Calgary

Independent MP, ousted by Tories over donation from white nationalist, leaves Ontario to run in Alberta

Independent candidate Derek Sloan, who was booted from the federal Conservative caucus after a known white nationalist donated to his campaign, says he's trading the Ontario riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington for an electoral district in southern Alberta.

Derek Sloan, who unsuccessfully ran for Conservative leadership, now to run in Banff-Airdrie

Ousted Conservative MP in Ontario moves to run as an Independent in Alberta

3 months ago
1:30
Derek Sloan, who was booted from the Conservative party caucus, is running as an Independent candidate in the southern Alberta riding of Banff-Airdrie. 1:30

Independent MP Derek Sloan, who was booted from the federal Conservative caucus after a known white nationalist donated to his campaign, says he's trading the southeastern Ontario riding he currently represents to run in the Alberta riding of Banff-Airdrie.

"This is going to be a barometer of the status of freedom," Sloan said during an event held in Cochrane, Alta., on Thursday evening.

Sloan, who was elected MP for the Ontario riding of Hastings–Lennox and Addington in 2019, was a former candidate for the Conservative Party leadership before being knocked out in the first ballot. 

In January, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole pushed for the ouster of Sloan from caucus after news dropped that Paul Fromm, a white nationalist, donated $131 to the MP's leadership campaign.

"Derek Sloan's acceptance of a donation from a well-known white supremacist is far worse than a gross error of judgment or failure of due diligence," O'Toole said in a statement at the time.

Sloan responded, saying his team couldn't vet every donation that came in for his leadership campaign.

It was not the only controversy Sloan weathered while representing the Conservatives.

Some Tory MPs reportedly pushed for Sloan's ouster after he publicly questioned whether Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam — who was born in Hong Kong — was working for China.

Ultimately, a backbencher put forward a motion calling on him to retract his comments. Sloan insisted that his question had been "rhetorical."

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Sloan also has attracted controversy for his claim that the cause of sexual orientation is "scientifically unclear" and for saying that the Liberal government's legislation to ban conversion therapy — the discredited practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation with counselling — was tantamount to legalized "child abuse."

'God bless both parties'

Now Sloan, who has expressed plans to eventually start his own political party, will attempt to contest the Banff-Airdrie riding that is currently held by four-term Conservative MP Blake Richards.

Sloan said he wouldn't be contesting the riding under the banner of the western separatist Maverick Party or under Maxime Bernier's People's Party of Canada, instead running as an Independent.

"God bless both of those parties. But let us have this slice of the pie, because we've done our homework," Sloan said. "It's going to be Blake or me. The NDP or Liberals cannot win. There's no way. There's no way."

Sloan was introduced at the event by three former Reform Party MPs: Rob Anders, Art Hanger and Eric Lowther.

Historically, Independent MPs have had difficulties seeking re-election after leaving or being booted from party caucuses. Since 1974, only five MPs have been re-elected in that circumstance.

Political scientists skeptical on Sloan's chances

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said it was likely Sloan was targeting rural Alberta with the assumption it runs more conservative than any other part of the country.

"But he's still got that problem, about running as an Independent in a riding that he's visiting," Bratt said. "There's nothing legal against it, but are voters going to care?

"It's very difficult to win as a marginal party or as an Independent at the best of times."

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Doreen Barrie, an adjunct assistant professor of political science at the University of Calgary, said many hold the view that Alberta is a hotbed for libertarian, hard-right views — a view she called inaccurate.

"I think his chances would [be] slim to none. [He] might attract some votes, but there's a very small market for these ideas in Alberta," Barrie said.

"I noticed he's using this Trumpian vocabulary. That's intended to attract these kinds of voters, but I don't think this is going to be successful."

Barrie was referring to Sloan's use of the slogan "Make Alberta Great Again" in an initial campaign email.

At Thursday's event, Sloan also criticized O'Toole's response to Conservative MP David Yurdiga, who represents Fort McMurray, Alta. and called mandatory vaccines "tyrannical."

"This is not the hallmark of a conservative party," Sloan said. "In fact, it's clear that all the legacy parties are corrupt."

Alberta has long been a stronghold for the Conservative Party in federal elections. All but one of Alberta's 34 electoral districts were won by the Conservatives in 2019.

Aside from the Conservative Party, Sloan will also face competitors in Banff-Airdrie that may share similar perspectives. The Maverick Party plans to run Tariq Elnaga in the district, while the People's Party of Canada will run Nadine Wellwood.

Liberal David Gamble is also running.

Bratt said there were a "growing number of hardcore conservatives" who are upset with O'Toole and the Conservative Party — but spreading those voters across three candidates might prove difficult.

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Sloan's higher profile and endorsement from three Reform MPs might prove advantageous, Bratt said, but added that Richards still likely stood the best chance of winning.

Richards took 71 per cent of the vote in the Banff-Airdrie district in 2019. His closest rival, Liberal candidate Gwyneth Midgley, trailed in second with nearly 11 per cent of the vote.

Despite the emergence of the Maverick Party, pundits said the potential of any major shakeup for the Conservatives in Alberta is unlikely.

With files from Ryan Patrick Jones

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