Tory MPs convinced Bergen can stop party infighting

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OTTAWA — Manitoba Conservatives say Candice Bergen, as interim leader, will help bring an end to months of strife in the Tory party.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/02/2022 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Manitoba Conservatives say Candice Bergen, as interim leader, will help bring an end to months of strife in the Tory party.

“I think she’s the right person to unite caucus,” said Interlake-area Tory MP James Bezan.

“We’ve always got to expand our tent. If we’re going to win the next election, we have to take votes away from the Liberals, but we can’t give up on our Conservative principles by doing that.”

Former Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole looks on at the party’s new interim leader Candice Bergen. (The Canadian Press file)

Bergen, who has represented Portage-Lisgar since 2008, was second-in-command to leader Erin O’Toole until Wednesday morning when he was turfed by his caucus.

Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett, of Manitoba, said that was a result of Tory members being miffed at O’Toole for changing party policies.

”The interim leader needs to be well versed in House procedures and… in where our membership wants to go, and needs to have the confidence of the caucus,” he said.

“You need to be able to speak to the base… and I certainly believe Candice would have that.”

Bergen had served as the party’s House leader, in charge of horse-trading with other parties to get legislation through the Commons.

She used those skills to help O’Toole’s ill-fated attempts to nudge his party to the centre.

O’Toole had promised his caucus electoral success in urban Ontario and Quebec if the party embraced carbon pricing and net-zero emissions, while downplaying social-conservative views.

Yet O’Toole barely made a mark in those regions in last fall’s election, while losing seats in Alberta.

“Our base softened because of some of the stances that the leader took,” said Plett, who oversaw the creation of the Conservative Party in 2003 in the merger of the Alliance and Progressive-Conservatives parties.

Several MPs describe Bergen as a bridge-builder who would give O’Toole the pulse of his Prairie base, while brokering peace with MPs from the region by explaining his rationale.

“The role that she plays in the background is why she’s respected enough to be voted as interim leader,” Brandon–Souris Tory MP Larry Maguire said.

“She’s collaborative yet she’s stern, and she’ll do a great job in leading us to the time we pick a new leader.”

Speaking before the results Wednesday, Kildonan–St. Paul MP Raquel Dancho said she would support any strong leader who keeps the Tories focused.

“It’s been demoralizing; it’s never great when your team isn’t acting like a team,” she said.

“The role of opposition has been distracted over these leadership issues.”

Bergen rose to prominence after successfully leveraging the firearms registry as a wedge issue against the NDP, which splits its support between rural ridings and urban voters.

She attracted controversy as she moved up the party ranks.

This week, she irritated Manitoba chiefs when she compared the protesters who toted swastikas in the trucking convoy at Parliament Hill to Indigenous protesters who toppled the Queen Victoria statue in Winnipeg last summer.

A year ago, in the wake of white nationalists storming the U.S. Capitol, a photo of her emerged in which she wears a “Make America Great Again” hat. Bergen refused to explain the context behind the photo.

Bergen is the first Manitoban to lead the federal Tories since 1948, when John Bracken was at the helm.

“She’s got lots of experience, integrity and a great work ethic, and I think she’ll do a great job,” Maguire said.

Even Liberal MP Terry Duguid said Bergen is a force to reckon with.

“I know Candice is a hard-working Manitoba MP,” said the MP for Winnipeg South.

“The Conservatives are obviously going through a difficult time (and) I wish them well.”

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, February 2, 2022 10:17 PM CST: Removes reference to provincial politics

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