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

A cube van and a sedan collided at Duncan and Government Wednesday morning. (Brennan Phillips)
Crash snarls traffic at Government and Duncan Wednesday morning

A cube van and sedan crashed in the intersection around 9 a.m.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The Naramata Slow Society is reviving the Naramata Community Market which will launch in June. (Submitted photo)
Naramata Community Market is coming back

The market will be every Wednesday from June to September

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

This year’s Pink Shirt Day event will be held virtually with the Breakfast in a Box. (Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs photo)
Pink Shirt Day 2021 kicks off with virtual event

“When you’re functioning from a place of kindness, there’s no way that bullying can exist.”

COVID-19 testing at the Vernon Health Services Unit. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Two Vernon high schools exposed to COVID-19

Vernon Secondary and Seaton were sent home notices yesterday of exposure event

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Summerland has received conditional approval for $6 million in federal funding to build a one-megawatt solar array to provide power to the community. (Stock photo)
Summerland council reaffirms solar project in 4-3 vote

Coun. Richard Barkwill had earlier written letters in opposition to initiative

Lake Country residents are warned about another rock slide on Pelmewash Parkway, Feb. 23, 2021. (Melanie Marie photo)
Rockslide on old Okanagan highway

Pelmewash Parkway once again littered with debris

Wade Dyck with Luna, a dog who went missing near the Chasm for 17 days following a rollover on Feb. 5. (Photo submitted).
Dog missing for 17 days through cold snap reunited with owner in northern B.C.

Family ecstatic to have the Pyrenees-Shepherd cross back home.

Most Read