Derek Sloan rejects ‘trumped up charges’ over white supremacist donor as Conservatives consider his expulsion
|Toronto Star 19 Jan 2021 at 20:14|
OTTAWA—In attempting to expel a divisive MP, Erin O’Toole might have exposed more division within the Conservative movement.
By Tuesday morning, the Conservative leader had signed up more than 26 of his MPs to ask that Derek Sloan be expelled from their caucus after left-wing website Press Progress revealed Monday that Sloan received a campaign contribution from Paul Fromm, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. That’s enough caucus members to trigger a vote on Sloan’s position in the party, expected to come Wednesday morning.
But in an interview with the Star Tuesday, Sloan, who denied knowing about the donation, said Conservative members have professed anger at O’Toole’s attempt to remove him — calling the donation issue “trumped up charges.”
“When it comes to correspondence from constituents, from members across the country, it has been universally furious about this,” Sloan said.
“I think (this) risks the ire of many people, because I think pretty much everybody I’ve spoken to whether they’re social conservative or some other type just views this as being unfair … I think it’ll look bad, absolutely.”
O’Toole’s calls for Sloan’s expulsion did provoke some strong reactions — particularly from social conservatives.
“O’Toole does what he does at his peril,” said Jeff Gunnarson, executive director of the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition. “He can’t win much without social conservatives.
“So, good luck.”
O’Toole and his team know that the Conservatives’ small but vocal social conservative contingent hold significant power within the party — he was elected leader last year by courting that faction. In fact, O’Toole proudly advertised that he stuck up for Sloan’s participation in the leadership race after the rookie MP sparked controversy by questioning Dr. Theresa Tam’s loyalty to Canada.
At the same time, Conservatives know that ambiguous positioning on social issues — chiefly abortion and medically-assisted dying rules, but also same-sex marriage — badly hurt former leader Andrew Scheer with centrist swing voters in the 2019 election.
Two sources within the Conservative party characterized Sloan’s latest controversy as part of a pattern that has dogged the party.
“This is what, strike 100?” said one MP who agreed to speak about internal party matters on the condition they not be named.
The Star has also learned of a recent internal party spat between Sloan and the Conservatives’ most senior staffer, Executive Director Janet Fryday Dorey.
Two sources confirmed that Sloan made a series of robocalls and sent emails encouraging social conservatives to attend the party’s upcoming policy convention in March.
The two sources said party officials were concerned the robocalls could run afoul of CRTC rules, which prohibit solicitation. Prompted by complaints from members — who questioned how Sloan received their contact information — Fryday Dorey opened an investigation on Friday. One source said there was also concern that Sloan used the list of members given to leadership candidates — which is against party rules.
Fryday Dorey requested Sloan turn over the script of the calls and Sloan’s membership database — a precious commodity in federal politics. Sloan refused, the two sources said, setting up a showdown between the rookie MP and Conservative headquarters.
When reached by the Star Tuesday, Sloan declined to discuss the episode. But a source with knowledge of Sloan’s thinking confirmed many of the details.
“I … confirm that we have been contacting members to for the purpose of having them sign up as delegates, (but) at all times we used our own list that we had generated through the leadership process, and we don’t believe we’ve broken any rules,” the source said.
“Let’s leave it at that.”
“The party has demanded basic, yet pertinent information from Mr. Sloan for what appears to be a violation of the CRTC rules. He has declined to share it thus far, and ignored several requests,” said party spokesperson Cory Hann.