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Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald calls for review of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on September 21, 2021. Conservative MPs will vote Tuesday on whether to reserve the right to remove O’Toole as leader.


A seasoned Conservative senator urges party caucus members to give themselves the chance to oust Erin O’Toole following the Federal Conservative leader’s performance in the recent federal election campaign.

The recommendation from Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, sent in an email to caucus members obtained by The Globe and Mail, came a day before the first Conservative caucus meeting on Tuesday since last month’s election.

Conservative MPs must vote on whether to reserve the right to impeach Mr. O’Toole as leader using provisions of the Reform Act of 2014, which sets rules for caucuses to handle a range of issues.

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“To vote against the right to hold a leadership review is foolishness,” MacDonald wrote. “Voting for a review vote is not pleasant, but it is necessary. The status quo under the current circumstances is a mistake and a gift to the Liberals that this party and this country cannot afford. “

Although senators do not vote, Mr. MacDonald urged MPs to heed his concerns.

The senator, appointed in 2009, is the first sitting member of the Conservative caucus to explicitly call for a review of Mr. O’Toole’s leadership. Critics of Mr. MacDonald include Mr. O’Toole’s efforts to move the party to the center and his style of communication. “Erin compounded the problem by often answering questions with long talking points and avoiding questions that left people wondering about him,” he said.

The party won 119 seats in the September 20 election, down two from Andrew Scheer’s 2019 campaign. The Conservatives lost seats in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, failed to break through in the Greater Toronto Area, and lost three seats from Alberta to the Liberals and the NDP. However, they made gains in rural ridings or small urban centers.

“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 was a strategic failure because not only did we fail to break into the GTA as promised, we actually lost seats, ”MacDonald said.

In a brief email to The Globe and Mail on Monday, Mr. MacDonald said: “The letter is simple and requires little interpretation. It speaks for itself.

The caucus will meet as Mr. O’Toole grapples with questions raised by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation about his housing expenses.

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Expense reports between August 2020, when Mr. O’Toole became Conservative leader, and January 2021, show three monthly claims of $ 2,300 for a second home expense for Mr. O’Toole.

Members of Parliament who own or rent a second home in the National Capital Region or in their constituency can claim expenses related to the declared second home. The administration of the House of Commons processes the payments.

When Mr. O’Toole was elected Conservative leader on August 24, 2020, he had a residence in Bowmanville, Ont., In his constituency of Durham, and a house in Ottawa. But he did not immediately move to Stornaway, the official residence of opposition leaders, as it was undergoing renovations, and he and his wife were in quarantine for COVID-19.

But the Members’ Allowances and Services Handbook, which sets out the rules for Members of Parliament, says the Leader of the Official Opposition, the President and the Prime Minister are not eligible to claim second home expenses.

Conservative Party spokesman Jake Enwright, speaking on behalf of Mr. O’Toole on Monday, said the leader had not made the statements, that they were made in error by the administration of the House of Commons due to an automatic payment system.

When the error was identified in March 2021, Mr. O’Toole returned the payments, Mr. Enwright said.

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The taxpayers’ federation is monitoring the situation and its federal director, Franco Terrazzano, said there appeared to have been “cumbersome papers” related to Mr. O’Toole’s second home expenses. He added that this is a matter of concern even though the amounts seem relatively small.

“Taxpayers expect government, civil service and politicians to do the big things right to find the big savings, but they also expect them to do the small things as well,” said Mr. Terrazzano in an interview.

“You can’t just let the little things get out of hand, because then they become big things and cost the taxpayer dearly. This is why it is so important to have the right processes and to keep an eye on the little things. I do not think the Conservatives would disagree with that.

Mr. O’Toole’s Ottawa residence has since been rented. Mr. O’Toole and his family now live in Stornaway, and Mr. Enwright has said the Conservative leader is no longer claiming second home expenses.

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