By Jonathon Van Maren
I’ll bet there’s a lot of chortling going on in the Prime Minster’s Office right now over Erin O’Toole’s latest Wile E. Coyote move. On January 17, O’Toole released a lengthy statement repudiating racism and promising that the Conservative Party is very, very inclusive. He reiterated that he is pro-choice, too, in case anyone was wondering and as if that had anything to do with it. The statement was widely seen as a bid to distance the party from the GOP after the Capitol Hill Riot, which is apparently necessary because as we know, the Conservative Party heavyweights are absolutely determined to spend their time reacting to Liberal mischaracterizations rather than articulating an alternative vision that attracts voters.
But the open letter wasn’t enough. O’Toole apparently wanted to prove that he was really not racist, in case anyone besides Trudeau’s oppo shop actually thinks he is. And so the Conservative Party appears to have set up Derek Sloan, a leadership race runner-up and consistent target of progressive ire, as the fall guy. The day after O’Toole’s letter explaining why the Conservative Party basically has a COEXIST sticker on the bumper, left-wing smear machine Press Progress released a story indicating that Derek Sloan had “accepted” a donation of $131 from Paul Fromm, who is apparently a neo-Nazi. Of course, Sloan received over 13,000 donations, and obviously had no idea who Fromm was and certainly didn’t accept the money himself due to Nazi sympathies. Nonetheless, O’Toole told Press Progress he was “outraged,” which is obviously untrue unless O’Toole actually thinks that Sloan intentionally accepted money from a neo-Nazi, in which case he should come out and say that.
In fact, it is more likely that O’Toole was thrilled. What a coincidence that the very day after his not-racist letter, the perfect way for him to prove he was not racist presented itself—and allowed him to get rid of a pesky former rival, to boot! He promptly announced that he would be initiating proceedings to boot Sloan from caucus. Sloan promptly pointed out Fromm had donated under the name Fredrick Fromm; that he’d called for the donation to be returned immediately after discovering Fromm’s associations; that the Conservative Party had accepted and processed the donation and taken a 10% cut; and that, in short, O’Toole was attempting to hold Sloan to a standard that the party itself had not held. Presumably O’Toole spent months memorizing long lists of obscure racist crackpots and their aliases to ensure his campaign was as pure as the wind-driven snow—I used to work on campaigns combatting anti-Semitism, and I wouldn’t have recognized the name “Frederick Fromm.”
What this looks like is an incredibly clumsy attempt by O’Toole to prove that he’s not racist while offloading an irritating backbencher at the same time after spending his campaign babbling on about being “True Blue” and his opposition to cancel culture. A number of Conservative MPs are already saying that it looks like the leak to Press Progress came from the Conservative Party. O’Toole and the luminaries assisting him on this botched hitjob appear to be ready to set a new standard that will screw Conservative MPs at every turn: if people are accountable for being familiar with every scummy and vile person in Canada to ensure that they never accept donations from these people—rather than simply expressing their contempt by returning these donations when made aware—then you can bet that Trudeau’s oppo shop is busy combing the records with a fine tooth comb, stockpiling ammunition to ensure that O’Toole spends the impending election either a) firing people under the new Sloan standard or b) explaining why he won’t and proving to everyone that the Sloan firing was a hatchet job or that he’s the leader of a racist party.
To sum up, instead of the glorious one-two punch of his not-racist letter followed by punting Derek Sloan over ginned-up accusations of racist associations, Erin O’Toole is facing pushback from caucus members and from Sloan himself, who unsurprisingly doesn’t care to see himself characterized as a Nazi. Instead of the affirming headlines he appears to have envisioned, O’Toole can look forward to gleeful and deceitful press stories about how the Conservative Party is divided over kicking out a Nazi while Justin Trudeau giggles in the corner while going through his blackface photo album that he got away with because he was only thirty when he did it (just a kid, really.) This appears to be a mess entirely of O’Toole’s own making, based once again on the presumption that Conservative leaders can alienate their own base (in this case, Sloan’s supporters, sympathizers, and party members who don’t care for this sort of backstabbing) and thus achieve the acclaim of the progressive media and approving nods from their Liberal colleagues. Instead, of course, this all blew up in his face.
To think we could have had Dr. Leslyn Lewis as leader.