Candice Bergen urges federal conservatives to stay ‘united’ in address to MPs

OTTAWA—Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen Wednesday urged her party to stay united in the face of Liberal efforts to divide the country.

Bergen was addressing her party’s elected MPs at the start of their weekly meeting, likely one of the last times she will preside over the gathering before a new party leader is chosen in September.

Upwards of 600,000 people are expected to be eligible to votea record high that Bergen said represented a movement to make the country better.

The leadership race has been vicious at times, with candidates not shying away from direct personal attacks on each other as they seek to mobilize support for their respective bids.

Six people are running for the job.

Bergen said she believes the fact Conservatives don’t always agree with each other is a “good thing,” because Conservatives also celebrate diversity of thought.

“Unity is not uniformity,” she said.

“We should always welcome different views and different perspectives. We can achieve great things if we respect one another, if we listen to each other and genuinely strive to work together. We can’t achieve this by playing politics and driving Canadians apart like the Prime Minister is doing.”

Bergen became interim leader after MPs voted to remove Erin O’Toole as leader in February, kicking off of the party’s third leadership race in five years.

She moved swiftly to try and quell the tensions created by the internal fighting that led to his departure, moving some of his strongest allies from the Opposition front benches and reorganizing staff both in her office and at the party headquarters.

Bergen is a longtime Conservative MP from Manitoba, who rose to national prominence during the years the Tories were in government and she was handed the task of driving the legislation that ultimately dismantled the long-gun registry.

On Wednesday, she took shots at the Liberals latest efforts at gun control, saying their focus was misplaced.

“Their gun bans are illogical and ineffective and nothing more than political posturing, she said.

“Gun criminals need to be put in jail.”

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