Alberta Politics
St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Methinks the MP doth protest too much! Michael Cooper came to that Justice Committee meeting loaded for bear

Posted on June 03, 2019, 5:00 am
9 mins

Now that St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper has been given a gentle tap on the wrist by Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer for his offensive performance at the House of Commons Justice Committee Thursday, we can be confident Conservatives will try to make the whole thing disappear as quickly as possible.

Why not? As the Opposition leader himself stated via Twitter, apparently the main conduit for all important public business nowadays: “Mr. Cooper has apologized. I accept his apology and I consider the matter closed.” (Emphasis added.)

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer (Photo: Flickr/Andrew Scheer).

Indeed, it’s quite convenient for Mr. Scheer, who not so long ago was in hot water for addressing a “Yellow Vest” rally the same day as alt-right social media exile Faith Goldy, to be made to appear a virtual moderate by comparison to the actions of an indiscreet young member of his caucus!

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, please.

For punishment, if such it can be called, Mr. Cooper will no longer be allowed to represent the Conservative Party of Canada on the Justice Committee, of which he was vice-chair. He will continue, though, as the party’s deputy justice critic, and therefore by definition an up-and-comer in Conservative ranks.

Mr. Cooper on the campaign trail in 2015 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Cooper presumably earned this soft treatment in part by issuing an apology of his own, also via social media: “Earlier this week at the Justice committee, I interpreted comments by witness Faisal Khan Suri as linking mainstream conservatism with violent extremism,” he wrote in a Facebook post that is already rapidly moving down the feed and out of sight. “In response, I quoted the words of a white supremacist anti-Muslim mass murderer in an ill-advised attempt to demonstrate that such acts are not linked to conservatism.”

“I absolutely should have not quoted these words nor named the perpetrator,” he said. “This was a mistake. I apologize to Mr. Suri and to all Canadians. …”

Now, Mr. Cooper has his defenders, quite a few of whom apparently think amplifying the manifesto of a terrorist murderer is an entirely appropriate thing to do. But most commentators grasped immediately that to describe this as “ill advised” was a considerable understatement.

St. Albert NDP MLA Marie Renaud (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Even in his apology, though, Mr. Cooper clung to the idea his action was appropriate. Remember, he said, he only meant to demonstrate “that such acts are not linked to conservatism.”

Mr. Suri was describing to the Justice Committee the Internet browsing habits of Alexandre Bissonnette, the Canadian anti-Muslim terrorist now serving a life sentence for murder, when the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council spoke the words that prompted Mr. Cooper’s offensive lecture.

“The evidence from Bissonette’s computer showed he repeatedly sought content about anti-immigrant, alt-right and conservative commentators, mass murderers, U.S. President Donald Trump, and about Muslims, immigrants living in Quebec,” Mr. Suri told the committee.

Nothing in this statement is factually untrue or misleading. None of it draws listeners to the conclusion Mr. Cooper said it did – that therefore all conservative commentators or so-called mainstream conservatives advocate extremism.

In fact, as virtually everyone understands, far too many “mainstream conservatives” do advocate things that can be fairly described as hate or extremism – either that, or mainstream conservatism is increasingly dominated by extremists. Mr. Scheer himself has been known to emit a dog whistle or two, as he did on Feb. 25 just by showing up with Ms. Goldy at the Yellow Vest rally on Parliament Hill.

Meanwhile, however, a lot of Canadians are still asking themselves, “What got into Mr. Cooper?”

This may be the wrong question.

Mr. Cooper is my MP. To meet him is to know he is a highly intelligent person – although that doesn’t make him smart, necessarily, in the colloquial meaning of that word.

His extreme social conservatives views, such as his strong opposition to women’s reproductive rights (even when those opinions can be hard to find), appear to be quite sincere.

Trained as a lawyer, he calculates his moves carefully, for maximum advantage. He may only be 35, but he has been a Conservative activist since he was 14. He was once the youngest member of the Canadian Alliance’s powerful National Council.

