EXCLUSIVE: Sources say O’Toole, MacKay exploring leadership bids—MacKay denies claims
Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay are looking at runs for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, according to a well-connected source within the party who’s close to prominent figures of the CPC.
“O’Toole is waiting for the dust to settle” to launch his leadership bid, “I assume he is waiting for the caucus meeting next week,” said the source to The Post Millennial.
O’Toole currently serves as the Official Opposition Critic of Foreign Affairs and ran for the Conservative Party leadership in 2017, finishing third behind Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer.
Multiple CPC sources spoke to The Post Millennial on the condition of confidentiality.
MacKay, a former minister in the Harper government, has also been establishing the foundations of a leadership bid according to the one source. “MacKay has had top organizers in Toronto for a meeting last week,” said the one source to The Post Millennial.
“Its categorically false,” said MacKay to The Post Millennial. “I met with former candidates that I supported during the campaign. I met with a group who were putting together a lecture series on [former Nova Scotia premier] Robert Stanfield.”
Earlier this week MacKay criticized Scheer for his stance on social conservatism, telling reporters that issues like abortion and immigration “hung round [Scheer’s] neck like a stinking albatross.” MacKay added that Scheer’s failure to defeat Trudeau “was like having an open net and missing the net.”
After MacKay had made these comments, he soon backtracked, stating on Twitter that his recent comments only had to do with addressing Conservative policy rather than the party’s leadership.
“We’ve been discussing what happened in the campaign and how we can improve our showing in the next election,” MacKay said.
“My open net comment was in response to what the Conservatives did to lose the election with all the ammunition that we had: SNC, blackface, India, all of the vulnerabilities of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, and how did we manage to lose?” continued MacKay. “I made probably what was a flippant remark, but nevertheless, it seemed to encapsulate that it was like shooting a breakaway on an open net and missing.”
“[My comments were aimed at] the collective, the party, the election. It was not aimed at Andrew Scheer. Of course, a lot of people want to interpret it that way and want to use it as a cudgel to beat Andrew Scheer over the head with. Andrew Scheer is the leader, I supported him during the campaign, I continue to support him,” MacKay said when asked if the buck stops at the leader for the election loss.
“I worked my tail off away from my job and family to do everything in my power to help him become the PM of Canada and I would do it again. So I take some umbrage when I get questioned as to my loyalty— you know, somebody said that ‘MacKay wasn’t on the ice’, well I was on the ice for 18 years, I campaigned in 50 ridings last campaign, and I helped put the party together, I have a vested interest in seeing a Conservative government.”
Mackay previously served as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party before it merged with the Canadian Alliance, before Harper took over the united party.
During the 2017 Conservative leadership election, O’Toole received similar support to Scheer within the party’s caucus.
Sources within the party say as many as 50 caucus members, including senators, are entertaining the idea of pushing for a leadership confidence vote at next Wednesday’s caucus meeting. At least 25 MPs—20 percent—need to sign a notice to trigger the confidence vote.
Scheer’s office didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
The Post Millennial could not reach O’Toole for comment.
Former Liberal MP and Scheer's new deputy leader apologizes for dismissive LGBTQ comment, Scheer snubs openly gay CPC MP
Conservative MP (Ontario, Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill) and recently appointed CPC deputy leader Leona Alleslev caused outrage Saturday when she flippantly asked on CBC’s The House why no one was asking leaders about attending Saint Patrick’s Day parades, equating it to politicians not attending LGBTQ Pride parades.
“Have we asked anybody if they’ve marched in a Saint Patrick’s Day parade?” said Alleslev Saturday morning on the CBC politics program.
Shortly after the program aired, Alleslev apologized for equating Saint Patrick’s Day parades with Pride parades, which were started to push back against gay persecution and inequality.
Many critics on both sides of the political aisle argue Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s CPC lost crucial ridings in Ontario and other progressive metropolitan areas of the country because of his ambivalence on LGBTQ issues and his personal religious beliefs, which led to him being dogged by reporters throughout the election campaign with questions he evaded.
A large contingent of the CPC is also actively trying to get Scheer to step down as leader after the party failed to oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October. They were quick to pounce on the latest blunder by his new deputy leader, who was still a Liberal MP until crossing the floor about a year ago.
Journalists were also questioning the judgement of the leadership of the party when they’re still having difficulty communicating unequivocal support for the LGBTQ community.
Scheer critics also questioned why he didn’t include CPC MP (Ontario, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry) Eric Duncan in his shadow cabinet, the first openly gay Conservative MP. Duncan was the former mayor of the township of North Dundas, with over eight years prior experience in politics. He also vocally defended Scheer during the 2019 election when the CPC leader was being attacked on LGBTQ issues. Since the election, Duncan has said the party needs to rethink its approach towards LGBTQ issues.
