OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole kicked Sen. Denise Batters out of the Conservative caucus Tuesday — one day after she challenged his leadership.
“As the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I will not tolerate an individual discrediting and showing a clear lack of respect towards the efforts of the entire Conservative caucus, who are holding the corrupt and disastrous Trudeau government to account,” O’Toole said in a brief statement released late Tuesday.
“Just eight weeks ago, Canadians elected Conservatives to hold Justin Trudeau accountable for his economic mismanagement, and fight the cost of living crisis, skyrocketing inflation, and supply chain issues that are crippling businesses. That is our focus as a team.”
Batters has been a Conservative stalwart since she was appointed to the Senate in 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper.
But on Monday she launched a petition aimed at forcing a referendum on O’Toole’s leadership within six months, rather than wait for a leadership review 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 Sept. 20 federal election. And she predicted he’ll never win back Canadians’ trust after reversing himself on issues from conscience rights to carbon taxes.
Batters, who represents Saskatchewan in the upper house, could not be reached for immediate comment Tuesday after her removal from caucus.
But she argued in an interview Monday that booting her from caucus would resolve nothing.
“I do know that kicking me out of caucus will not solve the internal crisis that his leadership is facing within caucus and within the party membership,” she told The Canadian Press.
“The fact remains that members of the party voted for Erin O’Toole, the ‘true blue’ leadership candidate, who flipped a 180 (degree turn) in the election to run on a campaign platform that was nearly identical to the Liberals and the members of our party need to be consulted as soon as possible on whether they agreed to proceed in that direction.”
A number of Conservative MPs tweeted their anger with Batters on Monday, suggesting her move would be a distraction from their task of holding the Liberal minority government to account.
But Batters said she had a lot of support from Conservative MPs and senators for her petition, which garnered more than 1,000 signatures on the first day.
Conservative MPs have voted to give themselves the power to decide whether elected members should be admitted to or expelled from their caucus. However, that does not apply to unelected senators, who can still be dumped unilaterally by the leader.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press