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Prime Minister Trudeau gets a boost after O’Toole is shown the door

Canada's Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Conservative parliamentarians deposed Erin O’Toole as leader on Wednesday, enraged by the main opposition party’s third straight election loss to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2021.

The news: Replacing O’Toole, who took over as Conservative Party leader in August 2020, was a 73-45 vote in the legislature. He had promised to beat Trudeau, but instead led the right-wing party to a poor election result in 2021.

  • In a Facebook post, O’Toole stated that he would remain in Parliament and pledged “unwavering commitment” to the new leader.
  • The party chose Candice Bergen, the Conservative deputy leader, as interim leader on Wednesday night, ahead of a convention to determine a permanent replacement to O’Toole. Bergen, who has been a member of parliament since 2008, came under fire last year after an undated photo surfaced of her wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, a phrase popularised by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

What’s going on: Some disgruntled Conservatives said that O’Toole had pushed the party too far to the centre during the election campaign, unveiling big proposals without consulting the party.

  • The strategy, according to O’Toole, who represents a parliamentary district in Ontario’s vote-rich province, was necessary to woo more moderate voters.
  • Many in his party, which has a strong populist component, were irritated by the action. With his departure, the Conservatives are expected to move more to the right.
  • Pierre Poilievre, the party’s finance critic and a right-wing favourite, is one of the potential leadership candidates. He backed a truckers’ strike against COVID-19 immunisation mandates that has immobilised central Ottawa.
  • Insiders say O’Toole originally distanced himself from the protest, which enraged some MPs at a time when they were already dissatisfied with his performance.

What’s important: The removal of O’Toole could be good news for Trudeau, who has now defeated four Conservative leaders and can rule while his opponents are preoccupied with succession worries. A leadership convention has yet to be scheduled.

  • Trudeau leads a minority government, but he can count on the left-wing New Democrats to help him enact legislation. He expressed gratitude to O’Toole for his assistance.
  • Trudeau’s party, according to one senior Liberal strategist, must avoid sounding triumphal.
  • Some fear a split in the Conservative Party, which was formed in 2003 by the merger of a center-right party and populist right-wing party. Following the vote, MPs emphasised the party’s unity.

“There is never a good time for a lot of things but sometimes you have to deal with them,” Pierre Paul-Hus, the party’s public safety critic, told reporters. Legislators will select an interim chief later on Wednesday.

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