Erin O’Toole, former Conservative leader, leaving politics: ‘Honour of a lifetime’

Click to play video: 'Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole calls on party to ‘put unity of our country first’'
Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole calls on party to ‘put unity of our country first’
WATCH - Former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole calls on party to 'put unity of our country first' – Sep 10, 2022

Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will not seek re-election and will resign his seat at the end of the House of Commons’ spring session.

The 50-year-old MP for Durham said in a statement Friday that after more than 10 years as a federal politician, he will be leaving politics when the House breaks for summer, which is scheduled for June 23.

“It has been the honour of a lifetime to serve my community in Parliament and to also have the privilege to serve the country as a minister and leader of the opposition. I am thankful to the people of Durham for their trust,” he said.

“I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to advance issues that I believe are critically important to our country — from veterans’ mental health, to military preparedness, nuclear energy, Arctic sovereignty and a range of other important issues. I will continue to advance these interests and serve my constituents until the end of this session.”

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O’Toole was first elected to Parliament through a byelection in November 2012. Under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, O’Toole served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade between Sept. 19, 2013, and Jan. 5, 2015, and veterans affairs’ minister from Jan. 5, 2015, to Nov. 4 that year.

He was elected Conservative leader on Aug. 24, 2020, and held that position until Feb. 2, 2022, when Conservative party members voted to remove him from the post. Rural Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre was chosen as his successor.

“Throughout his life, Erin has dedicated himself to service of our country, his community, and his family. We can all take valuable lessons and inspiration from Erin’s service to others,” Poilievre said in part in a statement.

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“The House of Commons will be a lesser place without his experience and statesmanship.”

O’Toole’s ouster followed a second successive Conservative defeat in the last general election, held in 2021.

O’Toole had run his leadership campaign as a “true blue” Conservative — the main point of contrast he tried to strike with rival and former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay.

Click to play video: 'Erin O’Toole ousted as Conservative Party leader after decisive caucus vote'
Erin O’Toole ousted as Conservative Party leader after decisive caucus vote

While O’Toole during the leadership race talked about scrapping the Liberals’ price on carbon — known for a decade in Conservative circles as a “carbon tax” — O’Toole as leader talked about the need to have a plan to price pollution.

While the O’Toole of the leadership race talked about the Liberals’ runaway spending, O’Toole of the 2021 campaign promised a decade of deficit spending that rivalled Trudeau’s own plans.

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Most Conservative MPs went along with the policy pivots with the assurance that O’Toole’s team saw it as a path to victory. When that victory did not materialize in September 2021’s general election — and the party lost ground in crucial regions and among important constituencies — the simmering anger started to boil over publicly.

When he was ousted, O’Toole said he accepted the results and offered some parting comments about the direction of the party he’d no longer lead.

“This country needs a Conservative party that is both an intellectual force and a governing force. Ideology without power is vanity. Seeking power with ideology is hubris,” O’Toole said at the time.

In his statement Friday, O’Toole said he knows one day the party will return to government.

“The Conservative party is the party of Confederation and I know it will return to government offering the hope and ideas our country so desperately needs,” he said.

“I will help in 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.”

— with files from Alex Boutilier, Global News


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