Alberta Politics
Calgary Nose Hill Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Photo: Twitter).

U.S. and Canadian right-wing politicians march in lockstep as they dismiss facts as conspiracy, disagreement as criminality

Posted on August 20, 2018, 1:45 am
7 mins

Apparently infected by the decline of political discourse in the United States, the Canadian right is increasingly moving toward defining the use of facts that run counter to its narrative as conspiracy and policy disagreement criminality.

If you doubt this, consider recent Tweets by the likes of Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who accused the Trudeau Government and the media of being in a conspiracy to use facts to challenge conservative orthodoxy.

Trump Administration legal counsel Rudy Giuliani (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

The Canadian Press “Baloney Meter” a regular fact-checking feature by the national news agency, the Calgary-Nose Hill Conservative MP complained in a now notorious Twitter rant, is scheming with the Prime Minister’s Office to spin the news to the Liberal Government’s advantage.

“Their baloney meter is a spin tool for the Trudeau PMO,” she Tweeted last week. “Just look at Trudeau’s top henchman’s twitter feed useage of it. It’s that sort of editorialization disguised as journalism that degrades journalism writ large. Sad.”

What was the Conservative immigration critic objecting to, asked The Sprawl, an online Calgary news and opinion site? The CP reporter “cited migration data, put the recent migration numbers in context and called three experts for insight.” Joan Bryden, one of Ottawa’s most experienced reporters, then dismissed Conservative claims there’s a “border crisis” as “completely inaccurate.”

Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs (Photo: Twitter).

Once upon a time in Canada, Ms. Rempel’s kind of rhetorical excess would have seemed bizarre. Alas, here in Alberta we are increasingly habituated to such commentary by members and supporters of the United Conservative Party Opposition who regularly equate opposition in British Columbia to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project with criminality, even terrorism.

Rick Orman, a former Alberta energy minister and two-time candidate to lead Alberta’s Conservatives, famously called anti-pipeline protesters – of whom there are plenty on B.C.’s West Coast – “eco-terrorists.” This kind of rhetoric not only undermines democracy and the rule of law, it is likely intended to do so.

In this, of course, these Canadian Conservatives are mimicking Donald Trump, the Twitter obsessed President of the United States, who regularly equates the publication of inconvenient facts with “fake news,” right down to the ejaculative “sad.”

I don’t think an elected Canadian Con has yet called journalists as a class “enemies of the people,” but we can assume that’s coming soon too, at least if Mr. Trump’s social media strategy continues to appear to work for him.

Then again, perhaps this is phenomenon that moves both directions across the world’s longest undefended border. After all, just yesterday Mr. Trump’s legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani, expressed the view “truth isn’t truth” when you’re a president who has to deal with an FBI investigation.

Former Alberta energy minister and Conservative leadership candidate Rick Orman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Who knows? Maybe the former New York mayor has been reading Ms. Rempel’s Twitter feed for inspiration!

Media accounts of Ms. Rempel’s outbursts on Twitter – where she has developed a reputation as the Queen of the Blockers in her effort to mute the voices of anyone who dares to challenge her extremism, another Trump technique – have made much of the fact she used to describe herself as a “centrist.”

But as extremism becomes more mainstream within the Conservative Party of Canada – Tory Twitterist Maxime Bernier, c’mon on down!  there’s a case to be made Ms. Rempel actually remains a centrist.

A centrist, at least, in the context of the increasingly Republicanized Canadian conservative movement – which is no longer really conservative in any meaningful sense of the word, but increasingly defines economic “freedom” as trumping the fundamental freedoms defined in the Charter of Rights.

Evidence of this tendency on both sides of the Medicine Line continues to accumulate.

Consider Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs’ recent outburst, wherein she Tweeted her outrage that a defence lawyer who ably represented a client she disapproved of was made a judge – a proposition that seems insane if you happen to believe in the rule of law.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Or consider U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who last week claimed “environmental terrorist groups” – not climate change – created the conditions that have led to California’s vicious forest fires.

NBC explained Mr. Zinke’s assertion, made in an interview with the neo-Naziish Breitbart News, thusly: “… that environmental extremists were preventing the government from properly managing forests ― leaving excessive fuel on the ground for the deadly blazes.

In fact, there has long been a controversy in forestry circles about how best to manage fire risk, and it is generally conceded that aggressive fire suppression as demanded by the public, forestry companies, recreationalists and government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service may contribute to fire load over time.

But suggesting the USFS and public policy makers are doing the bidding of “environmental terrorist groups” is just another example of a right-wing politician equating opposition to commercial exploitation of forest resources with criminality.

We are bound to hear similar nonsense in Canada as a federal election looms in 2019 because this tendency on the right, like the fires themselves, is growing in intensity.

That’s the gloomy view. The upbeat interpretation is that Twitter is a terrible swift sword – perhaps devised by the Almighty to be deployed by Silicon Valley, or the other way ’round – on which North American movement conservatism can impale itself.

