A former member of the Conservative Party of Canada’s national council is accusing the organization of an “indefensible attempt” to silence thousands of party members who want Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to face a prompt leadership review.
Former CPC National Councilor Marilyn Elliott wrote a letter to the national council on Friday to challenge party president Robert Batherson’s assertion that a petition initiated by Senator Denise Batters is out of order.
Batters launched the petition in November, calling for O’Toole to face a leadership review in six months rather than wait for a planned vote at the 2023 Conservative convention that could trigger a new leadership race.
The Conservative constitution states a referendum on any matter can be launched if 5% of party members in five provinces sign a petition calling on the party to poll the membership on the topic.
Batters blamed O’Toole for the Conservatives’ failure to form government in the recent election, alleging he “flip-flopped on policies core to our party within the same week, the same day, and even within the same sentence.”
O’Toole removed Batters from the national caucus the following day.
Her petition has received more than 6,300 signatures as of Friday.
Batherson issued a letter in response to the petition.
“The question you are proposing to ask in a referendum does not adhere to the constitution of the Conservative Party of Canada,” said Batherson. “Your petition is not in order as it does not adhere to sections 7, 10, and 12 of the constitution.”
Batherson claimed that under Article 10.8 of the constitution, a leadership selection process can be initiated when the leader dies or retires, resigns, or more than 50% of votes cast at a national convention are in favour of removing the leader.
Elliott said she felt compelled to write a letter to Batherson after reading his correspondence to Batters.
“Your response comes as both surprising and disturbing,” said Elliott. “Frankly, it encapsulates the idiom ‘Just because someone says it is so, doesn’t mean it is so.’”
She said the position Batherson takes in his letter, which she assumes is on behalf of the national council, is an “indefensible attempt to thwart a complaint petition and silence the thousands of requests for a referendum of the party membership.”
Batherson said in an interview with True North on Friday that Elliott is an opinionated person.
“She’s never been shy in sharing those opinions,” said Batherson. “I’m happy to hear any opinions Marilyn Elliott has.”
He said the national council takes into consideration any concerns that are brought forward, but they have to adhere to the constitution. He added the Conservatives are not holding a leadership review for O’Toole in the next six months because the constitution states national conventions where people can vote on leadership are held every two years.
According to Elliott, Batherson’s interpretation of the constitution is narrow, exclusive and incapable of respecting the wishes of party members. She said it is no wonder why politicians and political parties have been accused of elitism.
“Your interpretation begs the question of whether the party is fearful of the results of such a petition,” she said. “Your actions likely constitute, at best, an overreaching of authority for which the petition process was precisely entrenched in the constitution.”
Batherson said the Conservatives need to focus on unity to ensure they win.
“When Conservatives are divided and when Conservatives are attacking other Conservatives, that’s a great day for the Liberals,” he said.