The figure of U.S. President Donald Trump looms malignantly over the next Canadian election (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

“Huge pothole on #StAlbert Trail right now! This is a preview of Canada’s future if Justin Trudeau is re-elected as prime minister, as he continues to implement his terrible anti-automobile agenda.”

Were I to take to Twitter and say such a thing, dear readers, presumably many of you would conclude that I had gone over the edge. In the absence of hints this was done for comedic effect, you might be justified.

Senator Denise Batters and an American friend, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Photo: Supplied to CBC by an unspecified political office).

I give you, then, Sen. Denise Batters, an actual member of Canada’s Upper House, the Chamber of Sober Second Thought, as it was declared to be by Sir John A. Macdonald, a Conservative politician of the old school although one not normally remembered for sobriety.

Sen. Batters is a Regina lawyer who once served as the chief of staff a Saskatchewan Party justice minister. She was appointed to the Senate by prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013 and it would be fair to say she is known for intemperate remarks on Twitter and other social media sites.

Still, she outdid herself on Saturday, when she tweeted: “Major power outage in SE #Regina right now. This is a preview of Canada’s future if Justin Trudeau is re-elected, as he continues to implement his terrible anti-energy industry agenda. #C69 #C48 #carbonTAX”

Lacking any evidence that this was done for comedic effect, many Twitter users concluded Sen. Batters had gone over the edge, prompting a lot of mockery. Certainly that is a plausible explanation under the circumstances. I am not so sure, however, so bear with me.

Consider this from Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta and a former minister in Mr. Harper’s cabinet: It appears quite possible I inherited the NDP’s second recession,” he told his favourite Postmedia stenographer late last week. He accused the NDP of lying about the state of the province’s finances in the same screed. He has tweeted much the same thing.

Similarly, in his victory speech on the night of April 16, Mr. Kenney accused “foreign-funded special interests” of “leading a campaign of economic sabotage against this great province.” He has repeated this claim numerous times on social media.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his federal friend, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer (Photo: Andre Forget, Andrew Scheer Flickr).

Neither assertion is supported by much evidence.

Or ponder these words from Doug Ford, Mr. Kenney’s sentence-finishing bromantic partner and the Conservative premier of Ontario, who Tweeted without irony on Sunday: “Our government has accomplished more in 12 months than any other government in Ontario’s history.”

Seriously? Seriously?

Does this all sound familiar? Does this all ring a Bell, as it were?

Of course it does. Because, considered together, this is Trumpism of the first water.

There is a pattern here: Bizarre and illogical accusations about political opponents’ supposedly conspiratorial connections and intentions; attempts to identify and persecute scapegoats for real and imagined crises; and fantastic claims unsupported by evidence. Plus, of course, an endless stream of outright, knowing lies. All of it amplified by weaponized social media and compliant right-wing mainstream media.

It all fits the disinformation-loop strategy perfected by Donald Trump and the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line, and imported to Canada by the new post-Reform Party Conservatives of Mr. Harper, Sen. Batters, Mr. Kenney, Mr. Ford and federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer.

It’s easy to mock such disinformation a tweet at a time. It’s not so easy to undo the corrosive effect over time.

With a federal election looming and Conservative trolls in full throat, Canadians should take this very seriously indeed. We’ve already seen what’s happened, and is still happening, south of the 49th Parallel. It can happen here too, and very well may.

Indeed, it’s already happening in Alberta as the New Conspiracism transforms itself into the New McCarthyism as Mr. Kenney’s War Room becomes the House Un-Albertan Activities Committee.

Which is why I don’t think Ms. Batters is batty. I think she’s reading from a script. Unfortunately, it’s a script we now know works pretty well.

Join the Conversation


  1. No doubt we are going to be hearing a lot about “foreign funded” environmentalists from the War Room but we won’t be hearing much about our “foreign controlled” oil sands which spirits the bitumen and most of the profits out of the country leaving a big hole in the ground which we Albertans squabble over.

    Apparently this War Room is nothing new. The Albertans govt used to have a Public Affairs Bureau and in it was a section promoting the oil sands. Only the name has changed.

    South of the border a former aid to Hillary Clinton says she’s threatening to get into the 2020 race if the Dems stray to far to the left. Deplorable.

  2. It’s a simple risk reward strategy. If there is no downside or opprobrium for telling a lie, then why talk about the truth. The truth is always freighted with some sort of unpleasant reality; it never measures up to the fantasy.

    The question then becomes why is there no punishment for these liars and charlatans?

