Feb 04, 2022

By Jane Brown

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The interim leader of the federal opposition says she wants to strengthen the conservative movement and leave the next leader with a party that’s ready to win.

Longtime Manitoba MP Candice Bergen has taken on the role at a time when anti-vaccine mandate protesters have jammed downtown Ottawa, with truck horns blaring into all hours of the night.

During question period on Thursday, Bergen offered her full support to the group and dismissed reports of racism and harassment among the demonstrators as the actions of just a few.

“We do not need to go through the litany of racist things that have been done clearly by people who have very poor judgement,” said Bergen, “But that isn’t what we are talking about. We’re talking about an impasse on Parliament Hill.”

On Monday afternoon, as the party was discussing how to respond to the protest, Bergen told some senior Conservatives in an email: “I don’t think we should be asking them to go home.”

She added: “I understand the mood may shift soon. So we need to turn this into the (prime minister’s) problem. What will he take (as) the first step to working towards ending this?”

A screenshot of the email, which carries the subject line “Statement for Feedback,” was obtained by The Canadian Press on Thursday and first reported by the Globe and Mail.

Bergen and the Opposition Leader’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the email on Thursday.

Trudeau and Bergen spoke on the phone Thursday afternoon and the prime minister “graciously congratulated” her on the new role, said a statement from the Conservative party.

The statement said the two leaders “agreed that solutions must be found to resolve the ongoing protests in Ottawa.”

The Conservatives are gearing up for a third leadership race since 2015, but there’s no timeline on when Erin O’Toole’s successor will be chosen.

There is criticism of Bergen over an undated photo which is circulating on social media, showing her wearing a Donald Trump Make America Great Again hat.

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