15 Comments to: U.S. and Canadian right-wing politicians march in lockstep as they dismiss facts as conspiracy, disagreement as criminality

  1. David Harrigan

    August 20th, 2018

    It is even worse than you report. It is possible that Ms. Rempel was just angry and tweeted out of emotion, without taking a step back and giving a sober second thought. ( Hey, who hasn’t done that!) But Ms. Stubbs tweeted in August about an appointment made in February. That could not have been an emotional reaction. The CPC is following Mr. Trump and moving to seek a tribal, non-thinking approach to all issues.

    Reply
  2. Scotty on Denman

    August 20th, 2018

    Nominal conservative parties pathetically ape The Donald’s slogo-quips. It’s sad, indeed. But remind that unabashed propagation of the preposterous and flagrant aggression against civil discourse were actually practiced first by Christy Clark (her eye-popping LNG campaign promises in one election were incredibly topped in the following one by building a dam to power an LNG pipedream that had already totally collapsed in the interim —couldn’t have been more preposterous) and Stephen Harper whose knee-to-groin tactics had shocked and awed his political opponents long before Trump turned America’s failed “shock-and-awe” Iraq strategy onto his own government. It’s probably a measure of our perennial insecurity about the elephant we share a continental bed with that we’d be proud of such Canadian firsts.

    After three decades of getting its own way in sabotaging democratic and economic sovereignty, the Neo-Right is behaving like spoiled sports at the prospect of losing its ill-gotten privileges; the defensive rhetoric is becoming increasingly desperate-sounding as if the swinging political pendulum is focusing its mind on being hung at dawn—when, really, we want politically moribund catwerwaulers to just put a sock in it. Under the rule of law—at least here in Canada—when a politcal party dies its members and supporters do not die with it, something Neo-Rightists, of all polities, ought to know, having themselves dispatched numerous parties of the right (Socreds and Progressive Conservatives, for example).

    Again, remind that, as preposterous as the Trump administration’s blaming environmentalists for California’s wildfires is, the BC Liberal government (Canada’s primary neo-right party) had already leveled similar accusations against its rival NDP party for allegedly creating the mountain pine beetle infestation and the record-breaking wildfires kindled in the tinder of vast regions of killed forest (although the right has always considered environmentalism detrimental to profit-making, its supposed association with the NDP has been somewhat dampened by the party’s first year in government).

    As in California, wildfires in BC can’t be blamed environmentalists, but rather on climate change and economic policies which favour profit-making over environmental protection. Naturally both industry and government want to protect valuable timber, but in suppressing wildfire where a century ago it was normal, they succeeded protecting patches of high-value tree species within vast areas of low-value, fire-regenerated lodgepole pine that industry didn’t want, allowing equally vast areas of single-aged pine to reach optimal size for pine beetles to lay their eggs in (about 70–90 years old). Had climate warming been anticipated (wherein greater numbers of beetles survive warmer winters and summer drought increases fire frequency and intensity), government might have compelled industry to manage low-value lodgepole pine to diversify stand ages and reduce susceptibility to beetle attack and their exponential population explosions when served huge, contiguous areas of smorgasbord-like 70–90 year-old stands.

    I happened to be a spruce bark beetle surveyor in the Interior when the first isolated outbreaks of mountain pine beetle started to appear. Because of the huge area of optimally susceptible pine available—which had grown during the governments of several different parties long before environmentalism became politically hot—the spread and kill was absolutely jaw-dropping. It might be difficult to assign blame but it was impossible to stop in any case. Both NDP and BC Liberal governments were subsequently criticized for not implementing salvage operations but, as anyone knowledgeable knows, if every single logger in Western Canada were commandeered for the purpose, they wouldn’t have recovered even five-percent of killed pine before it had degraded to useless—and, even then, such salvage has degraded to lower quality than live timber which, recall, is so low industry generally turned its nose up at it.

    Beetle-kill might be economically left to burn naturally as it would have 100 years ago (creating less beetle-susceptible stand-age diversity naturally), except for another factor that is purely economic: the protection of rural properties that have been developed in previously wilderness areas during the period of misguided fire suppression and maximum -profit stand management that eschewed low-value lodgepole pine as much as possible—that is, as much as the government permitted.

    These semi-wilderness rural properties are often developed by cattle ranchers and hunting guide outfitters, many from Alberta, few whom most would call “environmentalists”. There is more irony than blame for the increasing wildfire threat: by the time the beetle outbreak was epidemic (the kill is bigger than Vancouver Island and has spread into Alberta), governments had no time to worry about what might have been done several decades ago—they had to start protecting human development now peppered throughout the once-remote region and the lives-and-limbs of the very beneficiaries of industrial globalization which caused the climate to warm up as fast as it has in the first place. Budgets for suppressing wildfire in now-worthless stands of dead, dry, pitchy pine are huge and getting bigger every year.