  3. Related commentary from Twitter on the Trump-like propaganda strategies of Kenney:

    EXCERPT: [email protected]

    Strong Note* Kenney, Ford and Moes war rooms are nothing more than PACs for the CPC #elxn43, dont under estimate their corruption, if there is way, they will find it. Build the Pipeline/End the Carbon Tax is the new Build the wall, drain the swamp.

    EXCERPT: Aaron [email protected]

    Retweeted Tzeporah Berman

    Any credibility conservatives have on free speech is undone each time a nut like @jkenney turns the resources of the state against individuals voicing their opinions, declaring them, in effect, enemies of the state.

    This turn is scary. It’s unConservative and unAlbertan.

  4. Interesting that Kenney is going to try and blame his upcoming recession on the NDP. The sad part is most of his supporters will actually believe him rather than admit he really has no idea what he is doing. Looking at his record as part of the conservative government he is out of his depth unless there is a bubble out there he can inflate as a premier I don’t know about. Housing bubble, that’s pretty much run its course Flaherty added air and the Liberals are clueless in their attempts. Oil, perhaps a war with Iran will inflate that one but most still remember Libya and not much a premier can do to start a war. If he could monetize the senseless rage he inflated to get elected perhaps that would do it. Sorry Mr. Kenney you will own this one it’s time to look in the mirror.

  5. The only thing new about this rubbish is the role of social media. We wallow in a massive bog of misrepresentation from those who control the game, and we always have. A small anti-thesis was permitted, within certain parameters, to exist between 1945 and approximately 2000, but those days are gone as the Empire lurches into a new paradigm, which is the struggle to maintain unipolarity in the face of a bona fide challenge from Eurasia. I find this “new conspiracism” to be about as credible as the right-wing allegations about virtue-signalling, the precarious state of the “white man”, etc. We are the subject of conspiracies from our masters, all the time. The single biggest crime against humanity since 2000 was the destruction of Iraq. Was that not the result of a conspiracy? How about the financial collapse in 2010? No conspiracy involved? Who went to jail or the gallows for either of those?
    There is a conspiracy afoot realted to the international traffic in hydrocarbons, as there has been since Rockefeller took control of the transportation of oil out of the Pennsylvania shale and the Royal Navy switched over from wind. Do people believe that the skull-duggery involved in Imperial energy acquisition, the single most pressing issue for empires since the time of Sumer, disappeared? Hint: hydro-carbons replaced slavery.
    The Vietnam War, supposedly occurring at the peak of the virtuous phase of the US Empire, was one sloppy collage of conspiracies. With regard to the one that everybody likes to pretend came straight out of the realm of the tinfoil hat in 2001, it is indisputable that the state appartatus of the Western democracies participated directly in the murder of their fellow citizens during Operation Gladio in the seventies. Yet when a group of men known tied to known US state intelligence assets commit a crime, only the crazies could allege the direct involvement of US intelligence. So what exactly is the evidence that supports this notion that we’re subject now to cuckoo conspiracy theories?
    The right is composed of fascists or those duped by fascists, and there is no “moderate” group of conservatives, in this country or any other in this particular universe. And it’s not new.

  6. My father-in-law read a stat from the paper to me over breakfast one morning: “twenty percent of Canadians dislike Americans.” He thought it humorous when I quipped, “more like twenty percent of each Canadian dislikes Americans.”

    Many years later I was reminded of my now-departed father-in-law’s laughter when JT’s popularity surged through no effort of his own but, rather, merely because Donald tRump had publicly insulted him in (where else?) a tweet, post G-whiz conference, calling our PM “dishonest” and “weak” and “You can’t do that [to me], Justin…gonna cost [Canadians] a lot of money.” Indeed, within nanoseconds Canadian Conservatives ‘pivoted’ in their normally derisive tone toward our PM—that is, they assumed a straight-backed, if insincere, patriotic tone, politically forced to marshal to his defence. My father-in-law would have laughed at that bit of theatre, too, because it rather illustrated my point: even neoliberal-addled neo-rightists understand the deep, abiding enmity most, if not all, Canadians feel towards our greatest ally and trading partner (I felt the rankle recently, for example, when tRump’s stupid tariff threat against Mexico was reported by US news media as a threat against America’s “largest trading partner [Mexico]”—by PBS, no less—because, as every Canadian knows, that superlative still belongs with our country and, as usual, we take exception to the slightest American sleight).

    I was astounded when Con leader Andrew Scheer appeared to endorse neo-Nazis during an anti-Trudeau truck rally. What a huge mistake, I thought as I awaited abject apology for being captured in news video with anti-immigration (dog-whistle frequency-lowered-translation = ‘anti-immigrant’) protesters carrying placards emblazoned with demands to hang (yes, hang by the neck until dead) the young PM for, of all things, “treason” (I just pray JT’s children didn’t have to see it on TV). But darned if I wasn’t even more astounded when Scheer appeared unapologetic and, indeed, has subsequently been associated by way of his own MPs and co-partisan provincial politicians with acts and statements that tend to confirm this resort to odious, age-old demagoguery against the perennial, imaginary “Other.”

