PHOTOS: Nigel Farage, leader of the extremist U.K. Independence Party, at the 2013 Manning Conference in Ottawa. That’s former Australian prime minister John Howard with his back to the camera, for what it’s worth. Below: The target picturing Alberta Premier Rachel Notley used by the Brooks Big Country Oilmen’s Association golf tournament last Friday, a day the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox in Britain on Thursday. A right-wing extremist has been charged with murder.

It appears to be dawning on the political right in Canada that open misogyny, racism and homophobia, not to mention suggestions violence is an appropriate form of political expression, aren’t going over very well with the Canadian public nowadays.

As a result, at least one conservative politician gingerly condemned the use of an image of Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley as a target for golf balls during a tournament Friday in the town of Brooks, which blew up into an embarrassing national story over the slow summer weekend just ended.

While hitting a golf ball at a picture is hardly the same thing as shooting a firearm at a human being, the assassination in the United Kingdom the day before of Jo Cox, a young Labour MP, has concentrated many people’s minds on the connections between violent rhetoric and actual violence, not to mention between casual misogyny and violence against women. A right-wing extremist has been charged with Ms. Cox’s murder.

“All of my colleagues in the Alberta Legislature deserve respect,” Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, a young man not usually known for conciliatory rhetoric, said reproachfully. “Including Premier Notley.”

The president of the Brooks Big Country Oilmen’s Association, which perpetrated the gag-inducing gag, responded to the controversy with the traditional non-apology apology: “Sorry if anyone was offended. …” Even as he defended the target as an example of free speech – “we’re still living in Canada and as far as I know, it hasn’t become a communist nation, not as of yet” – it was pretty obvious Ernest Bothi would have been just as happy if this attempt at humour had never come to public attention.

Despite the discomfort among a few politicians of the right with the widespread condemnation of the oilmen’s golf target, however, the disturbing and extremely violent chatter, frequently tinged with misogyny, racism and homophobia that is regularly associated with the extreme right wing in Alberta continues unabated on social media, usefully tracked on Twitter by an account holder called @AB_Separatists.

Lots of talk continues to be heard emanating from these quarters about shooting, lynching and beating people with whom the commenters disagree, or whose lifestyles make them uncomfortable. It is frequently accompanied by gendered slurs, open homophobia, racism and religious bigotry.

Intemperate and even violent comments are made occasionally on the left, too, of course, though hardly as routinely as in right-wing circles nowadays. But unlike small-l liberals in Canada, the Canadian right remains reluctant to deal with the problem of the normalization in their discourse of this kind of extremism, and the acceptance of people who talk this way.

They need to.

A good place to start would be by not making people who engage in this kind of rhetoric welcome in the parties of the right – especially as party officials and candidates.

We also need to hear from more politicians of the right than just Mr. Fildebrandt. It’s time for party leaders like Brian Jean of the Wildrose Opposition and Ric McIver of the Progressive Conservative Party to step up to the mike. My apologies to them if either of them have and I missed it.

Another useful response would be to stop inviting advocates of extremism to their party conferences, as the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, commonly known as Ukip, was warmly welcomed to the Manning Conference in 2013.

Even back then, well before the ugly Brexit debate that was the proximate cause of Ms. Cox’s assassination was even on the radar, Nigel Farage’s party was flirting with fascism and outright racist nationalism.

But you’d never have known it from his enthusiastic reception by participants in Preston Manning’s annual conservative clambake at the Convention Centre in downtown Ottawa that year – which, by the way, I witnessed with my own eyes.

Indeed, Mr. Farage was given rock star treatment by a veritable Who’s Who of the Canadian conservative movement (Stephen Harper excepted, perhaps to his credit) who showed up that year for the conference.

Well, that was three years ago, and maybe the “fascists, felons and fanatical fools” Mr. Farage and Ukip pal around with were not quite so apparent then as they are now – although I doubt that, frankly, when it comes to conservative movement insiders. Nevertheless, the speakers’ lineup at this year’s Manning Conference seemed considerably more benign, leaning heavily toward contenders to replace Mr. Harper in the wake of the Conservative Party’s October 2015 election debacle.

Still, and this goes to the nub of the problem – as conservatives constantly say of other large groups with extremist elements – the violent extremism apparent in social media in Alberta, in the murderous attack in Britain, and the ugly rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continue to be tolerated, even welcomed, in the heart of the conservative movement throughout the West. This is particularly true in the English-speaking world, which we once imagined was immune to this sort of contagion.

So this isn’t just about incivility any more. And speaking up about it isn’t mere “political correctness.”

