Toronto

Ontario Conservative party suspends maverick caucus member

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has suspended a Conservative member of the Ontario legislature for saying Leader John Tory should find a new job.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has suspended a Conservative member of the Ontario legislature for saying Leader John Tory should find a new job.

Caucus chairman Frank Klees said in a release early Friday that the decision to suspend Bill Murdoch was made unanimously by the caucus leadership.

"While our caucus has always provided forums for debate and differing opinion between colleagues, and will continue to do so, it is also united in its demand for mutual respect and regard for the best interests of our members and our party," he said.

"Murdoch will be offered an opportunity to commit himself to conduct consistent with these standards."

Murdoch was the first elected Conservative to publicly criticize Tory's doomed election promise to fund faith-based schools in Ontario.

"When he made the big blunder in the election, I forgave him for that," Murdoch said Thursday. "He was going to talk to me, but that was last spring and I haven't heard a thing since."

"Over the summer, I just lost confidence in him," he said.

Murdoch told CFOS radio in his riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound on Thursday that Tory has had his chance and it's time for the party to cut its losses and elect a new leader.

"I actually have given up on John Tory," said Murdoch. "He should certainly be looking for other jobs in the community and we should probably go to a full-blown election for a new leader."

Murdoch said he thinks there are other caucus members who support his call for a leadership vote. "I don't know whether they have the guts to do it publicly or not."

He credited acting leader Bob Runciman for doing a good job in the legislature in Tory's absence.

Tory insisted his caucus was united behind his leadership during a closed meeting in Barrie, Ont., on Wednesday, a meeting Murdoch did not attend.

Tory has been unable to convince one of his caucus members to step aside so he can run in a byelection and get a seat in the legislature, something he hasn't had since losing last October's provincial election.

Tory lost a head-to-head battle in the Ontario election against Liberal Education Minister Kathleen Wynne and said Wednesday that he's not about to repeat that mistake and will wait for a safe Conservative seat in which to run.

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