Canada

What went wrong for the Conservatives last election? MPs to hear findings

The Conservative caucus will be briefed Thursday about an internal review examining what led to their 2021 election defeat.

Former Alberta MP James Cumming is overseeing the review, which he says will focus on all aspects of the Conservative campaign from the party infrastructure to the performance of the leader.

“The mandate of the report was to look at what went right and what went wrong, so I’ve reached out to – we’re in excess of 400 people that we’ve either spoken to or spoken to in groups or received written submissions from,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

Cumming said that list includes candidates, campaign managers, electoral district associations, party members, activists, and others.

The Conservatives failed to dethrone the now-three-term Liberals or increase their seat count, and lost votes in key Western ridings where support is usually steady. That dip in popularity was attributed, in part, to the rise in traction of the People’s Party of Canada.

O’Toole announced the internal review the day after the election, saying it would help the party in “building towards victory next time.”

“We have a busy session ahead in the House of Commons. And if we take Justin Trudeau at his word, we may be back to the polls in the next 18 months,” he said at the time.

LEADERSHIP DOUBTS

Since then, O’Toole has faced direct challenges to his leadership from within the party tent.

Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters was kicked out of caucus in November after launching a petition to force a leadership vote 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 election.

Batters has stated that Cumming’s report must include consideration of O’Toole’s failures.

Cumming said that while he spoke to several senators for the review, he did not speak directly with Batters.

“I was very clear, we had sent emails to all candidates, all campaign managers, and it was pretty widely circulated that we were soliciting input from anybody that wanted to talk to talk to us…she didn’t directly reach out to me,” he said.

The Alberta Foothills riding association is the latest to call for an earlier vote on O’Toole’s leadership, citing the need to ensure the party is united before “an imminent election.”

Conservative spokesperson Cory Hann told CTVNews.ca that three riding associations have requested an expeditious vote.

“National Council appreciates the opinions of all our Electoral District Associations. At this time, very few Electoral District Associations across Canada have expressed an opinion to have an earlier review than what is currently scheduled,” party president Rob Batherson said in a subsequent statement.

“The timing and location of the next National Convention was decided in late 2020 by a nearly unanimous decision of National Council, consistent with the Constitution that requires the party to hold a National Convention every second calendar year. National Council always considers the diverse views of our members and electoral district associations in our decision making, in concert with our responsibility to respect the Constitution that is set by grassroots Conservative Party members at every National Convention.”

Former cabinet minister John Baird evaluated the successes and failures of the Conservative Party’s performance during the previous election in 2019.

At the time, then leader Andrew Scheer faced criticism for not making the report more available to those outside of his inner circle.

This time around, Cumming will provide a briefing and presentation to caucus, National Council and the Conservative fund.

Cumming said that no matter the outcome, going through the process of the review is positive for the party.

“Much like my business experience looking towards what kind of improvements can we put in place, continuous improvement, I think it’s healthy for the party, I think it’s healthy to do these reviews,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press.



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