    As for environmentalists—who’d always recognized the benefit of natural wildfire in ecological-diversity terms—they correctly blame climate change and beetle epidemics for BC’s wildfire susceptibility. Otherwise they recommend we manage forests better in the future. And, now that there are people living everywhere in the dry Interior, that means controlled burning and judicious logging, both of which can be done in an environmentally friendly way.

    Reply
    • al

      August 20th, 2018

      sure, the problem with forest fires is that we were not quick enough to cut the forests before it burned.

      Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    August 20th, 2018

    Maxime Bernier, Shannon Stubbs and Michelle Rempel are political gifts to the opposition that keep on giving — an embarrassment of riches for all the federal parties.

    Conservative meltdowns and bozo eruptions are so pervasive that even the Washington Post has taken notice (see link below). The farcical Tweets of the CPC, and their UCP cousins in Alberta, have made for excellent journalistic fodder for the media. If Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani have taught us anything, it’s that hyperbole, disingenuousness and crazy are now a ubiquitous part of mainstream political discourse on a daily basis — that has unfortunately now contaminated Canada. Sad.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/08/18/canadas-conservatives-are-having-a-mini-meltdown/?utm_term=.23d9c30e5247

    Reply
  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    August 20th, 2018

    The rabble have always been with us. That unscrupulous, manipulative politicians are taking advantage of it is not a surprise. The dumbing down of politics is nothing new. Are we hitting new lows?
    Politicians on both sides of the aisle are dragging us into the pit. On pipelines, at any rate, the lies, hyperbole, and spin from Trudeau’s Liberals and AB Premier Rachel Notley is just as shameful. Wasn’t it Liberal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr who mused about sending in the army to quell protests? Watch the Liberals squirm as they try to defend selling military vehicles to the Saudis.
    The environment and the economy and the military go together, right?

    “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” (Orwell)

    Reply
  5. political ranger

    August 20th, 2018

    Conservatives, of all stripes, big C, little c, neo and classic, have been ranting fallacy and fantasy for more than 30 years now. They say and do whatever the “big-tobacco like” corporations demand of them. And are rewarded proportionately.
    Unfortunately, liberal and social democratic politics has not stepped into the vacuum with a believable, rational or convincing narrative. Rather, they too seem to want the easy money of corporate prostitution.
    There is no free lunch.
    There are no cost-free virtues.

    Reply
  6. Alan

    August 20th, 2018

    Or consider that Rick Orman was never finance minister, incorrectly reported on this left-wing blog!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 20th, 2018

      You’ll notice the story got it right. It this blog’s darned copy editor. Couldn’t write a photo caption to save his life. He’ll be fired. DJC

      Reply
      • Lars

        August 20th, 2018

        On a similar note, I believe it’s “Breitbart”, not “Breitbard”.

        And, as reluctant as I may be to whack the poor fellow around, “It this blog’s darned copy editor” lacks a verb.

        Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          August 20th, 2018

          Obviously, it SHOULD be Brietbard. DJC

          Reply
        • tom in ontario

          August 20th, 2018

          The blogger survived the Calgary Herald strike of ’99. He’s got a thick hide.

          Reply
  7. Farmer Brian

    August 21st, 2018

    I believe one of the most divisive politicians in Canada is Justin Trudeau. A few days ago when asked by a fellow Quebecor if he was going to reimburse the province for the $146 million it has spent on the “illegal immigrants” crossing the border from the U.S. He accused her of being intolerant and after further questions called her a racist. Now there are some interesting theories here such as this lady being a Liberal plant and it was all scripted(wouldn’t surprise me). It is certainly obvious that his trumped up battle against populism will be one of his main campaign planks next election. It certainly won’t be electoral reform. It won’t be financially responsible government. It won’t be strong climate policies. It won’t be for creating an attractive investment climate for energy infrastructure. It won’t be fostering good federal provincial relations. He has failed on all these fronts in varying degrees. No Prime Minister in recent memory has been more devisive imo.

    I will certainly agree that nothing good comes from Twitter regardless of your political outlook. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      August 21st, 2018

      Sir: While the video is not all that clear, especially if your French is as rusty as mine, but the reporting of the incident that I saw had it that she went beyond the matter of federal funding to the provinces, which is a legitimate point to argue, and asked him about support for “old stock Québécois” or something to that effect. That was what, according to the reporting, is what prompted his characterization of her as racist, in my view a valid criticism given her known ties to far-right fringe groups.

      This was no dog whistle… it was a trumpet.

      Reply
  8. Ted Dog

    August 27th, 2018

    Lockstep? Didn’t you mean goosestep?

    Reply
  9. August 27th, 2018

    Dear Farmer Brian,

    She wasn’t a Liberal plant, she was one of several alt-reich prevaricators who were there to disrupt the proceedings.

    Your research skills need to be improved; it seems like you stand for nothing and are therefore willing to fall for anything.

    The most divisive prime minister we’re had lately was Stephen Harper. Justin Trudeau looks like a blessed saint after that liar.

    Reply

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