Conservatives fail to dethrone Liberals

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party has come up short, failing to dethrone the now three-term Liberal Party.

Leader Erin O’Toole conceded defeat in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after the Liberals secured a minority government win.

“Ours is a conservativism that dwells not in the past but learns from it to secure the future,” he said, speaking to supporters at a hockey arena in Oshawa, Ont. “We will take stock of what worked and what didn’t and we will continue to put in the time showing more Canadians that they are welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada.”

As of 1:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, results showed the Conservatives have been elected or are leading in 121 seats – making significant gains in the Atlantic Canada region – but not near the 156 seats Liberals look to have gained so far.

According to the latest numbers, the party did, however, capture the popular vote, as they did in 2019.

O’Toole said Trudeau was hoping for a quick “power grab” but instead forced the country back into a political scenario not unlike it was 36 days ago.

“Mr. Trudeau thinks Canadians should endure 18 more months of divisive campaigning, so he can try once again to get the election result he wants. We need to heal the divides in Canada not risk worsening them for selfish gain,” he said.

O’Toole himself won his Durham, Ont. seat, and many of his previous shadow cabinet colleagues have kept their seats.

There were high hopes among conservatives across the country when the campaign launched on Aug. 15. Poll after poll showed the Conservatives gaining ground on the incumbent Liberals and, at times, surpassing their lead.

O’Toole sought to capture the support of a more progressive elector, promoting the party’s housing, child care, and climate change policies, while at the same time reinforcing responsible post-pandemic spending.

He declared himself as pro-choice and an ally of the LGBTQ2+ community, something his predecessor did not do.

However, O’Toole found himself in hot water when he didn’t distance himself far enough from candidates who posted anti-climate change and anti-vaccination comments online. He also fielded jabs from his opponents for not requiring his candidates to be vaccinated.

He faced another hurdle closer to election day over his muddled response to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s COVID-19 management, even after the provincial leader said he got the response wrong.

“Throughout this crisis, all the provinces have tried to make the balance between making public health paramount and balancing off the economic needs. All provinces have shifted and adjusted based on various reasons,” O’Toole said on Sept. 16.

“But what the provinces have not had is a consistent and reliable partner in Ottawa. Mr. Trudeau fights with people. I will fight for Canadians, and we would never have let the Delta variant get its hold in Canada.”

Another thorn in O’Toole’s side has been the rise in popularity of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) under leader Maxime Bernier. While they haven’t yet picked up a seat tonight, they have garnered thousands of votes in many races.

“This is going to be part of the post-mortem that the party does regardless of the what the results are because if you look at extremely Conservative ridings, there was an increase in the PPC vote,” said Jenni Byrne, Conservative strategist and former senior advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on CTV News.

As for O’Toole’s future, Byrne says it’s in question.

“It was a winnable election…the Conservatives were leading in the national polls. Unlike even in 2019, this election was a lot more winnable for the Conservatives,” said Byrne.

However, he made no indication he’s going anywhere in his speech on Tuesday morning.

“I told [the prime minister] if he thinks he can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months the Conservative Party will be ready. Whenever that day comes, I will be ready to lead Canada’s Conservative to victory,” he said.

Former interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said the first step for O’Toole is to meet with his caucus to discuss his leadership in Parliament.

“That’s a question that any leader would have to face if they didn’t win an election. I’m sure he’s extremely disappointed,” she told CTV News.

If the next Parliament is anything like last, the Conservatives likely won’t be the Liberals’ main dancing partner getting bills passed through Parliament. Instead, they’ll be searching for collaboration with the Bloc Quebecois or NDP who look to have picked up 29 and 28 seats, respectively.

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