It’s time for conservatives everywhere, including here in Alberta and Canada, to acknowledge and eject the extremists in their midst.

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  1. Most of the Conservatives that would reject this extremism have already, they then joined the Liberal party of Canada. All the corporatism, the TPP, NAFTA etc, and a healthy dose of police state C51 of the Conservatives with better branding and hair.

    1. Jim, you started off well. But then you quickly went downhill in your second sentence.

      The problem isn’t with the LPC. It’s with hyper-partisanship that is blinded by its own rhetoric.

      1. No Norm: so far it is business as usual with the LPC. Same trade policies as Harper, same agricultural policies, and a very little air-brushing of the C-51 police state policies of the Harper government.

        At least so far it is “Liberal, Tory, same old story.” It is early days so we can still hope the LPC will throw out the Harper policies and hangers on in the civil service, but the hour is getting late.

        1. Kang, if you think it’s business as usual with LPC, then you haven’t been paying attention.

          1. Don’t be insulting and patronizing. In agricultural policy it is truly Harper/Conservative business as usual. TPP is in process rather than in the garbage where it belongs.

            I wish it were not so.

  2. Speaking up may not be just “political correctness” but political correctness seems to be the line no one is willing to cross, except the nutbar mainstream in Conservatism.
    You can speak up till your blue in the face but Taylor Swift has it exactly right; haters are gonna hate!
    The only thing, mind you, the only thing over about 6 or 7 thousand years of recorded history that has had an effect on these mean-spirited, ignorant buffoons has been a big stick and the willingness to use it … frequently.
    That these clowns have been in charge in these here parts, as they like to say, for the last 30 years should give every progressive pause to consider just what kind of culture we live in here.

    1. Don, the right, which you represent, defines such NDP policies as a $15 minimum wage, extending health and safety laws to Alberta’s farms and imposing a carbon tax as “extremism.”

      When writers like Dave talk about extremism on the right, they are referring to people who say NDP politicians, especially women, should be shot, hanged or beaten for pressing forward with policies these trolls disagree with.

      The extremists in the midst, as you put it, exist almost exclusively on the right in Alberta. There are essentially no extremists in the Alberta NDP, no matter what you imagine, and certainly not compared to the offensive nutbars who populate the Wildrose benches.

      1. You sure exaggerate. Who said shot, hanged, beaten? That is offensive in itself. Shame on you!

      2. Well done. It is not extremism to disagree. That is democracy, and quite possibly, good thinking. The extremism of the right is not about disagreeing…it’s bullying at its crassest. These folks know how to hurl insults and threats, but not how to marshall an argument. For them, any opinion that differs from their ‘talking points’ has to be a lie or a conspiracy.

        If they took an oath never to use insult, disparaging one liners, or name calling, and kept that oath for a year, perhaps they would learn to think. But alas. They would also have to listen to other opinions, think about them, and give counter arguments that connected with their opponents world view.

        And for too long in Alberta…and other parts of Canada too…..they have not had to do that. They are the ‘heavies’ of compatitive sports. All they were trained to do was fight, maim and silence the opponents of their lords and masters.

        They are little people. Bit players in the political arena. And now, out of power, they are hurting…and so, in retaliation, they lash out. Pretty ugly at times. But informative.

      3. Lol Rocky. Alberta is no different at this point than the US. Tell me who was doing the rioting and bullying at the Donald Trump rallies in every state. Oh my…it was the left wing supporters of Bernie Sanders. And why? Because they didn’t like what was coming out of Donald Trump speeches. Don’t be naiive and pin this on the right. It’s what happens when governments try to bully it’s citizens into conforming with their ideology. Until they start governing FOR the people and respecting the wishes and opinions of ALL the voters they can expect to see an increase in radicalism, both left and right.

    2. Well speaking for myself and my daughters, I would much rather deal with Alberta NDP extremists, that right-wing extremists.

      Only one of these extremist group routinely advocate and promote physical violence against women and minorities.

      What’s the worst thing an NDP extremist is likely to push for legalizing marijuana, or God forbid organize a union at a workplace, so that your wages and benefits improve thereby enabling you to buy more weed?

      For some reason that kind of extremism doesn’t seem as scary to me and my daughters.

  3. When I heard about the Brooks Big Country Oilmen’s Association’s idea of a joke – a Rachel Notley golf target – I’m afraid the first thing that I thought of was, “Well, the golf tournament scored an awful lot of a**holes in one with that idea.” (Sorry, but I find it really hard to stay polite when I hear about idiots like that.)

