Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on ParlIament Hill in Ottawa on January 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on ParlIament Hill in Ottawa on January 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

After Sloan’s ouster, other conservative factions wonder what’s next for them

Firearms advocates are concerned about what the move means for them

A decision by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole to boot an MP from his caucus has factions of the conservative movement in Canada wondering about their own futures in the party.

Among them: some firearms advocates, who say they’re concerned about what the move may signal for their members who backed O’Toole in last year’s leadership race in part on promises to advocate for their cause.

Ontario MP Derek Sloan was removed last week for what O’Toole called a “pattern of destructive behaviour” that was undermining the team.

In his short time as a socially conservative MP and party leadership candidate, Sloan’s extreme views have created controversy and O’Toole said the last straw was Sloan’s accepting a donation from a known white nationalist.

But the decision to kick him out was seen by some of his supporters as primarily a response to Sloan’s efforts to influence the Conservatives’ March policy convention via motions that could in turn challenge O’Toole’s efforts to expand the party’s appeal.

In an interview last week with The Canadian Press, O’Toole denied his move was directly in response to social conservatives’ trying to be the dominant force at the convention.

While he led the move to expel Sloan, O’Toole said, ultimately it was a decision Conservative MPs had to make and vote on themselves.

Many, including some who would identify as socially conservative themselves, had expressed frustration since last year’s leadership race that Sloan’s views on LGBTQ rights and other issues would cost the party support in a general election.

If social conservatives are considered the best-organized faction of the party, the firearms community, colloquially known in party circles as “the gunnies,” come in a close second.

Charles Zach, the executive director of the National Firearms Association, said he had no specific comment on Sloan’s situation.

But he said O’Toole’s move does raise concerns: if he was willing to sideline Sloan, what about the gunnies?

“If that’s the way that the next election campaign is going to be run by the CPC, yeah, we’re worried that our expectations are not going to be on the radar,” he said.

“And where does that leave us?”

Just as O’Toole courted social-conservative voters during the leadership race, so too did he solicit the support of firearms advocates.

In doing so, he leveraged his time in the military, and a personal connection — his campaign manager was Fred DeLorey, who for a time was a lobbyist for the National Firearms Association. DeLorey is now in charge of running the party’s next general election campaign.

O’Toole’s effort to woo firearms advocates in Quebec was credited with helping him land the victory, as party members in that province hold enormous sway in the points-based voting system the Conservative party uses.

The national gun debate is generally seen as pitting the concerns of hunters and farmers in rural regions, who see firearms as an essential part of their lives, against urban dwellers who only think of guns in the context of crime.

The Conservatives need those urban voters to form a majority, and whether O’Toole can fashion a firearms policy that doesn’t scare them while appeasing the base could be a challenge, Zach suggested.

But the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights says O’Toole is an experienced, thoughtful leader the group supports.

“We aren’t concerned about Erin O’Toole changing his stance on the firearms file to something more ‘moderate’ because it’s moderate to begin with,” she said in an email.

O’Toole’s promises during the leadership race would largely take the gun debate in Canada back to where it was under the last Conservative government, Zach said.

Some don’t see that as fixing the issues at hand, which is a regulatory regime that criminalizes gun owners and does nothing to stop gun crime, he said.

READ MORE: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

His association is making its own effort to organize for the convention to get explicit language and policies on gun rights into the party’s official party documents.

The crossover between the firearm association’s membership and that of the party’s has never been stronger thanks to the recent leadership race, and now is the time to flex that muscle, the association said in a recent letter to members.

“The policy provides party direction and helps guard against dubious socially liberal forces working within the party to maintain stricter Canadian gun controls,” the letter said.

What Sloan, and the National Firearms Association, are trying to do is twofold: first, get enough riding associations to support their ideas so they’ll be selected to be put to votes, and then ensure they have enough delegates to win those votes.

In a meeting with his supporters on Monday night, Sloan said told them the goal of their efforts should be to “stick it” to O’Toole.

If there are enough social conservative resolutions passed at the convention, O’Toole will be in trouble, he said.

“He either has to come out and say ‘I don’t care what my members said, I’m not doing it anyways,’ which makes him look awful,” Sloan said.

“Or, he has to do an about-face and say, ‘Well, I guess I should be listening to my membership more.’ I mean, no matter what happens, he comes out of it looking bad.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a letter to Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair and president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee Jan. 28, Delta Mayor George Harvie pitched the City of Delta become the lease holder of the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care building after it is vacated by the Delta Hospice Society. (The Canadian Press photo)
Delta Hospice Society must vacate premises by March 29: Fraser Health

The health authority served the society a notice of breach of lease on Feb. 25

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Alex Browne photo The felling of two mature Douglas Fir ‘eagle trees’ on Oxford Street, just south of Prospect Avenue, in June of 2019, prompted a review of tree management bylaws and policies now before White Rock council. The trees were felled on instructions from City of White Rock staff, who said the work was necessary because they had become hazardous. (File photo)
City of White Rock mulls ‘tree protection’ bylaw

More stringent measures needed to protect canopy – councillor

teeaser
Surrey TEDx talks move online with ‘fast-paced’ event that’s free to watch March 27

Last year’s TEDxBearCreekPark attracted 900 spectators to Bell theatre

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read