What should have worried Erin O’Toole was not that her MP Derek Sloan accepted a donation from a neo-Nazi. It is because this man chose the Conservative Party.
But by expelling Sloan, the Conservative leader is sending a clear message: Racists and other extremists are not welcome in his party. The air has just cleared up.
However, it was not quite planned.
After the assault on the US Capitol by far-right activists, many wondered: what if this happens here? The Liberals took the opportunity to recall that 40% of conservative supporters supported Donald Trump.
Mr. O’Toole turned this review into an opportunity to clean up. On his initiative, MPs voted to expel Sloan from their caucus.
The leader has passed his leadership test, and his deputies are freed from a ball. On the eve of the next election campaign, they become more presentable.
Of course, the gift of the neo-Nazi looks very much like a pretext.
An MP cannot control all the donations he receives. And in the case of the neo-Nazi, the latter had even changed his first name.
Ultimately, we could have given him a chance. The problem is all the rest of Mr. Sloan’s work.
PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, ARCHIVES THE CANADIAN PRESS
MP Derek Sloan was kicked out of the Conservative Party by Leader Erin O’Toole.
In the past year, the Ontario MP sponsored an anti-vaccine petition. He said homosexuality was a choice and supported conversion therapy. And he implied that the Dre Teresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, is believed to be loyal to China first and foremost.
It was racist, and also foolish – she was born in Hong Kong, during the time of the British protectorate, and raised in the UK …
Mr. Sloan launched this vicious attack during the leadership contest. Andrew Scheer, then chief, had taken a week to react, very softly. And Mr. O’Toole hadn’t denounced him.
Everyone understood why. The election of the leader was by preferential vote. So he didn’t want to offend Mr. Sloan’s supporters in order to get their vote in the second round.
Since the merger between the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance in 2003, the strategy with the religious right has always been the same: not to judge, but not to promote.
There aren’t that many pro-lifers in the caucus. Nearly 40 deputies out of 121, of which 10 have very strong beliefs.
They are allowed to present private bills and vote according to their conscience on moral issues. But the Conservatives swear that their government would not table such projects, and would not support those of members of Parliament.
Anyway, they can talk, but it’s not going anywhere.
As one source told me, “They know they won’t win, they just want to be respected in their beliefs. “
Internally, it can be managed. But with the electorate, it is more complicated.
Andrew Scheer had a credibility deficit. It was known, he was a believer and pro-life. In 2019, he tried to convince Canadians that he would not reopen the abortion debate. Despite his promises, many therefore did not believe him. Particularly in Quebec.
PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, ARCHIVES THE CANADIAN PRESS
Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party
Erin O’Toole will not have this handicap. He repeated it, he is pro-choice. Canadians can trust him. But not to Mr. Sloan.
His presence gave the homophobes, xenophobes and conspirators the impression that they belonged to the Conservative Party. She supported their ideas. And we have seen in the United States how the extremists become noisy when the authorities normalize them.
After winking to his right to win the chiefdom, Mr. O’Toole is now trying to bring the party closer to the center.
The Conservatives would wait 10 years before returning to balanced budgets. The Liberals can no longer warn of the austerity of the blues.
But for other issues, Sloan threatened this refocusing.
His ideas displeased. His personality too.
There is no nice way to put it: he was a pain in the ass.
He was looking for attention. He was contradicting the chief. And, as a straw that broke the camel’s back, he launched an automated call campaign (robocalls) in Ontario, including in the ridings of his colleagues. Worse, he refused to share the details of these calls with the party.
Usually a leader is reluctant to punish a deputy for fear of harming the unity of the troops. Philippe Couillard had sown discontent internally after demoting Sam Hamad, and the same is happening at the moment to Dominique Anglade with Pierre Arcand.
But Mr. Sloan’s case is different. Many Conservatives today call themselves “good riddance”. They have not breathed so well since the departure of Maxime Bernier.
Still, Mr. O’Toole should not tolerate the other excesses of his deputies, such as those of Pierre Poilievre. The latter embodies angry conservatism. At the end of November, he relayed the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory that “globalist financial elites” would use COVID-19 to steal power from the people.
The expulsion of Derek Sloan is a gift that Erin O’Toole and his colleagues offer each other on the eve of the next election campaign. But they will have to make sure that others do not take over his sad role.