O'Toole says he's disappointed with election loss, ducks questions about his future

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Tuesday he's disappointed with his party's performance in an election that returned his Liberal opponent to power with a large plurality of seats in the House of Commons.

'We are already starting to look at what went right, what went wrong,' Conservative leader says after defeat

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole addresses supporters at an election night event at the Tribute Communities Centre, in Oshawa, Ont., in the early hours of Sept. 21, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Tuesday he's disappointed with his party's performance in an election that returned his Liberal opponents to power with a large plurality of seats in the House of Commons.

Speaking to reporters at a hotel ballroom in Ottawa, O'Toole repeatedly evaded questions about what the party's poor showing could mean for his future as leader.

While O'Toole signalled in his concession speech last night that he'd like to stay on to fight another election, he pivoted to talking points about launching a review of the campaign's missteps when asked today about his place at the top.

O'Toole was asked if he's worried about internal pressure to oust him now.

"I'm the leader of the party that founded this great country and I'm proud of that," he replied.

Another reporter asked if he has the support of his caucus colleagues.

"We are already starting to look at what went right, what went wrong," O'Toole responded.

Pressed to explain why he feels he deserves another shot, O'Toole said he's "in the process of trying to make sure we are reaching out to more and more Canadians."

Under the party's constitution, there is an automatic leadership review at the first national Conservative convention "following a federal general election when the party does not form the government and the leader has not indicated, prior to the commencement of the national convention, an irrevocable intention to resign."

So if O'Toole does not resign before the planned 2023 policy convention, delegates will be asked to vote on whether they want to launch a "new leadership selection process" to replace him.

O'Toole seemed to warn against such a move in his speech to supporters last night in Oshawa, Ont., saying Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau could prompt another election at any time and the party must be ready to fight him off. 

WATCH:  In wake of defeat to Liberals, O'Toole wants to move forward:

Subdued O’Toole wants to move forward despite party divisions

3 months ago
Duration 2:00
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was subdued after failing to bring the party an election breakthrough, but said he wants to remain as leader despite the divisions within the party. 2:00

With some special ballots still left to count, the Conservatives are on track to win 119 seats in this election — two fewer than the party won under former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Scheer resigned after his election loss amid questions about his performance and the party's decision to pay for private schooling for his kids.

As in 2019, the party failed to punch through the Liberal fortress in Toronto and its surrounding suburbs in this election. Indeed, the Tories actually performed worse in 2021 than they did after the last campaign — losing incumbents in Markham-Unionville and Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, seats the Liberals put back in their win column.

The Liberals seem to have a lock on the seats in much of urban Canada from coast to coast. The Liberal candidate beat the Conservative incumbent in B.C.'s Steveston-Richmond East and Tory Alice Wong is trailing Liberal Wilson Miao in Richmond Centre — battleground seats the Conservative Party can't afford to lose.

O'Toole pointed to some positive developments, including some Conservative pickups in Atlantic Canada — a region where the party has struggled over the last two election cycles.

Conservative candidates have been elected in seven of the region's ridings. Conservative Rick Perkins has unseated Liberal incumbent Bernadette Jordan in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St Margarets. Jordan served as fisheries minister in Trudeau's cabinet.

The Conservative candidate in Cumberland-Colchester — Stephen Ellis, a family doctor from Truro, N.S. — easily picked off Liberal incumbent Lenore Zann.

But Liberal candidate Sean Fraser, the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, held off his Conservative challenger in the riding of Central Nova, a seat that was once held by former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay in a part of Nova Scotia that is solidly conservative in provincial contests.

While the election looks like a lopsided Liberal win nationally, O'Toole said there were many close races.

"In about 30 ridings, we came within 2,000 votes of the Liberals. We are building towards victory next time. We are closer in dozens upon dozens of ridings but not close enough," he said.

"I am disappointed that we lost some members and I've already initiated a post-election review to examine what went right, what went wrong and what we can do better to win in 18 months," he said, repeating his claim that Trudeau could trigger another election in 2023.


John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

J.P. Tasker is a senior writer in the CBC's parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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