Yesterday was the first day of Parliament for 2021 and it was quite a busy day to be sure. We had the resignation of Senator Lynn Beyak, the Liberals removing Brampton MP Ramesh Sangha from their caucus, the continued fallout from the resignation of Governor General Julie Payette, the issues around production issues with Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, the Biden Administrations move to strengthen “Buy American” provisions, the House had an emergency debate on the KeystoneXL pipeline and the House unanimously agreeing to the NDP proposal that the Proud Boys should be designated a terrorist group. Yeah, that was quite a mouthful.
But while all that was happening, something else happened in the House that raised a few eyebrows among the political observers of those who saw it. It happened during the usual “Members Statements” before Question Period. It was the first SO.31 of 2021 and wow, it jumped out for sure:
Yep, there seems to be something right about the fact that the way that 2021 is going so far, that somehow Derek Sloan of all people would get the first SO.31 of the year. And I don’t mean right in a good way, but more in the sense of that’s just how this year is going. Most of what the newly defenestrated Sloan said was common rehashed, warmed over conservative talking points that we’ve all gotten used to. The attacks on the Paris Accord were straight out of the usual stuff we’re used to hearing from that side of the fence on the matter. Most of it was par for the course and mostly uneventful.
But it was the last part that really perked up people’s ears, as Sloan turned his rhetorical guns from the usual target of lefties and Justin Trudeau. He decided to take aim at Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and lay siege to him, accusing him of supporting the governments net-zero carbon legislation Bill C-12. He called on his former Conservative colleagues to join him in voting against “this attack on Canada’s natural resources”, essentially taunting them to turn on O’Toole.
This jumped out to me because this whole “Sloan getting tossed from the CPC” story isn’t exactly playing out as it normal does. Normally when an MP gets tossed from their caucus, you either seem them join another party or announce that they’ll be retiring and just slink into the background. Sloan isn’t joining any other party at this point and he surely won’t be running for the Conservatives, yet at the same time he’s continuing to fight as if this was some internal Conservative Party fight. Instead of trying to get his backers and funders to support a new political formation or party, Sloan is actively calling on his backers to stay in the Conservative Party and fight the fight there. Sloan is still trying to stack the upcoming Conservative convention to advance his far right and social conservative views, to affect the direction of a party that he’s been booted from.
Now you can add what happened yesterday in the House to this strange approach from Sloan. Instead of attacking O’Toole and his former party as a member of an opposing party would, he is going about this as someone still trying to win a leadership race, trying to get people to back him and trying to paint their current leader as a kind of faux Conservative. It’s all very strange because it’s very unclear what Sloan is trying to accomplish beyond wreaking vengeful havoc on his former leader and party. He’s not going to be running as a Conservative and isn’t giving any signs that he’s retiring and slinking away. If he’s determined to stay, he’s not jumping to another likeminded party, like Max Bernier’s PPC, which would give him the best chance of surviving (although a very weak chance).
There’s a possibility that he’s trying to effectively overthrow Erin O’Toole or run him out of the Conservative leadership. But that appears to be a totally doomed strategy given the fact that a majority of Sloan’s former caucus colleagues voted to boot his rear end out just last week. If Sloan had the support in the Conservative caucus to really challenge O’Toole’s leadership, he never would have been booted to begin with it. If he doesn’t see how futile that approach is then this guys political judgement is worse than how bad, we already thought it was.
So one of the most interesting questions circulating in political Ottawa is becoming “what in the heck is Derek Sloan trying to accomplish?” because it’s far from being clear. When you look at the political calculus at play here, there is no reason why Sloan should succeed in continue to create issues for the Conservatives, yet here he is trying to do just that. It’s hard to tell if this is anything more beyond personal animosity or petty behaviour on Sloan’s part, but I guess time will tell on all fronts. If anything, yesterdays turn of events brought another interesting potential plotline to all the talk about the next potential election and the state of our Parliament. We’ll see where this all leads to in the end but it’s pretty clear that this story is determined to not stick to the usual conventions around how these things go. Stay tuned, I guess.