Former Hamilton MP joins push for O’Toole to resign as Conservative leader


Published February 1, 2022 at 11:19 pm

Outspoken former Flamborough—Glanbrook MP David Sweet, who opposed banning conversion therapy and once referenced wartime internment camps while criticizing COVID-19 lockdowns, has joined the push to sack Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole.

Sweet, a Hamilton-area member of Parliament from 2006 to ’21, was one of 21 former CPC MPs who have signed a letter that supports the push by 35 current MPs to force O’Toole out. A caucus leadership vote is slated for Wednesday morning (Feb. 2), according to multiple media reports. The latter was composed by Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer, who last week met with participants in the trucker convoy that has led to many of the major arteries near Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., being blocked for nearly five days.

O’Toole, who represents Durham in the House of Commons, is in the fight of his political life. Conservatives’ varied responses to the convoy, and racist elements it contains, particularly Nazi symbolism, has exposed rifts in the party’s centrist and right-wing tents. O’Toole met with truckers to hear their concerns about a federal vaccination requirement for drivers, that was created to follow suit with a similar move in the United States. He has also urged that the party needs to avoid becoming “angry, negative and extreme” and “recognize that conservatism is organic not static and that a winning message is one of inclusion, optimism, ideas and hope.”

Reports have also said the rift dates to CPC rank-splitting last June, during the final vote on the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau-led Liberals’ conversion therapy bill. It passed 263-63. O’Toole urged his caucus to support it, but all of the “nay” votes were from Conservatives, including Sweet and Brantford—Brant MP Phil McColeman, who also is out of office and signed the letter.

That letter, as first reported by BellMedia, states, “As former conservative Members of Parliament we join with many of our colleagues in caucus who are openly calling for a change in the leadership of the Conservative Party. Erin O’Toole has not only failed to unite the party, his words and actions in recent days have created greater disunity. It is time for him to step aside for the good of the Conservative Party and the nation.”

Sweet drew attention last year for exaggerated statements about COVID-19 lockdowns that he made after announcing he would not run for re-election. In April 2021, during the third wave of the pandemic, he said there was “no evidence” that COVID-19 lockdowns work, and that they were the “the single greatest breach” of civil liberties “since the Internment Camps during WW2 (meaning the Second World War).”

He later apologized for evoking an ugly chapter of Canadian history, saying that his comment was meant to be a “timeline only.” The growth pattern in COVID-19 cases in Ontario began to slow after restrictions were tightened and students were switched to remote learning for the last weeks of their school years.

Japanese-Canadians, among others, were forced into internment camps during the Second World War. Many lost all of their property. Four decades after the war, in 1988, a Progressive Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, formally apologized to some 12,000 Japanese-Canadian survivors, who were financially compensated.

In early 2021, Sweet resigned as chair of a parliamentary ethics committee after taking a trip to U.S. at a time when international travel was discouraged by the federal government. O’Toole had also urged his caucus members not to leave Canada.

Dan Muys, who was Sweet’s chief of staff, held the seat for the Conservatives in the Sept. 20 federal election. Muys had a two-point win over Liberal challenger Vito Sgro, a one-time Hamilton mayoralty candidate.

Canada has always had a Conservative party, in some form. The current CPC, though, was created through a unite-the-right 2003 merger of the newer, western-based Canadian Alliance and the older Progressive Conservatives. The new party formed government from 2006 to ’15 under former PM Stephen Harper.

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