On the charge of knowingly accepting a donation from a neo-Nazi, Conservative MP Derek Sloan has offered a reasonable case that he’s not culpable. On the charge of being a stinking albatross around the neck of his party, he is about to be found guilty, guilty, guilty.
Party Leader Erin O’Toole has started the process of booting Mr. Sloan from his caucus after it was reported that his 2020 leadership campaign accepted a $131 donation from well-known white supremacist Paul Fromm – although Mr. Sloan insists he didn’t know Mr. Fromm from Adam and asked for the donation to be returned.
There’s no need to feel sympathy for Mr. Sloan, who has said and done enough that he should be cast out of any party.
But let’s not pretend that Mr. O’Toole has suddenly discovered damning evidence that Mr. Sloan has just now gone too far.
This was something else: Mr. O’Toole realizing that Mr. Sloan’s continued association with the Conservative Party of Canada was just too damaging to endure. Especially right now, when a burst of backlash against Trumpism makes Conservative Party tolerance of Mr. Sloan’s behaviour an Achilles heel.
Mr. O’Toole not only opposed Mr. Sloan’s expulsion from caucus last year, before he became party leader, he bragged about it to help him win the leadership. But then that leadership-campaign version of Mr. O’Toole as a rock-ribbed right-winger was a makeover, too.
The Conservative leader has shown that he’s willing to shrug off a little hypocrisy to do what has to be done. He clearly accepts this kind of political bargain as the discipline of seeking power.
Accepting a donation from a well-known white supremacist is certainly bad news for the party. It’s no wonder that when it was made public by Press Progress, a website created by the Broadbent Institute, a left-leaning think tank with extensive links to New Democrats, Mr. O’Toole decided he had to limit the damage – fast.
But Mr. Sloan’s defence – that he didn’t know Mr. Fromm was a white supremacist – would certainly have been accepted if it was proffered by a valuable Conservative MP like, say, deputy leader Candice Bergen.
Readers can believe or doubt Mr. Sloan as they choose, but it is plausible to think that although Mr. Fromm is a well-known white supremacist, his name is not so well-known that it would be immediately recognized on a donors list. Certainly the Conservative Party, which actually processes donations to leadership candidates, didn’t notice over many months. Neither, mea culpa, did journalists.
No, Mr. Sloan had to be let go because the climate now made it impossible to accept what he had done before. And he had done enough.
Although the Conservative Party has trouble bridging social conservatives and social liberals, it wasn’t being a social conservative that made him a liability. He isn’t the only abortion opponent in the party. His anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and its tone of prejudice, was another matter, and so were the comments that really did sound like Trumpism.
He had accused Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, a Chinese-Canadian, of being loyal to China rather than Canada. (He said he never thought that would have racist connotations.) He has floated whackadoodle conspiracy theories such as one that claims the government wants people to wear masks to control them rather than to prevent the spread of disease.
But again, Mr. O’Toole stuck with him through that and through his leadership campaign. The O’Toole campaign even ran a Facebook ad, dug up and posted on Twitter Monday by Global News reporter David Akin, in which Mr. O’Toole says that his then-rival, Peter MacKay, once referred to former leader Andrew Scheer’s social conservatism as a “stinking albatross” around the party’s neck. Mr. O’Toole then brags that he voted against kicking Mr. Sloan out of caucus. He knew he needed Mr. Sloan’s supporters to win. Now he knows he needs to get rid of Mr. Sloan to win.
Parties do have the right to expel members they believe are anathema to their values; it is one way they define themselves. Mr. O’Toole should draw lines, and no one should complain that Mr. Sloan is on the other side. But Mr. O’Toole let Mr. Sloan stay until he felt him hanging like an albatross around his neck.
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