OTTAWA — The Conservatives will review their disappointing election loss, Erin O'Toole said Tuesday as he underscored his commitment to ensuring the party is battle-ready for the next campaign.
"We've started a process that will involve all parts of the party to make sure we learn those lessons to win the trust next time," he said at his party's broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa, where he struck a less spirited tone than during his speech after the results came in.
"I'm very, very proud of the gains we made, but we didn't get far enough. We will next time."
No further details were provided about what the review would examine or its parameters.
There are still mail-in ballots being counted, but by Tuesday evening the Conservatives were projected to finish the contest with 119 seats and the Liberals returned to Parliament with another minority government.
O'Toole made the effort to point out the election was not without its gains, pointing to the seats it picked up across Atlantic Canada after the region was swept by the Liberals in 2015.
"For the first time in a decade — back in Newfoundland and Labrador, some new members of our caucus from across the country, some new generation of talent, and we're closer in dozens upon dozens of ridings, but not close enough," he said.
The Conservatives are currently projected to win fewer seats than former leader Andrew Scheer did in 2019 when his party reduced the Liberals to a minority but failed to oust them.
Scheer, a social conservative who was easily re-elected as a member of Parliament in Saskatchewan in Monday's vote, stepped down as leader after the last election following an internal pressure campaign for him to leave.
Staying at the helm could prove a challenge for thecurrent Conservative leader after he took risks with his base by moving the party more into the political centre for the chance to pick up seats in Ontario, which didn't materialize.
O'Toole had to answer for reversing his stance on positions such as protecting the conscience rights of health professionals from having to refer patients for services such as abortion or medical assistance in dying because of personal objections, which he pledged to do during his leadership race.
He acknowledged the party failed to win all the seats it wanted in areas such as Metro Vancouver, the Greater Toronto Area and in Quebec, which would have provided them with a path to victory.
The Conservative leader did say, however, the party came within 2,000 votes in 30 ridings and will work to close that gap.
It appears some votes were siphoned off by the People's Party of Canada (PPC), which didn't elect any MPs, but posed enough of a threat to split the vote on that right.
O'Toole used his last public address at a rally before polls opened Monday to ask voters to stick with the Conservatives, despite how angry some felt towards the Liberals over support of mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports, which the PPC railed against.
He didn't answer on Tuesday whether he plans to trigger a leadership review with supporters or caucus to determine their appetite for him to remain as leader.
"All of our members are disappointed that it's status quo after a pandemic election that divided the country and got us no further ahead," said O'Toole.
"We're all disappointed by the results and as leader, no one more than me."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2021.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press