A Conservative Party of Canada national councillor who launched a petition to recall Erin O’Toole as Conservative leader has been suspended from his position for 60 days, True North has learned.
Bert Chen, an elected national councillor for Ontario, accused O’Toole of having “betrayed the principles that the Conservative Party is founded on” by flip-flopping on a range of issues throughout his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Justin Trudeau.
The day after the Sept. 20 election, Chen started campaigning for a referendum on O’Toole’s leadership through a Change.org petition, which has since amassed nearly 5,200 signatures.
The vote to suspend Chen at a Tuesday evening national council meeting was 10-7, according to a source with direct knowledge of the meeting. The source said O’Toole, who sits on national council by virtue of being the party’s leader, was among the 10 to vote to suspend Chen.
Chen declined an interview, but in a statement said he was “disappointed” in the decision.
“I’d like to apologize that I will not be able to serve you as your National Councillor for the next 60 days,” he said in a statement directed to Conservative members. “I am disappointed in National Council’s decision today to silence Conservative members that have lost confidence in the leadership of Erin O’Toole.”
Chen said his calls to remove O’Toole have been representing the views of his constituents, Ontario’s Conservative party members.
“The Conservative Party is as (sic) a democratic party and my role as an elected Ontario National Councillor is to represent the views of members – and most want Erin O’Toole removed as leader for selling out their beliefs for a failed attempt at power,” he said.
In a statement emailed to True North, Conservative president Rob Batherson confirmed the suspension.
“Following complaints by grassroots members of the Conservative Party of Canada about the conduct of National Councillor Bert Chen, National Council exercised its authority under Article 8.13 of the Party’s Constitution to suspend Mr. Chen from National Council for up to 60 days,” Batherson said.
“The Secretariat Committee of National Council will investigate these complaints and make a recommendation to National Council as to whether Mr. Chen has acted in a manner that is ‘improper or unbecoming, or likely to adversely affect the interest or reputation of National Council, the Leader, or the Party.”
Batherson also said possible violations by Chen of the National Council code of conduct will be reviewed.
In a September CBC interview, Batherson warned that Chen could be removed from the council for “attacking” O’Toole.
According to the Conservative Party of Canada constitution, national councillors must affirm a “commitment to the principles and policies” of the Conservative party and its constitution.
Section 8.13 of the constitution empowers councillors to “remove a National Council member whose conduct is judged improper or unbecoming, or likely to adversely affect the interest or reputation of National Council, the Leader, or the Party, at a meeting called for that purpose.”
Invoking this section requires a two-thirds majority, whereas section 8.14, which deals with suspension of a national councillor, requires only a simple majority.
The constitution allows for appeal to an arbitration committee.