A veteran Conservative senator is urging members of the party’s caucus to give themselves the option of ousting Erin O’Toole as a result of the federal Conservative leader’s performance in the recent federal election campaign.
The recommendation from Nova Scotia Senator Michael Macdonald, sent in an e-mail to caucus members obtained by him, came a day before the first meeting of the Tory caucus on Tuesday since the election last month.
Conservative members of parliament reserve the right to remove Mr O’Toole as leader using provisions of the 2014 Reform Act, which sets rules for the caucus to manage a range of issues.
“It is foolish to vote against the right to review leadership,” Mr Macdonald wrote. “Voting in favor of a review vote is not pleasant, but it is necessary. The status quo in the present circumstances is a mistake and a gift to the liberals which this party and this country cannot tolerate.
While senators do not vote, Mr MacDonald urged lawmakers to heed their concerns.
The senator, appointed in 2009, is the first member of the Conservative caucus to explicitly call for a review of Mr O’Toole’s leadership. Criticisms of Mr Macdonald include Mr O’Toole’s attempts to center the party and his communication style. “Erin exacerbated the problem by answering long talking questions and avoiding questions that got people thinking about her,” he said.
The party won 119 seats in the September 20 election, two fewer than the 2019 campaign under Andrew Scheer. The Tories lost seats in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, failed to break into the Greater Toronto Area, and lost three Alberta seats to the Liberals and the NDP. However, they made profits in rural ridings or small urban centres.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn from these numbers is that the leader’s conscious decision to move the Conservative Party to the left has been a strategic failure as we not only failed to achieve success in GTA as promised, We had actually lost seats,” Mr MacDonald said.
In a brief e-mail on Monday, Mr. Macdonald said, “The letter is straightforward and requires very little explanation. It speaks for itself.”
The caucus will meet as Mr O’Toole faces questions raised by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation about his housing expenses.
Expense reports between August, 2020, when Mr. O’Toole became Conservative Leader, and January, 2021, show three monthly $2,300 claims for secondary residence expenses for Mr. O’Toole.
Members who own or rent a secondary residence in the National Capital Territory or their constituency can claim the expenses related to the declared secondary residence. The House of Commons administration processes the payment.
When Mr. O’Toole was elected Conservative leader on August 24, 2020, he had a residence in Bowmanville, Ont. in the riding of Durham and a home in Ottawa. But he did not immediately go to the opposition leaders’ official residence, Stoneway, as it was under renovation, and he and his wife were in quarantine for COVID-19.
But the Members’ Allowances and Services Manual, which lays out the rules for MPs, says the official opposition leader, speaker and prime minister are not eligible to claim secondary residence expenses.
Conservative Party spokesman Jake Enright, speaking for Mr O’Toole on Monday, said the leader did not claim they were made in error by the House of Commons administration as a result of an automated payment system.
When the error was identified in March 2021, Mr. O’Toole refunded the payment, Mr. Enright said.
The Taxpayers’ Federation is monitoring the situation, and its federal director, Franco Terrazano, said there appeared to have been some “clumsy paperwork” related to Mr O’Toole’s secondary-residence expenses. He said this is a matter of concern even though the amount seems relatively small.
“Taxpayers expect the government, the civil service and politicians to do big things in terms of finding big savings, but also expect them to do small things right,” Mr Terrazano said in an interview.
“You can’t let the little things get out of control because then they become big things and big costs for the taxpayer. That’s why it’s so important to get the processes right and keep track of the little things. I don’t think conservatives do that. would disagree.”
Mr. O’Toole’s Ottawa residence has since been rented out. Mr O’Toole and his family now live in Stornaway, and Mr Enright said the Conservative leader no longer claims secondary-residency expenses.