As Erin O’Toole prepares for a vote on his leadership by members of his caucus, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he wouldn’t pursue the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada if O’Toole is ousted.
During an update on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta on Monday, Kenney urged party unity when asked if he would consider running for the leadership.
“No, I am so completely focused on these incredibly huge challenges that we’re facing right now. That’s not of any interest to me,” Kenney said. “I do hope that my friends in the Conservative Party of Canada will find a way to work through their process with as much respect for their colleagues as they can.
“At the end of the day, they’ve got to be united, and Canadians are counting on them to be an effective Opposition.”
Kenney, who endorsed O’Toole in the 2020 Conservative Party leadership race, said he still supports O’Toole in the role.
“I don’t think, in the long run, it makes sense to change leaders after every election,” Kenney said. “I think stability and continuity are important conservative principles.”
O’Toole will face a vote on his leadership Wednesday after 35 MPs signed a petition to force the vote over the weekend. The existence of the petition was first reported by the Globe and Mail.
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Several Alberta MPs have since voiced their opposition to O’Toole’s leadership of the party and have called on him to resign.
“When 35 members of caucus call on the leader to effectively resign, then I think then perhaps that the leader has some thinking to do,” St. Albert-Edmonton CPC MP Michael Cooper said.
“I think we’re not seeing what we need to from the leadership right now,” Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan CPC MP Garnett Genuis told reporters Tuesday. “Once the vote wraps up (Wednesday), we’ll be able to move forward with new leadership and I think that will be good news for the Conservative Party and good news for Canada.”
Calgary-Heritage MP Bob Benzen penned a letter on Monday to call for a review of O’Toole’s leadership. Benzen cited several reasons for his stance, including the party’s loss in the 2021 general election, the “adoption of a de facto climate tax” and COVID-19 health measures.
On Tuesday, Benzen doubled down on his call and said he will not apologize for raising concerns of constituents and “grassroots members.”
“Even if Mr. O’Toole wins the vote on Wednesday, the Conservative Party and its grassroots supporters across the country will lose,” Benzen wrote.
However, Calgary-Nose Hill CPC MP Michelle Rempel Garner said she would support O’Toole with her vote on Wednesday.
“I will be voting against this motion because my community wants me to be focused on getting results for them, not internal sausage making,” Rempel Garner told Global News.
“I respect my colleagues that might have differences of opinions, but I’m just optimistic that we can work these things out, as opposed to just triggering another leadership review.”
If O’Toole doesn’t win the caucus vote on Wednesday, the party would enter its third leadership race in the last six years.
The vote isn’t surprising for New West Public Affairs partner Michael Solberg, who said he was surprised by how quickly the revolt evolved just months after the general election.
“What it really just points to is further divide within this caucus about the way that they see this party moving forward, the way that this party will campaign and off of what issues, and most importantly, how they plan to differentiate themselves from Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party and present a positive vision for a Conservative government in Canada for the next election,” Solberg said.
According to CPC policy, a simple majority of caucus can vote to oust a leader, immediately install an interim leader and begin a leadership contest.
“Even if he ekes out a win, it will be very narrow,” Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said. “How do you govern when you know that 40 to 49 per cent of your caucus has no confidence in you?”
In a series of tweets, O’Toole called the issue a “reckoning” and said he isn’t going anywhere.
O’Toole said the issue needed to be settled in caucus and that he would accept the result of the vote.