Rookie MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington Derek Sloan has announced he will be running in the leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada.
Sloan was first elected to federal Parliament in October 2019 and had no political experience prior to the election. Nevertheless, according to a news release sent out on Wednesday, he has been “actively involved in the Conservative Party both as a student at Queen’s University and in the local riding.”
The young MP, who is only 35 years old, was born in Waterford, Ont. He attended the Kingston, Ont., university (Queen’s) and worked as a lawyer, business owner and entrepreneur prior to his time on the Hill. He now lives with his wife Jennifer and their three young children — Nora, 3, Callum, 4, and Fiona, 6 — in Belleville’s countryside.
During the 2019 federal election, Sloan took the riding from Liberal incumbent Mike Bossio by more than 2,000 votes. Bossio himself served just one term, barely eking out a win and taking the riding away from longtime Conservative MP Darryl Kramp in 2015. (Kramp now serves as the Progressive Conservative MPP for the riding.)
In a news release, Sloan said he decided to run because he’s concerned the Conservative Party is not living up to its full potential.
“I feel the party focuses strictly on economic issues, which are very valid, but we need to go above and beyond. We need to be the dominant political force in this country,” Sloan said in a statement.
The newly minted MP believes the party should be focusing more on affordable housing and poverty and should be pushing for Canada to have a “tougher” image on the international stage.
All in all, Sloan believes that Conservatives have been too shy about being truly conservative.
“We need to really differentiate ourselves ideologically. And I feel like in this last election, largely we were saying we’re exactly the same as the Liberals,” Sloan said.
“We need to have bold ideas that go above and beyond what other people are doing and we can.”
Sloan said he’ll be releasing a full list of his “bold, big, issues” in the coming days.
Andrew Scheer, who currently leads the party, announced in December that he would step down once the party picks a new leader in a vote scheduled for June 27.
Campaign Life Coalition, a national anti-abortion lobbying organization, gave Sloan a “green light” after having him fill out a questionnaire about his views on abortion and euthanasia. He answered each question “perfectly,” according to the website, including “no” to one question that read: “Are there any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion?”
The website did, however, qualify that medical procedures to save the life of a mother, or in cases of ectopic pregnancy, were not considered abortions in the coalition’s eyes.
Jack Fonseca, a project leader with Campaign Life Coalition, believes Scheer was too “wishy-washy” on abortion, and lost votes on both sides for saying he wouldn’t take any action on abortion.
Fonseca said Scheer seemed to be “betraying his religious beliefs,” which meant many social conservatives simply “stayed home” during the election.
Sloan confirmed that he had, indeed, answered the Campaign Life Coalition questionnaire, and when asked if he was wary of standing by anti-abortion policies, considering some believe Scheer’s stance on abortion may have cost him votes that led to his loss to Justin Trudeau, Sloan seemed unfazed.
“The lesson I took from Andrew Scheer is avoiding the issue is impossible,” Sloan told Global News. “You can’t just say that abortion won’t be an issue. Things can and will be brought forward. So I say bring on the discussion, bring on the debate, bring on the votes.”
The MP pointed to other countries in Europe and the United States, who he said all have legislative discussions about abortion as examples Canada should follow.
“It’s unusual that we’ve been afraid to talk about it when nobody else is afraid to talk about it,” Sloan said.
Sloan will be running against at least one high-profile candidate, Peter MacKay, who announced last week over Twitter that he was in the race. He will also have to pay a non-refundable $200,000 entry fee and get 3,000 party signatures by March 25 to be approved.
He wants his party to be “Conservative in every traditional sense, including those that many candidates do not have a plan for.”
In his short time as MP, Sloan has spoken in Parliament about the flooding issues in his riding, asking for a review of the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014, which some in eastern Ontario blame for high water levels that hit the region in 2017 and 2019.
He also serves as deputy justice critic for the official Opposition.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and David Akin and the Canadian Press