Canadian Conservative Leader Faces Revolt by His Lawmakers

TORONTO (AP) -- The leader of Canada's Conservative party is facing a revolt by his party's lawmakers and could be ousted as soon as Wednesday.

If successful, he would be the third main political rival Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has helped bring down.

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, who angered some by trying to move the party more toward the center, said late Monday that lawmakers of his party have a choice between extremism or inclusion that better reflects the Canada of 2022.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "It's time for a reckoning. To settle this in caucus. Right here. Right now. Once and for all. Canada needs us to be united and serious."

He said the choice is anger vs. optimism and he will accept the result of the vote.

Garnett Genuis, a Conservative member of Parliament, tweeted that one-third of Conservative lawmakers have signed a letter calling for the end of O'Toole's leadership.

Genuis went public after many news organizations reported on the revolt that is now in the open. He accused O'Toole's team of attacking members of his own party.

Whether O'Toole remains Conservative leader has big implications for the conservative movement in Canada. If removed, the party could swing back further right.

One of the leading candidates to replace him, Pierre Poilievre, met with anti-vaccine truckers who are protesting in Ottawa. Many Canadians were outraged by images over the weekend of protesters urinating on the National War Memorial and dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A number carried signs and flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

"Just talked with hundreds of cheerful, salt-of-the-earth, give-you-the-shirt-off-their-back Canadians at the trucker protest. They choose freedom over fear," Poilievre tweeted.

O'Toole advertised himself more than a year ago as a "true-blue Conservative." He became Conservative Party leader with a pledge to "take back Canada," but immediately started working to push the party toward the political center.

O'Toole's strategy, which included disavowing positions held dear by his party's base on climate change, guns and balanced budgets, was designed to appeal to a broader cross section of voters in a country that tends to be far more liberal than the United States.

Whether moderate Canadians believed O'Toole is the progressive conservative he claims to be and whether he alienated traditional Conservatives became central questions of the campaign. O'Toole failed to win more seats in and around vote-rich liberal Toronto, Canada's largest city.

Trudeau bet Canadians didn't want a Conservative government during a pandemic and voiced the concerns of Canadians who were upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.

After last year's election loss, the Conservative members of Parliament gave themselves the power to vote on O'Toole's leadership.

In correspondence to Conservative lawmakers Monday evening, Scott Reid, chair of the Conservative party caucus, said the notice he received was valid and more details would follow on when a leadership vote would happen.

Conservative lawmakers are next set to meet Wednesday. A vote on the leadership of O'Toole, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, would happen by secret ballot.

Alberta Conservative lawmaker Bob Benzen, who supported O'Toole previously, said the leader has flip-flopped on party policy and that it is time for party lawmakers to decide his fate.

"Mr. O'Toole campaigned in in the leadership contest as a principled conservative voice that unite the party, However, since Mr. O'Toole assumed the position of Leader, there have been numerous instances of flip-flops and questionable judgement," Benzen wrote.

He listed O'Toole's failure to stand up for the rights of Canadians during the pandemic as one of the problems.

"I feel that the Conservative caucus has given Mr. O'Toole more than enough chances for a course correction to resolve the concerns of many of the grassroots members of our party," Benzen wrote. "In consideration of Mr. O'Toole's record as leader, I believe a caucus leadership review is the only way to avoid a dangerous split in the Conservative party that may not be repairable."