South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay says she doesn’t see a crisis in Conservative leadership, despite the caucus vote that ousted Erin O’Toole as leader on Wednesday (Feb. 2).
And she said her willingness to put her name forward for interim leader was indicative of the caucus’ desire to move forward rather than becoming mired in differences.
Although Portage-Lisgar (Manitoba) MP Candice Bergen was ultimately chosen interim leader by vote later that day, Findlay said she believes that all caucus members are interested in unifying around common principles and shared Conservative values.
“There were nine people who put their name forward,” she noted. “I was the only B.C. person, and I’m honoured that many of my colleagues supported me.”
Findlay said she stepped up because she was interested in “unity and healing divisions, and doing the work that is required to get the Conservative message out to the communities and represent constituents.”
She noted that the work of the party leader also concerns strengthening and modernizing the party and collecting data that will make it more responsive to emerging issues.
Most important, she said, is providing an effective opposition to the Trudeau Liberals, and what Conservatives feel are policies that are out of step with ordinary people’s needs, particularly in a time of vast disruption and uncertainty due to two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
One example she cites is the increase in Canadian Pension Plan taxes introduced at the beginning of this year.
“We’ve called on them to stop this at a time when we have cost of living increases, a supply-chain crisis and the inflation rate is at a 30-year high.”
Findlay said that cancelling the increase would put an average of around $700 back into families’ bank accounts – “which is the best way to address the cost of living and help small businesses and families build for the future.”
Bergen’s “depth of leadership experience will be valuable as interim leader, Findlay said.
“She’s been in parliament since 2008 and she’s seen many administrations come and go,” she said, adding that Bergen was part of both Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole’s teams.
“For an interim leader it’s important to have a bridge-builder, so that when a new leader is chosen they can turn over a strong party to them.”
Findlay said that while she thanked O’Toole for his leadership and for his time and sacrifice – also borne by his family – “it became clear as it came closer to the vote that the caucus felt his style of leadership was more divisive than contributing.”
Prior to the vote that triggered his resignation, O’Toole had warned that the move by members of caucus to unseat him was indicative of dangerous divisions within the party.
“I think his characterization of division was unhelpful,” Findlay said. “I think, in itself, it caused caucus to vote as it did. I don’t think the majority of caucus agreed with his description.”
She noted that the vote on leadership at the beginning of a parliament term is something that is legislated for all party caucuses under the Reform Act.
“But this is the first time in Canada that a caucus has taken on all the powers (available) to it – which is unprecedented and historic.”
The notion of divisions within the party has been exaggerated, however, she reiterated.
“There are differences – there will always be differences,” she said. “Some of them are not just about personalities – they come from the different regions, and from what MPs are hearing from their constituents.
“But there are core principles of Conservatism – things like freedom, liberty, nation-building, belief in the Rule of Law, concern for neighbours, that are very inspiring for all of us.”