Meanwhile, party stalwarts launched a non-profit organization last week to raise money to depose Scheer from power.
Conservative Victory was created by Kory Teneycke, Doug Ford’s top election advisor and former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, Jeff Ballingall—the founder of the Proud Network and the Chief Marketing Officer at The Post Millennial—and John Reynolds, who co-chaired the Stephen Harper’s 2006 election campaign.
Scheer loyalists in the party maintain that the CPC leader still holds the vast majority of support from his caucus and the uprising is just a small dissident group.
Scheer’s office did not respond to The Post Millennial‘s request for comment.
Conservative MP Ed Fast has rejected Andrew Scheer’s invitation to join his shadow cabinet as the leader needed someone who “fully supports” his leadership, according to the Globe and Mail. Fast is a prominent member of the Conservative caucus, having served in Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet.
Ed Fast is a well-respected figure within the Conservative Party having served as the trade minister. Fast made his decision public only a few hours after Scheer’s cabinet announcement.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Fast said, “Mr. Scheer and I recently had a conversation about where I could fit into his shadow cabinet, and I expressed my desire not to be included at this time.”
Fast went on to say that “Mr. Scheer is entitled to surround himself with a team that fully supports his leadership.”
Fast’s comments were interpreted by many in the party as a rebuke of Scheer’s leadership and strategy during the election campaign.
Since Justin Trudeau’s re-election as PM, Scheer has faced increasing pressure over his decision to remain as leader. This pressure, originally coming from former Conservative politicians, has transitioned to disapproval from both the moderate and the social factions of the Conservative Party.
This week, a third-party organization was created by a group of prominent figures within the Conservative movement. This group, Conservative Victory, is devoted entirely to ousting Scheer.
Others in the party pushed back on the recent media reports, saying Scheer has overwhelming support from his caucus and pointing out he won the popular support.
A group of prominent Conservative operatives have established a non-profit organization that will campaign to oust Andrew Scheer, according to The Globe and Mail.
The group has been named Conservative Victory, and it has been established by Kory Teneycke, Doug Ford’s top election advisor, Jeff Ballingall, the founder of the Proud Network and the Chief Marketing Officer at The Post Millennial, and John Reynolds, who co-chaired the Stephen Harper’s 2006 election campaign.
The group’s ambition is to boot out Scheer before his leadership review which will be held in Toronto in the new year. They plan to do this by organizing a cross-country social media movement.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Scheer ally Chris Warkentin MP, stated that this group could be dismissed due to Teneycke’s and Reynolds’ connection to Maxime Bernier’s campaign.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer received a cold reception at a Conservative meeting in Montreal, Quebec on Monday. Some failed Conservative candidates called on the leader to resign—demanding that he step aside so that another candidate could replace him, according to the CBC.
Scheer has been dealing with a cacophony of discontent from Conservatives after his election loss to Justin Trudeau, with many believing that the CPC leader lost a winnable election. Throughout the campaign, Scheer fell over tripwires and was sucked into a needless debate on social conservatism that distracted voters from core party messaging.
Conservative party grandees have been vocal in their criticism of Scheer. Peter MacKay, for instance, declared that issues like abortion and immigration “hung round [Scheer’s] neck like a stinking albatross.” MacKay went on to say that, “it was like having an open net and missing the net.”
Former Conservative leaders, Rona Ambrose and Kim Campbell, have also attacked Scheer, although Ambrose’s criticism was less abrasive than Campbells. On Twitter, Ambrose voiced her support of pride parades, saying that she “was proud to have been the first Tory leader to march in a Pride Parade.” She went on to say that “It’s time to move forward together and show ALL families we have their backs!” This has been seen as a direct rebuke of Scheer’s leadership.
Despite being under attack from Red Tories, Scheer has also begun to feel the heat from social conservatives as well. In an article by the Globe and Mail, it was reported that some social conservatives groups have called on Scheer to resign.
Scheer will be facing a leadership review in April of next year where he will have to defend his leadership during the election. Last month, high-level CPC sources told The Post Millennial that both Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay were preparing leadership bids. MacKay vehemently denied the claim.
“I think he should resign and run again for his job. If he’s confident that the party membership backs him, that’s the way to test that,” said high-profile Conservative aide Kory Teneycke to CBC’s Power and Politics host Vassy Kapelos on Monday.
Teneyke was the former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Doug Ford’s campaign manager during the 2018 Ontario election.
“Being asked if you want to be Andrew Scheer’s chief of staff right now is probably like asking someone if they want to be captain of the Titanic,” he said. “It’s a great honour if it’s before it hits the iceberg, but after the iceberg, it seems like less of an honour and more of a hardship post. I think the iceberg was the election.”
Over the past weekend Scheer fired two of his top aides.