Derek Sloan is going full-on Donald Trump.
The Member of Parliament for Hastings–Lennox and Addington is expected to place last in his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party, once the ballots are counted later this month. But winning may not be his goal.
There are people who long for the Canadian equivalent of the populist, nativist U.S. President. Mr. Sloan appears to want to be their champion. If that’s true, not only will he not lead the Conservative Party, he may eventually not even be part of it.
Mr. Sloan embraces the views of mainstream social conservatives, although his language is extreme: He calls efforts to combat global warming “climate alarmism” peddled by “eco-radicals.” He believes “we have too many activist judges” and that “political correctness is a suffocating scourge.” And of course he defends the rights of gun owners and those who oppose abortion. He would cut back heavily on immigration and limit LGBTQ rights.
But Mr. Sloan also goes places no Conservative should ever go. He got himself in hot water, last April, when he criticized Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, asking “Does she work for Canada, or for China?” The Ontario caucus threatened to seek his expulsion, causing him to backtrack, saying he was misinterpreted. (He wasn’t.)
More recently, Mr. Sloan has been giving comfort to those who don’t like masks or vaccines.
He is “100 per cent opposed” to requiring Canadians to take the coronavirus vaccine (if one arrives), or any other vaccine.
And being required to wear a mask in public “isn’t about science or law, it’s about control and compliance,” he tweeted recently.
On Tuesday, the Governor of Mississippi made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces. As a Canadian Conservative, you know you’ve gone too far when you find yourself to the right of Republicans in Mississippi.
But Mr. Sloan is now the Canadian equivalent of Fox News. “At the heart of the radical left lies a burning desire to destroy the family,“ he has declared. “When we talk about the culture war, that is what is at stake. It’s life or death. It’s freedom or slavery.”
And of the leading candidates, former senior cabinet minister Peter MacKay and Durham MP Erin O’Toole, he wrote in French: “Fake conservatives (”faux conservateurs”) like @ErinOTooleMP and @PeterMacKay don’t share our values and won’t fight for you like I will.”
So after he loses, how will Mr. Sloan be able to sit in the Conservative caucus as a loyal supporter of whichever of those two becomes leader? How can he be expected to submit to the party whip on key votes?
It’s probably only a matter of time before Mr. Sloan is expelled from the Conservative caucus, or leaves of his own accord, though the feeling inside the party is that Mr. O’Toole would cut him more slack than would Mr. MacKay.
Although most Conservative supporters are not social conservatives, so-cons are part of the blue coalition. Any effective leader must figure out how to incorporate the movement within a united, moderate Conservative Party.
But people within that movement have a much more effective champion in Leslyn Lewis, a self-proclaimed social conservative with graduate degrees in both law and environmental science.
“Members are excited to support an urban, well-educated, professionally accomplished Black woman as a candidate,” wrote Kory Teneycke, who was a senior adviser to then-prime minister Stephen Harper, “in part because it counters the public perception (held with some cause) that the party is too rural, too male and too white.”
Ms. Lewis will become a major force within the party – and within caucus if and when she wins a seat.
Mr. Sloan is not the first Conservative leadership candidate to bolt the party. Maxime Bernier founded the populist People’s Party after losing in 2017 to Andrew Scheer. The new party did dismally in the 2019 election. But maybe Mr. Sloan and Mr. Bernier could join forces, with Mr. Sloan the voice of the People’s Party in the House of Commons.
When you think about it, the two of them are made for each other.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.