    I heard Nigel Farage blatting on in a BBC news report this morning. The contrived plummy accent and the moronic views that he expresses with it were enough to make one want to punch holes in walls.

    The far right certainly have to scrape the bottom of the barrel these days to find support. Maybe they should realize that what they find down there isn’t worth the effort and is quite possibly either toxic or insane.

    Good for Mr. Fildebrant’s denunciation of the dumb golf dudes. He does represent that area, after all, and maybe sees that encouraging that type makes for a very unpleasant place to live.

  4. How about the F-bomb (formerly Chicken Cannon) segment on the Royal Canadian Air Farce? Past targets include former Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Senator Pamela Wallin.

    1. Interesting point. I would point out, however, that the Chicken Cannon was an equal opportunity offensive; they didn’t play favourites in terms of political ideology. The Big Country Oilmen’s Association (note the explicit gender reference in the name, btw) are the right gunning for the left, no question.

      1. So is it ok to shoot things at pictures of political figures, so long it’s done equally on both sides?

        I think so. I also think it’s our freedoms to offend whoever we feel like, so long as there’s no defamation.

      2. This has nothing to do with the right gunning for the left. It’s about an industry that was already down, being kicked by a Government who, make no mistake, is totally against that industry. They want the economic benefits the industry supplies but they also want their pie in the sky green environment. Politically things were bad in Alberta with the Conservatives but economically they have never been worse since the NDP came to power. They don’t control the price of oil but their policies have put a run on every oil producing company in this province and when our Premier makes jokes at the expense of this province and laughs at the turmoil it leaves in its path it becomes too much. Do you think the premiers statement calling the right wing supporters the “ANGER MACHINE” is any less offensive than the oil men’s target was? Therein lies the problem. Both sides calling the other the bully. Maybe the comment by Jim Prentice wasn’t so far off the mark. LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

  5. Another needed reminder we could use more civility in politics. I don’t know if they are smart enough to “get it”, but frat house behavior by some does not help their cause, it actually hurts it.

    Demonizing ones political opponents is not an excuse for doing or saying stupid things and being rude. The sooner those that do it figure it out (if they ever do), the better off everyone will be. If they can’t or wont figure it out, the parties they support would be wise to completely disassociate themselves from the boors and oafs as soon as possible.

  6. Well said. Even as someone could be accused as a “Ralph-hater”, I don’t think that either myself or anyone else I know would ever actually say the kinds of things that are described in this piece. Most people on my side of the fence were and are angry at the damage that was done by our former premier, but there was no genuine hatred here. Actually this incident in the UK isn’t the only one that should make decent people concerned, there are many countries where fanaticism can be dangerous. Just look at Uganda and even Israel and you will all kinds of extremism that would make you shudder. In Uganda, there has efforts to legally entrench homophobia, and in Israel, there has been a rise in right-wing racist mobs that have made Israeli President Reuven Rivilin say that his country is a “sick society”. Everyone should oppose this kind of hatred because we want the kinds of examples that I have described happen here.

  7. Hope this is not the typical NDP comment.[Elke Babiuk’s post on this topic]. Have to silence the agitators and better school students with the tools to recognize propaganda, intolerance, bigotry. Gee. Reading this I thought I was listening to Stalin. Does she think schools should accepted socialist teachings? Are the NDP any better than other political parties. Is the pot calling the kettle black? hmmmmmmmmmmmm!

  8. I think a lot of this non-sense might be dealt with if the people uttering death threats were dealt with as the law allows… uttering threats is an offense that should be taken seriously whether it’s online or in person.

  9. I think that Gsil does have a good point about the possible use of the law in this matter. The right to free speech, I don’t think, allows for someone to threaten another person. I think it is more important get at the sources of hatred. Education and direct action, among other things, can make a difference. It can stop some of the worst case scenarios discussed here.

  10. I thought that there might be a law against incitement to racial hatred or murder that could be used against them……….

    Also its interesting how ukip is presented here, I live in the uk and to me it seems that ukip isn’t extremist at all, merely the continuation of the thatcherite wing of the british tories. As a strong liberal i would not vote for them but their politik is acceptable. I am far more concerned about the BNP and the national front, not to mention britain first, which is what jo cox’s murderer shouted as he stabbed her. These elements are all too common and even basic principles of common decency, such as the principle that hitler was a mass murderer and is the pits of what it means to be human, don’t register with them. The only response can be institutional. We must apply the law as fully as we need to, and we must put plans in place to stop people from developing extremist tendencies and committing such acts of terrorism.

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