Little was known about Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Derek Sloan before he threw his hat in the ring to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
A lot of that mystery was removed during the drawn out eight-month campaign that wrapped up on Sunday with him finishing a distance fourth.
At times during the race he seemed just as likely to get kicked out of the party than he did to actually finish the race still on the ballot. Running on a Conservative Without Apology slogan, Sloan drew the ire of many within his own party-not to mention a large portion of the country he was hypothetically hoping to one day lead-when he questioned Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s loyalty to Canada. While he never did formally apologize, the rest of the Conservatives didn’t press the issue much beyond their imposed deadline calling for him to issue one. Perhaps it was rather telling that no sitting Conservative MP or MPP was willing to throw their name behind him in the form of an endorsement. On more than one occasion outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer claimed Sloan doesn’t speak for the party.
Other notable moments of Sloan’s campaign included advocating keeping conversion therapy legal and stating he was against mandatory masks, calling them a form of ‘political control.’
His stance on masks was actually a complete flip-flop of the view he held on April 7, when he tweeted ‘Masks work. Let’s protect each other. #Masks4All.’ Included in the tweet he shared a video that proclaimed masks as essential for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Instead of taking the opportunity to boast he was ahead of the curve with calling for mandatory masks, Sloan chose to ignore science and potentially put others at risk by advocating to make masks optional.
If nothing else, Sloan’s bid to become the leader of the official opposition gave residents of his riding a chance learn more about their MP. Sloan unveiled more of his social conservative leanings during his bid for leadership of the party than he did when campaigning for his seat. The vast majority of his time as representative of this riding has been dedicated to his leadership bid-he took office in October and by the end of January he had declared his intention to seek the leadership. COVID-19 forced cancellation of the original leadership convention in June and caused the election to drag on until August.
Hastings County Warden Rick Phillips made his feelings known about Sloan in April, signing a letter calling for Sloan’s removal after the MP’s accusations directed toward Tam.
O’Toole’s victory could be a saving grace for Sloan, as the newly elected leader kept quiet about his opponent while others in the party were more willing to speak out against him. Runner-up Peter MacKay in particular made it known he felt Sloan was out of line when calling for the return of gay conversion therapy. Whether Sloan’s campaign platform lost him votes within the riding remains to be seen, though it may not take too long to find out. Rumblings of a snap fall election are already gaining traction.