in this week’s election, a loss of two from the 2019 race. The Liberals were re-elected and leading with 158 seats. Mr. O’Toole has said he’s “disappointed” with his party’s performance, and vowed to launch an election review, without providing full details.
Some in the party believe Mr. O’Toole could soon face a leadership challenge. But on Thursday, others began expressing their support.
In a series of tweets, re-elected Alberta MP Garnett Genuis called for party unity and dismissed the idea of leadership change.
“Conservatives should stay united, defend our principles, and remain focused on giving Canadians better government. We must learn the lessons of the election, share constructive feedback and remain united behind [Erin O’Toole],” tweeted Mr. Genuis, who represents the riding of Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan.
“There is no scenario in which another round of internal conflict or public naval gazing is going to be good for the country.”
Mr. Genuis’s call for unity comes as some openly criticized Mr. O’Toole’s performance.
Chris Warkentin, re-elected as a Conservative MP in Grande Prairie-Mackenzie in Alberta, told his local newspaper, the Town & Country News, that the Conservative Party could have won the election. He alluded to policy reversals during the campaign, including Mr. O’Toole’s position on gun control, which he said hurt the party’s prospects.
“It was when our party leader started to waffle on some of the policies that we had brought forward, and hadn’t been clear, that I believe that Canadians became uncertain and unwilling to continue to look to our party as an alternative,” Mr. Warkentin told the newspaper.
“I believe that that was the beginning of polls shifting back in favour of the Liberals.”
He also said he has heard from other concerned members who believe changes need to be made. Mr. Warkentin declined to comment when contacted by The Globe and Mail on Thursday, beyond saying that he did not deny his remarks.
Meanwhile, a former premier stepped into the fray.
Mr. Harris, who served as Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier from 1995 to 2002, called on Conservatives Thursday in an op-ed in the Toronto Sun to unite behind Mr. O’Toole and help him develop a “credible, conservative platform” in the next election.
Mr. Harris said Conservatives need to avoid turmoil and focus on assembling a vision, nominating the best candidates, “and presenting the image of a united party ready to govern instead of one ready to tear itself apart.”
The former premier said Mr. O’Toole is an excellent campaigner. “He’s got what it takes to present a bold vision for the future of this party and this country.”
Veteran Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, re-elected in Calgary-Nose Hill, said in a tweet that she is looking forward to contributing to a review of the party’s campaign. “There are things that need to change. But we also have a lot to build on.”
This week, Bert Chen, a member of the Conservative Party’s national council, launched an online petition to trigger an accelerated review of Mr. O’Toole’s leadership, accusing the Tory Leader of “betraying” members by attempting to make the party appear more centrist.
Ron Liepert, an Alberta Conservative re-elected in Calgary Signal Hill, on Thursday slammed Mr. Chen for his “disgusting” and “divisive” petition and said he should resign “and sit on the sidelines” with People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. Mr. Liepert said he supports Mr. O’Toole’s leadership.
“We can’t get into this revolving door of leadership campaigns. We’ve got to give the guy a chance,” he said.
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