PHOTOS: Part of the uninspiring, sometimes troubling, field of Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates. Their names? Frankly, it’s too much work to note them all down (CBC photo). Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former prime minister Stephen Harper (CBC).

Is a disengaged and demoralized national conservative movement venting its frustration with the continuing popularity and generally progressive tone of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government by focusing their anger on Alberta’s NDP premier?

To ask this question another way, is there a substantial national component to the growing epidemic of violent – and often misogynistic and heavily sexualized – threats against Premier Rachel Notley and other prominent women in her cabinet and caucus?

Lots of theories have been advanced to try to explain the rising tide of threats against politicians in this province, and in particular against New Democrats who are women.

It’s reasonable to assume that to one degree or another they may all be influencing the problem highlighted by the release of Alberta Justice Department statistics last week that showed Premier Notley is in fact the most frequently threatened premier in Alberta history.

These include, as discussed in this space last week, the following:

  • The contribution of social media to abusive political discourse by offering both anonymity and an accessible platform to extremists
  • The creation of online alt-right outlets devoted to promoting hatred and extremism, which offer a daily bulletin of targets to their readers
  • The tolerance for this kind of behaviour among mainstream media commentators and conservative politicians
  • The recent success of President Donald Trump’s election campaign in the United States
  • Misogynistic attitudes in our society that are deeply embedded in our culture

But I’ve never seen it said anywhere in print that much of this vile and threatening commentary may be originating elsewhere in Canada from those people who are increasingly known in progressive Twitter-speak as RWNJs – that is to say, “right-wing nut jobs.”

Think about this, though. With enough nuts and flakes for a breakfast cereal recipe among the unappealing crop of candidates to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, what else is the perpetually angry brigade of RWNJs to focus on?

In other words, is it possible Ms. Notley and her cabinet’s members are the unlucky recipients of abuse from a whole country’s worth of perpetually disaffected right-wing extremists?

After all, if the Internet and social media do anything well, it’s allowing people to communicate anonymously in “real time” at any hour of the night or day from any place on the globe.

We’re talking about people who were perpetually angry with Prime Minister Trudeau back in the day for – when you get right down to it – successfully challenging Mr. Harper. This expressed itself as fury at nonessentials like the prime minister’s hair – which, every reasonable observer must admit, is much nicer than that of the previous PM, which looked, as the irreplaceable Heather Mallick once put it in her Toronto Star column, like “a living pulsing thing that would halve, leap on you and clap both sides of your head if you poked it.”

This group is still very angry with Mr. Trudeau, of course, for daring to defeat their leader in a fair electoral fight, but their fury on that front has dissipated somewhat because of several factors. The biggest, of course, is that Mr. Harper’s not around as an alternative. There is also the general sense that those who want to replace him aren’t up to much, and the fact the CPC leadership race has several extremist candidates who for now are able to pander to the worst instincts of this group.

So, at least until a new CPC leader is chosen, a whole nation’s worth of far-right wing-nuts (FRWNs?) can’t really work themselves into their usual lather about federal politics.

So where do they focus in the mean time?

Well, if there’s anything to this theory, for a lot of them, the focus has become Ms. Notley and Alberta.

If Canada’s FRWNs have been paying attention, they’ll have picked up that their hero, Mr. Harper, and his loyal lieutenant, Jason Kenney, are concentrating on Alberta as the most likely beachhead for their national counter-revolution.

And members of this group desperately need to be enraged at someone – because unhealthy rage is one of the distinguishing characteristics of this segment of the populace, and indeed how such people frequently define themselves. (I’m mad as hell, yadda-yadda.)

So, what better target than an intelligent and articulate woman, the leader of a moderate centrist political movement that is, moreover, the only NDP government in the country. A politician who, once again, is challenging not just their extremist views, but their beloved, semi-retired Maximo Lider?

Now, look … this is just long-weekend speculation based on anecdotal observations. I can’t provide statistics to prove a larger-than-expected number of threatening or abusive communications are being sent to Alberta NDP politicians from outside Alberta. Or, for that matter, to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne from outside Ontario. But some of them most certainly are.

So the question, surely, is worth asking by people who have access to the data.

Alberta Justice should at least look to see how much of this garbage is originating outside Alberta’s borders. I’ll bet the answer will be a surprise – perhaps even enough of one to derail the narrative that this is just Albertans frustrated with the faults of the NDP “letting off steam,” as the Usual Suspects in right-wing media would like us to believe.

