After Erin O’Toole resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Leader of the Opposition, Candice Bergen came in as the interim leader of the party.
Bergen was born on Sept. 28, 1964 in Morden, Manitoba and was the youngest of eight children. Her father was a car parts salesperson, while her mother worked as a cleaner at a hospital. Her mom would often bring home homeless people, giving them a place to stay for a time. Bergen said,
“That was my mom and dad, very giving good, good people.”
After finishing high school, Bergen moved to Winnipeg, then to British Columbia, before returning to her hometown to raise her children and help support the family while her husband was attending university.
Around this time, she became frustrated with the federal government and worried about the debt load her children would carry. She decided to listen to her mom’s advice and not complain, but become active in politics.
In the early 2000s, she began to volunteer with the Canadian Alliance in her riding and in 2004, she was the Manitoba campaign manager for Stephen Harper’s leadership bid for the Conservative Party of Canada.
On Oct. 14, 2008, Bergen was elected to the House of Commons. She said years later that her first political battle was won at her dining room table, wearing pajamas and talking to people on the phone.
She became known in the riding for meeting with as many people as possible, and showing an interest in what they were talking about.
“I don’t fake it. I’m interested.”
On May 15, 2009, she introduced C-391, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act. This Act was put forward to repeal the long gun registry. After passing second reading on Nov. 4, 2009, it was killed by a Liberal motion on Sept. 22, 2010, which kept the registry alive.
On May 25, 2011, Bergen was appointed as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. In this role, she was able to work on Bill C-19, which ended the Long Gun Registry on April 5, 2012.
On July 15, 2013, Bergen became the Minister of State for Social Development, her first cabinet position.
After the Conservative Party lost the 2015 election and leader Stephen Harper resigned, Bergen put her name forward to be interim leader.
“I don’t think we need to just see it as a placeholder time. A lot of times, that is what interim is, it is someone coming in and just sort of holding the fort down. But I think that there is a lot more that we can do.”
Bergen stated that even though she wasn’t fluent in French, she would have a Quebec lieutenant who could ask questions in French during question period.
Rona Ambrose was chosen instead.
On Sept. 15, 2016, she was appointed as the Opposition House Leader, holding that position until Sept. 2, 2020.
On that day, she became the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party. In the party, she became known as a peacemaker with a steady hand and was sought after by party leaders due to her high popularity in the prairies.
After Andrew Scheer resigned as the leader of the party, Bergen debated putting her name in for leadership but decided against it because she didn’t speak French fluently.
On Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the storming of the United States Capitol, a photo circulated online of Bergen wearing a Make Canada Great Again hat. In response to this, Bergen denounced the storming of the Capitol.
As the Trucker Convoy reached Ottawa, Bergen advised senior Conservative MPs to tell members of the convoy to leave the city. She stated,
“We need to turn this into the Prime Minister’s problem.”
On Feb. 2, 2022, O’Toole was removed as leader of the party by a vote. A second vote was held, which appointed Bergen as the interim leader of the party. According to MP Scott Reid, she was chosen out of nine candidates for interim leader.
This also made her the Leader of the Official Opposition. As per tradition, she was given a standing ovation in the House of Commons upon taking her seat.
In her first statement as interim leader in the House of Commons, she said,
“All Canadians want to see a leader who will work to heal rifts, not further divide. A leader who will listen even to those voices who might not agree with. A leader who will work to understand, not dismiss, name call and gas light.”
She served as Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party until Sept. 10, 2022 when Pierre Poilievre took over. On Feb. 1, 2023, she announced she would be stepping down as an MP.
She stated in a video on Twitter,
“I’m choosing to leave now not because I’m tired or run out of steam. In fact, it is the exact opposite. I feel hopeful and re-energized. Hopeful for our strong and united Conservative Party, and our caucus, under the courageous and principled leadership of my friend, Pierre Poilievre.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated after,
“I thank her for her many years of service.”
Information from CBC, Macleans, Globe and Mail, National Post, Wikipedia,