By a 73-45 margin, Conservative Party lawmakers on Wednesday ousted Erin O'Toole from his leadership position after he failed to defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year. Even though O'Toole had billed himself as "true-blue Conservative," he since had angered party members by moving the party to the center.
After Conservative Party lawmakers ousted Erin O'Toole from his post as chairman of the Conservative Party, they voted Candice Bergen in as interim leader until a permanent chairman can be elected.
"I think Candice Bergen is a good interim choice," says Brian Rushfeldt. "She's very strong; a very, very solid conservative – and pretty vocal actually. She's been very vocal in Parliament … one of the smarter vocal women."
As interim leader, Bergen won't be allowed to run for permanent leader when that race is conducted. Rushfeldt says he expects it will be at least six months before a permanent chairman is selected.
Bergen was previously the Conservatives' deputy leader and has been among the party's most vocal members of the opposition in the House of Commons, where she frequently tangles with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior ministers.
Brian Rushfeldt, co-founder of a pro-family grassroots group in Alberta, reacts to the vote tally.
"I was actually very surprised it was that strong," he tells AFN. "I think it's an indication that the people who are close to him and know him the best have seen the ugly side of O'Toole, and consequently voted very powerfully to get rid of the man and to take some action to restore the Conservative Party in Canada. So I was extremely pleased."
O'Toole's ouster, he adds, will bode well for the future – and perhaps give the Conservative Party the impetus to finally oust Trudeau from office.
"I think the next election will look extremely different than this last one," says Rushfeldt. "Part of the reason that Trudeau won the last election was O'Toole was such a weak, incoherent leader." So weak, he adds, that even conservatives were questioning whether they wanted him as prime minister.
Conservatives have been frustrated not only with O'Toole but also with Trudeau's continued COVID mandates, which have led to the massive trucker protest that has descended on Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
What impact, over the long haul?
Thousands of truckers in Canada have driven their rigs to Ottawa to protest what they consider to be the oppressive COVID regime there. The Trudeau government is forcing truck drivers to get vaccinated or quarantine after each trip across the border, even though they work largely on their own.
Trudeau and the left-wing Canadian media have tried to demonize the truckers, who are refusing to back down. They are petitioning the Canadian government to revoke the trucker vaccine mandate and work with the U.S. government to enable a safe and secure supply chain.
Rushfeldt predicts Trudeau is going to dig in his heels – at least for a while – against the "terrorists," as the PM has labeled them.
"Now, I'm convinced that there's antifa plants – which are Liberal Party plants, actually – in there causing problems, holding up Nazi flags and doing all kinds of things that our media, of course, focus on. So, I'm not sure short term [that the truckers' actions are] going to have much effect."
But long term, he expects, will be a different story. "The mood is extremely anti-liberal and anti-Trudeau right now [because of] how he's handled this and all the things that have been going on with COVID that they've actually messed up terribly on," he explains.
According to Rushfeldt, a high percentage of Canadians are "absolutely supportive" of the truckers – so he expects over the long haul it will evolve into support for a decent change in government … "and getting rid of Trudeau once and for all."