O’Toole boots senator out of Conservative caucus, gets accused of doing it ‘via voicemail’

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Published November 16, 2021 at 9:05 pm

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Erin O'Toole opposed the Liberal plan to make vaccination the rule for federal public servants, people working in government-regulated industries and domestic travellers during the recent federal election campaign. (Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole kicked Sen. Denise Batters out of the CPC caucus Tuesday — one day after she challenged his leadership.

“As the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I will not tolerate an individual discrediting and showing a clear lack of respect towards the efforts of the entire Conservative caucus, who are holding the corrupt and disastrous Trudeau government to account,” O’Toole, who is Durham’s member of Parliament, said in a brief statement released late Tuesday.

“Just eight weeks ago, Canadians elected Conservatives to hold (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau accountable for his economic mismanagement, and fight the cost of living crisis, skyrocketing inflation, and supply chain issues that are crippling businesses. That is our focus as a team.

Batters has been a Conservative stalwart since she was appointed to the Senate in 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

But on Monday she launched a petition aimed at forcing a referendum on O’Toole’s leadership within six months, rather than wait for a scheduled leadership confidence vote at the party’s national convention in 2023.

She accused O’Toole of abandoning core Conservative principles in a vain attempt to win over centrist voters in the Sept. 20 federal election. And she predicted he’ll never win back Canadians’ trust after reversing himself on issues from conscience rights to carbon taxes.

Batters, who represents Saskatchewan in the upper house, could not be reached for immediate comment Tuesday after her removal from caucus.

But she signalled in a Twitter post that she has no intention of backing off her petition, even though the party’s president has said it’s invalid.

“Tonight, Erin O’Toole tried to silence me for giving our #CPC members a voice. I will not be silenced by a leader so weak that he fired me VIA VOICEMAIL. Most importantly, he cannot suppress the will of our Conservative Party members! Sign the petition,” she tweeted.

In an interview Monday, Batters acknowledged the possibility that she could be kicked out of the Conservative caucus but she argued it would resolve nothing.

“I do know that kicking me out of caucus will not solve the internal crisis that his leadership is facing within caucus and within the party membership,” she told The Canadian Press.

“The fact remains that members of the party voted for Erin O’Toole, the ‘true blue’ leadership candidate, who flipped a 180 (degree turn) in the election to run on a campaign platform that was nearly identical to the Liberals and the members of our party need to be consulted as soon as possible on whether they agreed to proceed in that direction.

A number of Conservative MPs tweeted their anger with Batters on Monday, suggesting her move would be a distraction from their task of holding the Liberal minority government to account.

But Batters said she had a lot of support from Conservative MPs and senators for her petition, which garnered more than 1,000 signatures on the first day.

However, Batters’ former caucus colleagues have no say about her fate.
Conservative MPs have voted to give themselves the power to decide whether elected members should be admitted to or expelled from their caucus. However, that does not apply to unelected senators, who can still be dumped unilaterally by the leader.

Nevertheless, O’Toole’s decision to turf Batters will doubtless be a hot topic when the Conservative caucus meets Wednesday.

Last week, O’Toole punished some of his MPs who have questioned the value of vaccination against COVID-19, pointedly leaving them out of his shadow cabinet.

— Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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