OTTAWA — Controversial MP Derek Sloan was kicked out of the Conservative caucus Wednesday.
The majority vote to oust him came after hours of heated debate over how party leader Erin O’Toole has handled the process, multiple sources who were not authorized to publicly discuss caucus deliberations told The Canadian Press.
O’Toole triggered the effort to boot Sloan after learning that Sloan accepted a donation from a known white nationalist last year, news that broke one day after O’Toole declared there’s no room in his party for far-right extremism or racism.
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) January 20, 2021
Sloan has acknowledged he did accept the donation but has claimed there was no way he _ or any MP _ could have vetted every single contribution to his campaign.
While Sloan’s extreme socially conservative views have been a thorn in the party’s side for nearly a year, ahead of the vote Wednesday MPs expressed frustration the stated reason given to eject him was a donation that in theory, any one of them might have received and overlooked.
Sloan said in email to supporters that he will sit as an independent.
“I will still vote, debate, and represent true conservative values and policies,” he wrote minutes after the votes were counted.
He also urged his supporters not to rip up their membership cards in the party so they could still wield influence at the coming policy convention.
“No matter how ugly _ how undemocratic _ the events of the last two days have been, always remember that the Conservative Party of Canada is not the personal property of Erin O’Toole, nor is it the personal property of the cabal that surrounds him,” he wrote.
During his 15 months as an MP, Sloan has faced accusations he’s racist, drawn condemnation for his views on LGBTQ rights and for his anti-abortion stance, all leading to periodic calls he be tossed from the party’s benches.
“I’ve worked well with many social conservatives in our party over the years. They are welcome in our party, but Derek Sloan’s behaviour is not,” wrote former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird on social media on Tuesday.
MPs also blasted Sloan for his views on Wednesday, and his failure to be a team player.
Those concerns were linked to tensions that have emerged in recent weeks over Sloan’s efforts to mobilize his supporters to participate in a Conservative policy convention in March.
The party is investigating whether his use of robocalls to get people to register for the convention runs afoul of telecommunications regulations.
His use of the party’s membership list to encourage socially conservative delegates to register has also ruffled feathers.
Socially conservative groups are traditionally quite active at Conservative conventions but it’s believed their ranks swelled during the leadership race, given both Sloan’s and Leslyn Lewis’s campaigns explicitly targeted those constituencies.
With strong enough numbers, resolutions backed by social conservatives would have a better chance of passing, including one that would delete a policy pledging that a Conservative government will not regulate abortion.
That in turn would jeopardize O’Toole’s efforts in recent weeks to present the party as more centrist.
In his email Wednesday, Sloan urged his backers not to give up, a spirit echoed by the Campaign Life Coalition, which accused O’Toole of trying to deflate the enthusiasm of Sloan’s supporters.
“Don’t give O’Toole exactly what he wants,” the coalition’s Jack Fonseca wrote in the email.
“We are so close to winning at the convention that even if Derek gets expelled, we need to stay engaged in the convention to make the party more socially conservative in its policy declaration.”
Sloan’s reckoning is the latest step in the ongoing debate within the Conservative movement over the role and place of social conservatives, and could thrust Lewis into the spotlight again.
The leadership contest that put O’Toole in charge of the party was launched after the 2019 election.
Andrew Scheer’s failure to win a majority many believed was possible was attributed by many _ including eventual leadership contender Peter MacKay _ to Scheer’s personal failure to manage fears about his own social conservative views
As candidates jockeyed for position in the leadership race over the ensuing months, the party even refused to allow one outspoken social conservative to run at all, and for a time, some argued Sloan ought not to be allowed in either.
For his part, O’Toole entered the contest slamming MacKay for suggesting social conservatives were an albatross around the party’s neck, promising to always respect and listen to their views.
O’Toole eventually won thanks in part to the strength of the social conservative wing, which had been mobilized not just by Sloan but also Lewis.
She came out of relative obscurity to finish the contest with more than $2 million in donations and stronger support in some pockets of the country than any of her rivals, and made history as the first Black woman to run for leadership of the party.
She’s set to run for the Conservatives in the next election.