As conservatives across Canada reacted to the fall of Jason Kenney, a defining voice in their political movement, a Liberal from the Tory heartland offered an outsider’s diagnosis into the state of conservatism in the country.
“Mr. Kenney was pushed out of his party because he wasn’t extreme enough,” Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, an Edmonton MP, declared Thursday.
“It’s time for the moderates in conservative movements in this country to step up and ask themselves: Where is this train going?”
Kenney announced his resignation as United Conservative Party leader and Alberta premier late Wednesday after narrowly winning a leadership review with just over 51 per cent of the vote.
The former federal cabinet minister is the latest conservative leader to exit after considerable internal pressure to do so. Erin O’Toole, the former federal Conservative leader, was voted out by MPs after months of dissatisfaction with his management of caucus and attempts to moderate the party’s image on climate change, spending and LGBTQ issues.
Conservative party members are now expected to choose a new leader Sept. 10..
The race to date, which features six candidates, has been punctuated by personal attacks and characterized as a fight for the soul of the party.
Those dynamics recently spilled over into the Conservative caucus.
Ed Fast, a longtime MP who is helping chair Jean Charest’s leadership campaign, stepped down from his role as the Conservative finance critic late Wednesday.
Earlier that day, he had criticized Charest rival Pierre Poilievre for proposing to fire the Bank of Canada governor over the country’s high inflation rate.
“Mr. Poilievre’s statements on monetary policy needed to be addressed. And I have absolutely no regrets for doing that,” Fast said on Thursday.
Fast had told reporters he believed Poilievre’s pledge hurt the party’s credibility on economic issues and counted as interfering with the central bank’s independence.
Some within caucus felt Fast had crossed as line by invoking his finance critic title in his remarks. Fast said he was made to feel like he needed to stay silent on Poilievre’s attacks against the central bank and promotion of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a solution to inflation.
“You cannot be finance critic and then have an expectation from a leadership candidate that you should not speak out on issues he is speaking out on and that you vehemently disagree with,” Fast said.
“I’m not going to comment on who said what and when and how. These are caucus colleagues, and my conversations with my caucus colleagues are confidential.”
At the end of the day, Fast said, he and interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen felt his position as finance critic had become “untenable,” adding that the issue had been brewing for some time.
For Calgary MP Greg McLean, who has yet to endorse anyone in the leadership contest, the “nastiness” of the tone of the race “just doesn’t work.”
He said what happens on the campaign trail should stay there and not be allowed to interfere in the work MPs are doing in the House of Commons to hold the Liberal government to account.
“I think Mr. Fast served his office honourably and I think that his stepping down — it doesn’t make me happy.”
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press