Make Conservative Party memberships free, recommends internal review

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole admitted Thursday that his own personal failures as leader contributed to his party’s defeat in the 2021 election.

His comments came after a lengthy caucus meeting in which the findings of an extensive internal review of the party’s election campaign were presented to MPs and senators.

The report – commissioned by O’Toole – blamed everything from the poisoning of relations with ethnically diverse communities during the 2015 election campaign to outdated technology as reasons the Tories failed to beat the Liberals l ‘last summer.

A breakthrough at the polls next time around will require breaking down the walls around the party, the review concluded. Among other things, he said this will require free memberships, better outreach to cultural communities, a more diverse roster of candidates, and a genuine and sincere approach from the leader himself.

“There are a lot of things I had to learn,” O’Toole said at a Thursday night news conference. “A lot of things went well. There are things that weren’t.

O’Toole said he heard he was too scripted in the final days of the campaign and didn’t have enough to connect with supporters and potential voters.

The review was led by defeated Tory MP James Cumming. More than 400 people were interviewed and 80 written submissions were accepted in an investigation that O’Toole hoped would diffuse some of the anger directed at him for the party’s performance.

The full report is not expected to be made public, but the Star spoke to several sources who had been briefed on its contents.

Findings shared with the Star earlier on Thursday had noted that the problems facing the party in the 2021 campaign dated back further than the summer of 2020, when O’Toole became leader.

The review found that the party’s reputation is still suffering with voters due to its proposal during the 2015 federal election campaign to set up a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline and ban the wearing a face covering during citizenship ceremonies.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was defeated in this election, and the report says the party was unable to recoup the support it lost in cultural communities as a result of these policies, said a source at the Star.

The report also says the party has been locked in leadership races and internal divisiveness since 2015, which has tainted its reputation in the minds of voters who are unsure what it stands for or stands for.

O’Toole said the Conservatives failed to address some issues that Canadians want to hear their policies on, though he didn’t elaborate, nor did they present the issues of Western Canada in particular.

“All of these decisions are my responsibility,” he said.

The 2021 election saw the Conservatives win 119 seats, two short of their tally in the 2019 campaign.

Although they won new ridings, including several in the Atlantic provinces, they lost seats in the Conservative heartland of Alberta, as well as MPs in key ridings in the greater Vancouver and Toronto areas. .

A finding shared with MPs on Thursday was that efforts by Tory rivals to tie them to the Alberta provincial government, led by former Tory cabinet minister Jason Kenney, have tarnished their reputation nationally.

Just before the federal election, Alberta had lifted numerous COVID-19 related restrictions despite criticism that the move would put lives at risk. A subsequent surge in cases overwhelmed hospitals, and Kenney later apologized for the decision.

Kenney, who served with O’Toole in the Harper cabinet, was one of his top supporters in the 2020 federal leadership race.

O’Toole won the leadership with a platform he called “true blue” conservative, but later reversed himself on a number of positions, including a pledge not to implement the carbon pricing.

The proposal for a carbon pricing system cost support in Alberta, and mid-campaign confusion over party gun policy also drained support there and in urban centers, MPs said on Thursday.

These political flip-flops, seat losses and failed breakthroughs are among the many factors contributing to unrest among the base and caucus, and the continued calls for O’Toole’s resignation.

As he is set to face members in a leadership review in 2023, several efforts have emerged to force an earlier vote, including a petition from a former party councilor and another of Senator Denise Batters, a longtime Conservative organizer.

Some riding associations have now passed motions urging the party to speed up the process.

Two riding associations – one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan – had already released their motions for an earlier vote.

A third in northern Ontario passed their own motion Wednesday night, and others are now considering a similar approach, multiple sources told The Star.

Although constituency associations can pass any motions they wish, the party’s national council is not obligated to accede to their requests.

Whether Cumming’s review assuages ​​the anger of the base remains to be seen.

“We have a good strong caucus. We have been through challenges before, we will overcome this one as well,” deputy party leader Candice Bergen told reporters on Thursday.

As the briefing got under way on Thursday, many Tory MPs were ‘rolling their eyes’ at the results, one MP told the Star, and wondered if any changes would actually be made that could put the party on a stronger path to victory. Victoire.

The idea that free memberships could solve elements of the party’s failure to connect was also rejected.

“Free memberships are a terrible idea. You don’t get what you don’t pay for,” Alberta MP Tom Kmiec wrote on social media.

“Party membership has nothing to do with election campaigns. Election campaigns are about selling ideas, not memberships.

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