A majority of Conservative members of Parliament have voted to expel controversial MP Derek Sloan from caucus.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called for a secret-ballot vote Wednesday to remove the Ontario MP after learning that Sloan’s Tory leadership campaign accepted a donation from white nationalist Paul Fromm.
O’Toole, who days ago released a lengthy statement saying far-right politics have no place in his party, said Sloan’s acceptance of a gift from a “well-known white supremacist is far worse than a gross error in judgment or a lack of due diligence.”
Sloan conceded his campaign accepted Fromm’s $131 donation in August, as reported first by left-wing website Press Progress, but noted it was made under the name “Frederick P. Fromm.” He claimed there was no way his campaign could have scrutinized every donation it received.
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The MP, first elected in 2019 in the riding of Hastings—Lennox and Addington, had pledged he would not “go down into the night quietly.”
A Conservative MP who was not authorized to speak about the matter publicly told HuffPost Canada Wednesday’s virtual meeting, which stretched on for hours, was heated. At least 50 MPs spoke about the issue, with some expressing frustration about how O’Toole handled the matter. But there was near agreement, the MP said, that it was best for Sloan to go.
In an emailed statement to supporters after Wednesday’s vote, Sloan said while O’Toole was on a “warpath” to remove him from the party, he does not want his backers to cancel their party memberships. Instead, he encouraged them to vote for the “most conservative delegates possible” at selection meetings in the coming weeks, ahead of the party’s policy convention in March.
“The undemocratic forces within our party want to see good, democratic conservatives purged from this convention process. Do not let them,” Sloan said in the statement. “That is exactly what Erin O’Toole wants.”
Sloan, who will now sit as an Independent, ended his missive by saying the Conservative party is “not the personal property of Erin O’Toole,” but instead belongs to the grassroots.
O’Toole also released a statement after the vote explaining his caucus did not vote to remove Sloan because of one specific event, but “because of a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents and disrespect towards the Conservative team for over a year.”
Sloan’s actions have been a distraction from the party’s efforts to grow, he said, calling events of the past week “simply the last straw.”
O’Toole also said he didn’t vote to remove Sloan because he is a social conservative, saying his team has MPs of “deep compassion and unmatched character” who draw strength from their faith.
“The Conservative party is a big tent that is reflective of all Canadians. People of all backgrounds have a place in our party,” O’Toole said. “As politicians in Canada, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards. Canadians deserve nothing less.”
Sloan later told CTV’s “Power Play” O’Toole’s excuse for pushing him out was “flimsy” and said he was really expelled because of the “influence” he has in the party.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back is the fact that I have been organizing to bring delegates to our party’s convention, and they know that I have a lot of them and they are trying to get me out of there and discourage the delegates from coming,” he said.
Unlike other party leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, O’Toole does not have the power to unilaterally remove an MP from the Conservative caucus. The Tories and the Bloc Québécois adopted a non-binding provision of the 2015 Reform Act that gives the caucus, not the leader, the power to decide on a member’s expulsion.
In order to kick off the secret vote, 20 per cent of Conservative MPs — or 24 of the party’s 121 members — needed to first sign in writing a notice seeking to review Sloan’s membership.
Sloan is an avowed social conservative, and down-ballot support from his supporters and those of lawyer Leslyn Lewis helped O’Toole win the Tory leadership over Peter MacKay this summer. Sloan finished a distant fourth.
After his victory, O’Toole, who courted social conservative support throughout the race, said he won the job as a pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ politician.
O’Toole supported Sloan through earlier controversy
The Toronto Star revealed details Tuesday of internal party fights over Sloan’s attempts to mobilize social conservatives to participate in the Conservative policy convention, including by tapping into the party’s membership list. The party is investigating whether Sloan’s use of robocalls to get people to register for the convention violated telecommunications regulations.
Sloan faced party pressure in April after he publicly questioned the loyalty of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, who was born in Hong Kong. Though several Tory MPs called the remarks racist, Sloan denied that was the case.
During an Ontario Conservative caucus conference call in April, veteran MP Scott Reid put forward a motion calling on Sloan to apologize. According to both CBC News and The Toronto Star, O’Toole and Sloan were the only MPs to vote against the motion.
Sloan later thanked O’Toole during a virtual debate for defending him “repeatedly” during the Tam controversy. O’Toole’s leadership campaign also advertised that he had Sloan’s back during the episode.
Sloan sparked other headlines that have complicated O’Toole’s efforts to have the Conservative party seen as modern and inclusive.
He accused Liberas of “effectively putting into law child abuse” with their bill seeking to ban conversion therapy. In October, Sloan was one of just seven Tory MPs to vote against the proposed legislation.
Sloan also ruffled feathers last month by sponsoring an electronic petition falsely questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines at a moment when O’Toole was criticizing the government’s plan to acquire vaccines.
With files from Althia Raj, The Canadian Press