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O’Toole throws the Senator from the Conservative faction after questioning his leadership

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Conservative leader Erin O’Toole kicked Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters out of the national caucus the day after she published a petition calling for an expedited review of his leadership.

“As the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I will not tolerate any person discrediting or disrespecting the efforts of the entire Conservative faction to hold the corrupt and disastrous Trudeau government accountable,” O’Toole said in a media release late Tuesday.

The statement was released shortly after Batters emerged from a virtual meeting of the Senate Conservative faction. The Conservative Senate Chairman, Manitoba Senator Don Plett, took no action against Batters in response to the request.

Instead, Batters said she learned through a phone message from O’Toole that she had stepped out of Conservative circles.

“Tonight, Erin O’Toole tried to shut me up because I gave our CPC members a voice.

“Most importantly, he cannot suppress the will of our conservative party members!”

Batters launched the petition Monday, saying she and other party members had lost confidence in O’Toole. She argued that the party suffered “significant losses” in the fall campaign after O’Toole failed on important issues such as carbon prices, firearms and rights of conscience. She said she wanted members to have a say on O’Toole’s future before the planned 2023 party conference.

Party rules require an automatic review of the leadership at the first national party congress after a failed federal election campaign. Batters said she wanted that vote to take place within the next six months.

“Mr. O’Toole stumbled upon our party’s core policy in the same week, day, and even sentence. Members had no say, but we must have one in his leadership,” Batters said in a statement accompanying the petition’s announcement .

According to the party’s constitution, a referendum can be started on any subject if five percent of Conservative members sign a petition asking the party to hold a referendum on the number of members on the subject.

And just a day after the anti-O’Toole effort began, a Batters spokesman said the petition had already garnered 2,000 signatures.

The break with Batters comes as Conservatives, wanting to keep O’Toole in his position, rally support from parliamentary group members to sack MPs who support the Saskatchewan Senator’s petition.

Senior Conservative sources with knowledge of parliamentary group affairs told CBC News that – in an attempt to discourage parliamentary group members considering signing this petition – 24 Conservative MPs have pledged to sign a letter that will trigger the Reform Act, which will then a vote to expel members would support the Batters’ petition.

The Reform Act – a law drafted by Conservative MP Michael Chong and passed by parliament – seeks to give MPs more decision-making power in a parliamentary system that has become increasingly centralized around party leaders and their teams.

One of the provisions of the law is a mechanism to kick MPs from the caucus. At least 20 percent of caucus members must formally apply for exclusion. If there is sufficient approval, a secret ballot will take place to decide the fate of this MP.

Conservative sources unauthorized to speak publicly said at least 70 MPs said they would vote to expel MPs who do not support O’Toole – enough to meet the minimum percentages required by the law.

The sources would not name any of the MPs who pledged to sign the letter, and CBC News has not independently confirmed that number.

O’Toole himself spoke out in favor of the Reform Act last month.

WATCH: Senator Batters denies motion to withdraw petition calling for O’Toole to be removed from office

Senator Batters denies MPs’ request to withdraw the petition calling for O’Toole to be removed from office

Saskatchewan Conservative Senator Denise Batters joins Power & Politics to discuss her petition to remove Erin O’Toole as Conservative Party leader. 8:04

The Reform Act not only gives MPs the power to kick a MP from the parliamentary group, but also gives MPs the power to initiate a review of the leadership.

“I’ve supported the Reform Act since Michael Chong introduced it. I voted for it in 2015 and 2019 and I encouraged people to vote for it today, “O’Toole said ahead of an October 5 caucus where Conservative MPs should decide whether to do that at that session of Parliament Reform law would come into force for their parliamentary group.

“This is not about a sword of Damocles hanging over my head. We are united as a team. It’s about a fair and transparent process that a team must have if they respect each other, to elect a chair to make decisions. “About membership in the caucus and about leadership,” said O’Toole. Conservatives MPs eventually adopted all the provisions of the law.

While MPs who support their position may face expulsion, Batters continues her petition.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole speaks to supporters at an election night rally in Oshawa, Ontario in the early hours of September 21, 2021. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Last night, however, Party President Rob Batherson said the petition was out of order.

“The question you are trying to ask in a referendum is not in line with the Constitution of the Conservative Party of Canada,” Batherson said on a social media post.

Other Conservative insiders tell CBC News that Batherson is wrong and that Batters is following the rules. That could lead to a fight before the party’s National Council, the governing body that decides whether the petition can go ahead as planned.

Another Conservative MP who spoke out against O’Toole, Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, is still a member of the caucus, although he raised similar concerns as Batters.

In an October 4th letter to Conservative MPs and Senators received by CBC News, MacDonald described O’Toole’s move to the political center in the last election as a “strategic failure.”

“Part of the problem was that by the end of the campaign no one knew what Erin stood for, including many card-carrying Conservatives,” MacDonald said in a letter, adding O’Toole’s “evasions” and “talking points” during the campaign to voters.

“He ran as a bit of a red Tory in the 2017 leadership, then as a ‘True Blue’ in the 2020 leadership, then as the leader he turned the party back to the left. So people are wondering what he is – a red Tory centrist ?, a blue conservative or just someone who beats the wind and goes where the wind takes him? ” MacDonald wrote.

MacDonald said sticking to the status quo was “a mistake” and “a gift to liberals that this party and this country cannot afford”.

Despite dissenting votes, several Conservative MPs took to Twitter in an attempt to discredit Batters and those who support the petition.

“That helps Justin Trudeau”

Michelle Rempel Garner, the party’s raw materials critic, said she was “deeply disappointed” with Batters for starting the petition. She called it an unwanted distraction that distracts attention from more pressing issues.

Melissa Lantsman, the newly elected Thornhill MP, said Batters needs to “smart” himself.

“We have a cost of living crisis, inflation spiraling out of control, a war on Canada’s energy sector and a dwindling reputation on the world stage. This is just a start. This is helping Justin Trudeau, not Canadians,” she said.

Batters received support today from a high profile ex-MP – former Conservative National Group leader David Sweet.

Sweet, who supported O’Toole in the race to lead the 2020 party, said the harsh criticism Batters faced was unjustified.

“With thousands already signed on the petition and dozens of former colleagues directing their concerns to me, this is far more than a senator expressing frustration with the leadership,” he said.

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