Canadian Conservative lawmakers on Wednesday ousted Erin O'Toole as leader, angry over the main opposition party's third straight loss to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals in a 2021 election.
Legislators voted 73 to 45 to replace O'Toole, who took over as head of the Conservative Party in August 2020. He had vowed to defeat Trudeau but instead led the right-leaning party to a disappointing finish in 2021 elections.
O'Toole, in remarks posted on Facebook, said he would remain in Parliament, pledging "unwavering loyalty" to the next leader.
The party selected Candice Bergen, the Conservative's deputy head, as interim leader on Wednesday night ahead of a convention to choose a permanent successor to O'Toole, according to a statement. Bergen, in parliament since 2008, faced criticism last year after an undated photo emerged of her wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, a slogan of former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Some disenchanted Conservatives said O'Toole had pulled the party too far into the middle during the campaign, announcing major policies without consultation.
O'Toole, who represents a parliamentary district in the vote-rich province of Ontario, said the tactic was needed to attract more moderate voters.
But the move irritated many in his party, which has a strong populist wing. His ouster means it is likely the Conservatives will now swing more to the right.
"What's next is they lose the next election," said one gloomy former senior Conservative official.
Potential leadership candidates include the party's finance critic Pierre Poilievre, a lawmaker who is a favorite of the right wing. He strongly backed a protest by truckers opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates which has paralyzed central Ottawa.