Obviously, not all such commentators are non-Albertans. I know people right in my own community who regularly say deplorable things about both Ms. Notley and Ms. Wynne on social media.

But even without verifiable statistics, it will be worth watching what happens once the interminable CPC leadership race is finally over. The tone here in Alberta may well improve.

After all, if one of the CPC’s several Donald Trump clones is chosen as leader, Canada’s loony right fringe will likely return to concentrating its rage on Mr. Trudeau’s government in Ottawa.

And if someone who does not meet their exacting standards of bigotry and rudeness is chosen – Michael Chong perhaps – they may turn their fury on their own party.

Either way, the tone of public discourse in Alberta cannot help but improve!

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  1. These trolls, is one way to describe them, only push more people away. Away from anything they resemble. Nobody wants to be associated with what they represent. It’s disgusting. So, good job there, trolls. Keep posting dumb threats and other garbage. Way to represent. Way to give more votes to the people you threaten. Was that your plan or are you just slow to figure that out?

    1. You are Correct ! RWNJ’s are not helping their cause. I remember the ‘ Justin will send them winter parka’s’ as being one of the first RWNJ’s smears. Reference to relief during the Syrian Winter.

      I will wait until 6pm to vote on Election Day. 3 Flippant Remarks and a few Clown Trucks belching Black Smoke during that day and I will Vote NDP again !

  2. Well there is that outfit in Toronto which seems to attract these type of comments. Which seems odd usually the angry ones come out here, we don’t tend to send them the other way.

  3. Defeat is difficult but the effects are magnified when the victor is female, and successfully coping, or in the case of Justin they said he was too young, too inexperienced, too good looking with nice hair but he won and they were wrong. Being defeated and being wrong has exposed the real dangers among us the bigots, the ill informed and the easily led. They are easier to educate when they do not have power than when they do. Excellent article David really got the brain in gear on this holiday Monday. Have a good one.

  4. Totally relevent to this article, my Facebook page has been polluted by an outfit that titles itself ” Canadian Patriots”. Its content is vile, racist and rancid. The articles attack, in the meanest way, Mr. Trudeau, refugees and indeed, anyone not white, born in this country and not of the far right persuasion. I have spent hours trying to block their postings but I just don’t seem to have the icons that Facebook suggests are needed for that purpose. Has anyone else been plagued by this filth? Were you able to block out their posts and, if so, how?

  5. i don’t really got what is your point in this article.
    that ms.Notley have been bullied in media and on social networks?
    but it’s hardly the news. this is going for years and in some cases even led to lethal outcomes.
    it is attempt from you to make readers to feel sorrow for her?
    well, some perhaps will but i don’t see any reason for. she’s so far handles this well, didn’t involved in any ways into those stupid polemics and ignoring those morons.
    those who has brain, will appreciate, who hasn’t – most likely nothing can change them. so, no big deal.
    dogs bark but caravan moves on.

  6. What is one to think when we see someone like Chris Alexander standing on a platform in Edmontom,smiling as the crowd chanted ‘lock her up’ in reference to Rachael Notley. Disgusting that he did not apparently have the inclination or the intestinal fortitude to ask the crowd to stop or to leave the platform in disgust. Coward.

    i believe that this kind of behaviour acts as a signal or a catalyst to a certain segment of rhe population and causes them to digress from accepted norms down to cat calls, threats, and potential violence. Sad really.

    1. Good point, Brett. Did you happen to hear Mr. Alexander’s attempt to spin the event when interviewed by CBC? Apparently Alexander wasn’t smiling but trying to get people to stop. Who knew smiling had a new meaning?

      Chris Alexander, who perhaps has an undiagnosed learning problem, made another appearance at an event organized by the same ‘media outlet of convenience’ that organized the ‘lock her up’ event last weekend.

      It is a bizarre situation. Leadership candidates make their pitch in order to appeal to the extreme element of the party, but if they should happen to win, those same pitches have to really hurt the party’s chances of winning an election.

      That said, I also thought Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination because it meant Hilary Clinton would win in a cakewalk!

      1. Not as a rule, no, although I disapprove of straining at GNATS (Garish Name Application TechniqueS). I just didn’t recognize this one and thought that it was a typo.

  7. Chris Nelson sums it up pretty well in his latest opinion piece in the Calgary Herald: Politicians should understand that sometimes power invites insults. He says it much better than I can. I appreciate that you are trying to make this an idoelogical battle but the fact is there are wingnuts on the right and the left.

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