MONTREAL — Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party, was ousted in a vote against his leadership on Wednesday, providing a political lift to the minority government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, buffeted by pandemic fatigue and divided opinion over his stewardship of the country.
In a secret ballot, the Conservative caucus voted against Mr. O’Toole, 49, by a margin of 62 percent, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The vote was forced by a petition from caucus members concerned that he took the party too far away from its core conservative values on social issues.
The vote appears to have been triggered by Conservative members angered by his support of a Liberal government bill banning conversion therapy earlier this year.
The vote is something of a political gift for Mr. Trudeau, a polarizing figure who has been grappling with the invasion of the Omicron variant and intensifying frustration over pandemic restrictions, which led to an unruly demonstration in Ottawa last weekend. There are economic challenges, too, including inflation of nearly 5 percent, the highest in 30 years.
While a Jan. 27 poll by the Angus Reid Institute, one of Canada’s leading polling companies, showed that about half of Canadians approve of Mr. Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic, his overall approval rating shrunk to 42 percent from 50 percent a year ago.
The Conservative Party is now looking for a new leader for the third time in five years. Mr. O’Toole’s ouster also suggests a rift between its more socially conservative wing, which is largely based in Western Canada, and its fiscally conservative, socially liberal branch that is center in Ontario, the most populous province and Mr. O’Toole’s home.
Even before the vote on Mr. O’Toole’s leadership, some frustrated Conservative Party members were already calling for his departure after he failed to defeat Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals when he fought his first federal election as Conservative Party leader in September. It was the Conservative Party’s third consecutive loss against Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. O’Toole came to the election campaign as something of an unknown quantity among Canadians. He was elected as Conservative leader by appealing to the party’s right wing with a platform that promised to “take back Canada.”
Once installed as leader, however, he quickly tacked left and alienated many among the party’s conservative branch with his attempt to broaden the party’s appeal. After he failed to win last fall’s vote, Mr. O’Toole was criticized for being a political clone of Mr. Trudeau, masquerading as a conservative.
Among other things, he abandoned a promise not to introduce a carbon tax and drew ire from some Conservative caucus members by abandoning a pledge to repeal Mr. Trudeau’s ban of about 1,500 models of military-style rifles.
He also sought to cast himself as a compassionate conservative, distancing himself from the party’s social conservatism on issues like L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion while reaching out to union members, a group that has traditionally supported the left of center New Democratic Party.
While the Conservatives did score a symbolic victory in the last election, winning the greatest share of the popular vote, the concentration of Conservative support in places like Alberta meant that it didn’t translate into the largest number of seats. Mr. O’Toole also came under criticism after the Conservatives failed to do well in electorally important urban centers like the Toronto area and Metro Vancouver.
Ahead ofWednesday’s vote, Mr. O’Toole was defiant, saying he had no intention of stepping down.
“I’m not going anywhere and I’m not turning back. Canada needs us to be united and serious!” he wrote in a series of tweets on Monday night, in which he framed the vote as a battle between anger and hope. “A winning message is one of inclusion, optimism, ideas and hope,” he wrote.
The son of a provincial legislator in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, Mr. O’Toole came to his party’s leadership with conservative credentials that included a military past. He studied at Canada’s Royal Military College and spent 12 years as a navigator in Canada’s then-aged fleet of ship-borne helicopters. He also founded True Patriot Love, a nonprofit organization supporting veterans and their families.
Trained as a lawyer, he worked at two large law firms in Toronto and later as corporate counsel at Procter & Gamble Canada. Then the resignation of a cabinet minister from the seat in his hometown electoral district in Durham, Ontario, presented an opportunity for him. He was elected to the seat in 2012.