Former Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole.

Former Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole.

EDITORIAL: Federal Conservatives have a choice of futures

Party must make choices now that Erin O’Toole is no longer leader

The decision to remove Erin O’Toole as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has the potential to bring significant changes to Canadian federal politics.

On Feb. 2, members of the Conservative Party of Canada voted to remove O’Toole as the leader of the party. There were 75 Conservative MPs who voted to remove O’Toole from leadership and 43 who wanted him to remain at the helm. O’Toole had been party leader since late August 2020.

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The decision shows more than two-thirds of Conservative MPs were dissatisfied with O’Toole’s direction, his leadership style or both.

The leader of this or any party plays a dominant role in setting the tone and direction of the party. While this matters for every party, it is especially important for the Conservative Party, which includes fiscal conservatives and social conservatives.

The party, while right of centre, bills itself as a “big tent party” with room for diversity among its members and supporters. The fiscal conservatives place an emphasis on budgets and spending while the social conservatives focus on traditional values. If the party works to address the issues and concerns of one of these groups, the other may feel disenfranchised. At the same time, pleasing both groups will prove difficult if not impossible.

The Conservative Party has solid support in Canada, and in the 2021 and 2019 federal elections, received the greatest level of voter support of all the parties on the ballot. More than one in three voters chose a Conservative candidate. However, because Conservative support was heavily concentrated in the Prairies and rural and suburban ridings in southern Ontario, the party fell short of the total seats won by the federal Liberals, who retained their minority government.

If the Conservatives wish to expand the number of seats they win in the next election, the party will need to find ways to appeal to voters who are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Or it will need a way to broaden the social conservative message to include voters who do not at present vote Conservative.

The decisions the party will make in the days and weeks ahead will set the course for the party’s future.

— Black Press

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EditorialsErin O'TooleFederal Politics