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

Regenerative farming that meets genuine needs should take priority over commercial recklessness, says columnist. (Stock photo)
Column: Hubris, greed causing humans to live destructively

Placing the economy as the top priority is licence to destroy natural systems, says columnist

Kyle Patrick McGuire was give a nine-month non-custodial sentencing to be followed by two years of probation on Wednesday, March 3, at the Nanaimo Law Courts. (PQB News file photo)
Bowser man sentenced to house arrest after guilty plea to child pornography offence

Nine-month non-custodial sentence to be followed by two years probation

A concept for development of the Green Thumb property in north Nanaimo. (Barefoot Planning and Design image)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Develop land with care and thought

It’s getting to the point that you can’t go a block without seeing more apartments, says letter writer

Nanaimo Community Archives is looking for submissions from homeowners who took on exterior renovation projects, no matter how big or how small, for the first Heritage House Renovations Awards. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo archives holding first Heritage House Renovation Awards

Judges want photos and descriptions of exterior renovations that enhanced character of Nanaimo homes

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Justice system is failing us

Crime rampant, police overworked, businesses targeted, citizens unsafe, says letter writer

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A rendering of Front Street transportation improvements set to get underway as soon as next week. (McElhanney image/City of Nanaimo)
Work set to start on Front Street cycle track in downtown Nanaimo

Road work and street reconfiguration project scheduled to start in March, finish in May

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo motion seeks to ask province for help to combat illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read