    Not only that, it’s just sooooo American, especially since the ascent of Donald T Rump. What in the world are all these Canadian neo-rightists thinking when they proudly read from the tRumpian playbook? Are they tempting fate?

    Wait a minute! I hear some people saying the tRump playtweet “works pretty well.” After all, The Orange One did win the presiduncy and some of his Canadian apers of The Orange have employed his Twitterisms to victorious electoral effect, namely Alberta’s Jason KeKKenney and Ontario’s D’ohfo. I suppose it might look like the tRump playbook works pretty well from a certain point-of-view, like, to paraphrase Einstein, if one imagines looking at the world while riding the leading edged of a beam of shite.

    Remind that none of these twitter twits has completed a single, four-year term: JKKK’s only begun his, D’ohfo just a year in, and The Donald in his third. IMHO, we’ll have to wait see if their respective electorates think of their terms as working pretty well. And it rather seems it hasn’t, not so much in the US of A, nor in Ontario where the D’ohfo’s popularity has tanked below that of his vanquished predecessor who’d held the record-low rating hitherto— Alberta’s tRumperoid government is still too new to tell how much voters will approve of the irritable, snarling mien their premier has costumed them on the world stage. (Forgive me if I can’t think of a Canadian equivalent to Yosemite Sam. With talk of Alberta separatism still circulating on social media, I don’t think JKKK quite qualifies anyway.)

    But, I agree: on the national level, the distended, twittering bowels of the American man-child do present a frightful possibility: that we Canadians will become like or more like—instead of merely aping—our American cousins. But remember, we have the benefit (I can’t believe I’m saying this) of having had the HarperCons (take ten deep breaths—okay:) of which our American neighbours had never seen the like—until now with tRump. Remember how ‘well’ Harper’s tactics worked: by the time he won a majority, his government was beset by prosecutions for electoral cheating, his lacklustre legislation was regularly being struck down by the SCoC, his centrepiece pipeline policy turned into a pipe dream, and the First Nations he tried to railroad had organized the most spontaneous, nationwide protest movement in Canadian history, Idle-No-More, which nailed that door shut with a single log across the transcontinental railway track. Then his first majority was his last.

    There’s more evidence that tRump, JKKK and D’ohfo will meet this same fate that not. Why so surprised? They’re all ideological neo-right absurdists who yield net negatives for ordinary citizens. Nothing they prescribe will ameliorate the challenges of our times. Certainly not the imaginary ones.

    I’m waiting for the Orange One to insert himself into the Canadian federal election. If it doesn’t occur to him, maybe an anybody-but-Con sympathizer will put the twitter bug in his ear. As it happens, the lengthy nature of US presidential elections has coincidentally lined-up our two nations’ federal contests, side by side like Ben Hur and Massala, which is a good thing, IMHO, because, as if we don’t already sniff up our smug Canadian sleeves at American political crudity, it will remind us of what The Orange goof’s Canadian apers— especially its brown-dwarf star in this darkening political atmosphere—have in mind for our fair country. It’s a gonna be some great TV.

    As the Dems lose their shirts and loose their skirts in their embarrassing embarrassment of partisan riches pitted against a stubborn 40% tRumpularity nut to crack, I expect the Canadian right to forget about our twenty percent. That’s a nut that’s never been cracked.

  7. It seems these days the world has a case of political vertigo. After being discedited for about half a century, the era of the big lie seems to be back with a vengance again.

    It seems the more outrageous the accusation the more willing some politicians seem to make or spread it these days It seems to have worked fairly well for Trump in the US and now it seems to be catching on with the Trump wannabes in Canada. I suppose as the saying goes, immitation is the highest form of flattery.

    I suppose therefore it shouldn’t be a surprise in their unrelenting effort to demonize Trudeau and the Federal Liberals, some Conservative is now essentially blaming him for a recent power outage in Regina. As ridiculous as that sounds, remember the UCP was fairly succesful in blaming Trudeau and the Federal Liberals for all that ails Alberta and whipping up a frenzy about it convenienly just in advance of our recent provincial election.

    Another election is coming up soon, so expect another blizzard of more outrageous and self serving political lies. Don’t expect too much scrutiny of this by what passes for or remains of the mainstream media.

    Maybe we need a war room to fight against the big poltical lies, that seem to be increasingly common these days, as much or more than we need a war room for our energy industry.

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