In defiance of O’Toole, Saskatchewan MPs vote to back Batters in regional caucus: source

The Conservative Party’s Saskatchewan caucus voted Thursday night to stand behind Senator Denise Batters staying in the regional group, a source says, months after leader Erin O’Toole booted Batters from the national caucus in November.

In a special meeting on Jan. 20, the 14-member Saskatchewan regional caucus voted in favour of Batters, according to a Saskatchewan Conservative source.

According to the source, an overwhelming majority of MPs voted to confirm the continued participation of Batters, the party’s sole Senator from the province.

Batters referred all questions to Saskatchewan Conservative caucus chair Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon-Grasswood, Sask.), who declined to comment citing caucus confidentiality.

“After Ms. Batters was removed from national caucus, she could continue to attend regional and Senate caucus,” Official Opposition Leader’s Office spokesperson Matthew Clancey said in an email. The office did not address questions about why the Saskatchewan caucus held a vote on Batters if she had never been removed.

National caucus chair Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ont.) did not respond to The Hill Times‘ request for comment.

She will now be the 15th member of the party’s Saskatchewan caucus. Appointed to the Red Chamber by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013, Batters is not set to reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 until 2045.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has faced calls for an early leadership review, made louder by a petition launched in November by Conservative Senator Denise Batters. In November, O’Toole kicked her out of the national Conservative caucus. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) kicked Batters out of the national caucus on Nov. 16, a day after she launched a petition that called on the party to hold a leadership review within six months. He had also warned other caucus members that if anyone supported the petition, they would suffer the same fate. Conservative Senators, however, also voted to keep Batters in the Upper Chamber’s group.

“As the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada,  I will not tolerate an individual discrediting and showing a clear lack of respect towards the efforts of the entire Conservative caucus, who are holding the corrupt and disastrous Trudeau government to account,” O’Toole said in a Nov. 16 statement. According to a source in O’Toole’s office, Batters was never officially kicked out from the regional group.

The Conservative Party’s national council ruled on Dec. 12 that the petition urging for an early leadership review is unconstitutional, but Batters has said she won’t give up her fight, and the petition is still gathering signatures. As of Jan. 18, it was said to have received more than 7,600 names.

“O’Toole won the leadership race claiming to be a ‘true blue’ Conservative, but ran an election campaign nearly indistinguishable from Trudeau’s Liberals. Conservatives and Canadians can’t afford more of the same,” wrote Batters on the website called membersvote.ca as the reason for starting the petition.

“Before and after the election, O’Toole repeatedly told Conservatives that they needed to have ‘the courage to change.’ What he expects us to change into, he has yet to say. As leader, O’Toole has watered down and even entirely reversed policy positions without the input of party or caucus members. On the carbon tax, on firearms, on conscience rights—he has contradicted positions within the same week, the same day, and even within the same sentence!”

Conservative Party members who sign the petition, according to the wording of the petition, call on the national council to conduct a referendum of the party membership to ask: “do you wish to have a confidence vote on Erin O’Toole’s continued leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada by mail or virtually at the earliest opportunity and, and in any event, no later than June 30, 2022?”

The party’s next policy convention is scheduled for August 2023 where the rank and file members cast a vote on O’Toole’s leadership. But, party members, Parliamentarians, and current and former senior Conservatives dissatisfied with O’Toole’s leadership want an earlier review after the party received 508,712 fewer votes than in the 2019 election. They reason that in a minority Parliament, an election is only one confidence vote defeat away.

The average age of a minority Parliament in Canada is between 18 and 24 months.

The Hill Times

Saskatchewan Members of Parliament

  • Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu’Appelle, Sask.)
  • Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West, Sask.)
  • Cathay Wagantall (Yorkton—Melville, Sask.)
  • Corey Tochor (Saskatoon—University, Sask.)
  • Fraser Tolmie (Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, Sask.)
  • Gary Vidal (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Sask.)
  • Jeremy Patzer (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Sask.)
  • Kelly Block (Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, Sask.)
  • Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood , Sask.)
  • Michael Kram (Regina—Wascana, Sask.)
  • Randy Hoback (Prince Albert, Sask.)
  • Robert Kitchen (Souris—Moose Mountain, Sask.)
  • Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Sask.)
  • Warren Steinley (Regina—Lewvan, Sask.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated at 4:37 p.m. to clarify that the caucus vote was to bolster Sen. Batters’ participation in caucus not to return her to the Saskatchewan, and to include comment from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s office.

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