Building momentum from this year’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ in opposition to COVID mandates, Ontario Party Leader Derek Sloan visited Sudbury to talk politics on Friday night.
Following a speech to approximately 50 people at Aisle Nine Gourmet Burgers & Poutine on Friday night, he reflected on the party event as being something special.
“The number of people we’ve seen today is actually unusual for political events,” he told Sudbury.com. “It’s rare to get that unless it’s a special fundraiser or something like that, so the turnout was solid. I’m impressed with the tenacity of our candidates.”
There’s some spillover from this year’s Freedom Convoy to Ottawa, he said of the protest movement earlier this year that found truckers and others opposed to vaccine mandates make their way across the country to protest at the nation’s capital.
At the time, hundreds of people cheered the convoy along as it made its way through Greater Sudbury.
There appears to be a strong base of support locally, Sloan said, adding, “I hope that they see us as a new opportunity that is different from the status-quo parties.”
Friday’s audience was also introduced to Greater Sudbury’s two Ontario Party candidates: Sudbury’s Jason LaFace and Nickel Belt’s Willy Schneider.
Schneider told Sudbury.com that his main motivator in seeking public office despite not identifying as a politician was to “bring back freedom,” which he said came under attack during the pandemic.
“We should ultimately have that right,” he said. “We shouldn’t be segregated into two different groups with respect to the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
The idea that vaccinations and mask mandates will help end the pandemic more quickly is “the Liberal narrative,” LaFace said, describing the mandates as “fascism.”
Schneider relocated to Greater Sudbury from Mississauga approximately 20 years ago to run a resort-based business, and said the pandemic drove him to pursue politics.
During his public speech, Schneider described being unable to visit his mother due to her care home’s vaccine requirements, having a vaccine “forced upon” one of his children via the threat of losing her job and another child being removed from university and losing her job due to her remaining unvaccinated and failing to obtain an exemption.
“People were getting vaccinated not because they wanted to but because they had to,” he said.
LaFace has also gone by the last names Lafaci and Lafauci. He ran a call centre for a while, worked in the music industry and is also known as a cannabis advocate. Saying he spent much of his youth homeless, Laface said he is also vocal about his concerns regarding homelessness.
In 2020, The Sudbury Star reported that LaFace had issued a Facebook threat to paint over a Black Lives Matter mural on Elgin Street, which drew the attention of the Greater Sudbury Police Service.
During his public remarks on Friday, LaFace said the things about him online are “all lies.”
“Anything you’ve seen online is not true. I’m not a racist, I’m just passionate about my city, passionate about the people who live here and I’m sick and tired of our political spectrum taking advantage of all of us.”
In conversation with Sudbury.com afterward, he acknowledged past mistakes.
“I recognize that you can’t be butting heads with everybody,” he said, adding that he has been learning a great deal during the past few months, and that helping organize the Ontario leg of the Freedom Convoy was a character-building experience.
As for criticisms and accusations against him found online?
“I don’t care, because you know what? People have a past and people do change and I give the benefit of the doubt to everyone,” he said, adding that he’d like for people to do the same with him.
During his remarks, LaFace also spoke against needle-exchange programs, which he said are “killing people” and whose “ideology is mad.”
Much of Sloan’s remarks centered around the idea of ensuring Canadians maintain their freedoms, during which he also painted a frightening image of the future on its present path.
“We are against the ongoing and encroaching surveillance state that’s being set up slowly but surely in this country that is beginning to look a lot like communist China,” he said, cautioning against things such as the creation of digital identification systems.
It’s a step toward China’s social credit system, in which certain rights and privileges can be determined based on how a resident ranks, he said – “Draconian government restrictions based on a surveillance state.”
The World Economic Forum is also of concern, he said, “which wants to merge humans with machines, they want to put microchips in… I’m not making this up folks; the leaders of these organizations are talking, actually talking about putting microchips in our bodies and in our heads.”
Fact-checking website VoxUkraine clarified the context of World Economic Forum executive chair Klaus Schwab’s comments and affirmed that he has written and talked about its potential benefits and risks.
Sloan cautioned that “it’s easier to control people when they have this kind of apparatus.”
The fear of government control underpinned much of what was expressed during the meeting, after which Sloan confirmed that “there’s certainly a strong libertarian flair to what we’re doing.”
There are a lot of “politically correct sacred cows,” he said of the current political landscape, adding that he has an issue with “indoctrination; forcing people to believe certain things.”
“We’re not against anybody, but we are concerned about bringing the hammer down or twisting someone’s arm to say whatever the virtuous thing is,” he said. “We want to just focus on giving people some freedom to chill out and kind of do their thing.”
The party also advocates for “age-appropriate education” when it comes to things such as gender identity.
Salon was previously a member of the Conservative Party of Canada caucus and was a leadership candidate in 2020. He was ousted from the caucus last year after it came to light that he’ d accepted a donation from a known white supremacist.
The Globe and Mail quoted then-Conseverative Leader Erin O’Toole at the time as saying their decision to remove him from caucus was not because of any one thing, but because of “a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents and disrespect towards the Conservative team for over a year.”
The Ontario Party isn’t the only political party opposed to COVID-related mandates, which is a cause the New Blue party has also taken up, running candidates in both Nickel Belt (Melanie Savoie) and Sudbury (Sheldon Pressey).
Sloan said they reached out to the New Blue party on several occasions to work together, but they declined. He said that the Ontario Party plan on differentiating themselves by focusing on the positives. The Ontario Party has also been around for longer, and had five candidates in the 2018 provincial election.
The Ontario Party’s slogan is “Freedom, Family and Faith,” and their full platform can be found online by clicking here.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs at Sudbury.com.