Conservative MPs today voted to expel Derek Sloan from caucus after the eastern Ontario MP accepted a donation from a notorious white nationalist.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole initiated the ouster earlier this week after news emerged that Paul Fromm — whose ties to white supremacist and neo-Nazi causes have long been documented — had contributed $131 to Sloan’s leadership campaign.
Sloan fought against the vote, saying he was unaware of the source of the donation because Fromm used his full name, Frederick P. Fromm.
Conservatives voted by secret ballot today, with the majority of MPs voting to remove Sloan from their benches.
In a statement issued this afternoon, O’Toole called the donation the “last straw.”
“The Conservative caucus voted to remove Derek Sloan not 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,” he said.
“These actions have been a consistent distraction from our efforts to grow the party and focus on the work we need to do. Events of the past week were simply the last straw and led to our caucus making the decision it did today.”
News of Fromm’s contribution was first reported by PressProgress, a non-profit news website funded by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute.
Sloan, who was elected in 2019 to represent the riding of Hastings—Lennox and Addington, argued his team couldn’t vet every donation to his leadership campaign last year.
He also accused O’Toole of hypocrisy, pointing out that Fromm was accepted as a member of the party and voted in its 2020 leadership election without raising any red flags with party officials.
In a statement to CBC News earlier this week, Conservative Party director of communications Cory Hann said it was Sloan’s campaign that sold the party membership to Fromm. He said the party would be revoking Fromm’s membership and returning the funds.
Controversial player in party
Sloan pushed back on that argument, saying new members who signed up for memberships through a leadership campaign website like his were directed to the party’s main website.
Fromm, who founded the Canadian Association for Free Expression and Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform, has appeared at far-right protests, has spoken regularly on the white nationalist radio show Stormfront and is the subject of a Hamilton police investigation into claims that he shared the New Zealand mosque shooter’s manifesto on his organization’s website.
Sloan has been a polarizing figure in Canadian politics, generating controversy with his socially conservative views on LGBTQ rights. He alarmed members of his own party in April when he posted a message and video on Facebook and Twitter claiming Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam had “failed Canadians” during the pandemic and asking if she works “for Canada or for China.”
Today’s move marks a shift in position for O’Toole. During the leadership race, he took out a Facebook ad to defend Sloan’s place in the party.
But in recent days, O’Toole has said he wants to build a more inclusive Conservative Party.
Just hours before the donation news broke, he released a lengthy statement saying there is “no place for the far right” in the party and pushing back at Liberal attempts to link his party to Trump-style politics.
In a Facebook post this afternoon, Sloan — who will now sit in the house as an independent — urged his supporters to keep their party memberships and delegation spots ahead of the Conservative policy convention planned for March.
“The CPC belongs to you, the grassroots of the party. I encourage you to use your voice, to stand up, and represent true conservative values with this convention,” he wrote.
‘They will regret this’
In a subsequent Facebook video, Sloan used even more forceful language and took aim at O’Toole and the Conservative Party. He compared his situation to that of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott — two former Liberal cabinet ministers who were removed from that caucus after breaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“It shows an absolute cowardice, an absolute failure to address the real issues that animates much of our base,” Sloan said.
“This was the worst mistake they ever made and they will regret this. I’m positive of it.”
O’Toole stressed in his own statement that he did not vote to expel Sloan because he’s a social conservative.
“We have members of Parliament of deep compassion and unmatched character, who like many Canadians, draw strength from their faith,” he said.
“The Conservative Party is a big tent that is reflective of all Canadians. People of all backgrounds have a place in our party.”