Conservative Party looking for interim leader

Erin O’Toole was voted out as Conservative Party head on Wednesday paving the way for another leadership race. 

Just 18 months after assuming the mantle, O’Toole lost the vote to remain leader with a majority of his party’s MPs casting their ballot in favour of replacing him.

He received just 45 votes of endorsement while 73 of the party’s 118 MPs voted for a change in leadership. Scott Reid, the party’s caucus chair, did not cast a ballot. 

Conservative MPs were then tasked with choosing the party’s interim leader until the membership elects a permanent leader for the third time since 2017.

New Brunswick MP John Williamson immediately threw his hat in the ring for the post of interim leader.

“I will respect my caucus colleagues. I will listen to our movement,” he wrote on social media moments after O’Toole lost the vote. “I know how to keep us united around the things that matter most to us as Conservatives.”

Another New Brunswicker, Conservative MP Rob Moore also announced his candidature as has Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who was minister of National Revenue from 2013 to 2015.

Tom Kmiec, a social conservative Alberta MP has also put his name forward for the interim job.

O’Toole, who is an MP from Durham, took over the reins of the party in August 2020.

The 49-year-old corporate lawyer and Air Force veteran briefly served as a cabinet minister for veterans affairs in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2015.

He then put his name forward to be interim leader but lost. He tried again, this time for the party leadership in 2017, but placed third behind Andrew Scheer. O’Toole was finally successful in 2020 when he defeated former cabinet minister Peter MacKay. 

During his campaign, he framed himself as a “true blue” conservative. It also helped that Pierre Poilievre, who was expected to get support from the right of the party, decided not to run.

However his leadership position came into question after he lost the 2021 federal election to Liberal Leader Justin Trudueau even though the Conservatives won the popular vote. 

O’Toole finished with two fewer seats than Scheer did in 2019, and failed to make gains the party needed in major cities and suburbs.O’Toole said he would stay on as party leader at the time.

On Monday he welcomed the leadership review saying, “I’m not going anywhere and I’m not turning back” 

“It’s time for a reckoning. To settle this in caucus. Right here. Right now. Once and for all,” he said in a statement.

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