And he came to the committee loaded for bear.

That is, he’d obviously decided in advance that somebody – perhaps Mr. Suri – might connect the obvious dots between extremism and modern Canadian mainstream conservative movement and he was prepared to respond by making a scene.

We know this because he came equipped with quotable excerpts from the Christchurch mosque attacker’s manifesto – a move he must have known would be controversial and which can’t have been that easy because of the efforts of the New Zealand Government to suppress its distribution, with half-hearted assistance from social media corporations.

Challenging someone in heat about a statement one thing. Turning up all primed and ready with a terrorist manifesto in hand to prove a point you want to make before a word has been spoken by a witness is beyond the pale.

As for Andrew Scheer’s pledge two days earlier that there’s no place for extremists in the Conservative Party, the way the Conservative leader dealt with Mr. Cooper is a pretty strong indicator of what this really means. Most of us can connect these dots, as well.

Mr. Cooper won easily in St. Albert-Edmonton in 2015. In defence of the riding’s voters, most of them didn’t really know much about him other than the usual campaign folderol.

Meanwhile, on April 16, the provincial riding that occupies much of the same territory saw the re-election of a popular NDP MLA, Marie Renaud.

Mr. Cooper’s views do not reflect those of most St. Albertans, Ms. Renaud said on Facebook Friday. “Mr. Cooper’s remarks rejecting the links between white supremacy, racism, nationalist terrorism, and far right fake news sites such as Rebel Media are disturbing.”

So, perhaps a few more people will be paying attention to Mr. Cooper’s views and qualifications for the job when he runs for re-election this fall than did in 2015. Still, it will be extremely hard for any non-conservative candidate to win anywhere in Alberta in 2019, no matter how appalling their behaviour.

So my guess is St. Albert is going to continue to be embarrassed by Michael Cooper. Pity.

NOTE: The author of AlbertaPolitics.ca on the road on business this week and posts are therefore bound to be less frequent than usual. DJC

8 Comments to: Methinks the MP doth protest too much! Michael Cooper came to that Justice Committee meeting loaded for bear

  1. Jerrymacgp

    June 3rd, 2019

    The reason violent, neo-fascists, racist extremism and mainline conservatism have been linked is that advocates, admirers and sympathizers of violent, neo-fascists, racist extremists have been made, either through word, deed, or “nudge, nudge, wink, wink”, to feel welcome in the ranks of mainline conservative parties. Violent, neo-Marxist and left-anarchist extremists, OTOH, have not been similarly made to feel welcome in the Liberal, New Democratic or Green parties, and so we hear virtually nothing from that extreme of the political spectrum. Of course, they’re out there, but I would venture to assert that none of the recent violent attacks in the headlines were inspired by that kind of opinion.

    Reply
    • Kang`

      June 3rd, 2019

      As usual George Orwell provides useful guidance. From a 1936 essay on fascism:
      “If you pretend that it is merely an aberration which will presently pass off of its own accord, you are dreaming a dream from which you will awaken when somebody coshes you with a rubber truncheon.”

      Reply
  2. Chambery

    June 3rd, 2019

    “Mr. Cooper won easily in St. Albert-Edmonton in 2015. In defence of the riding’s voters, most of them didn’t really know much about him other than the usual campaign folderol.”

    I’m a voter in the possibly forgotten Edmonton portion of his riding. I knew about him at the last election, I think because of something you wrote on your blog concerning his social conservative views during Cooper’s nomination process. I didn’t vote for him them, and won’t vote for him this fall. I’ve adopted the position that life is far too short to vote for social conservatives.

    Unfortunately, we are at the point where you can run a cantaloupe melon under the federal conservative banner and it will win anywhere in Alberta this fall except for Edmonton Strathcona and perhaps a few other central urban ridings. It’s a disappointing state of affairs. The conservatives take Alberta’s voters for granted, other federal parties view us as a lost cause, and someone whom I hope does not share the values of a majority of the riding’s voters on social issues ends up representing us in Ottawa.

    Reply
  3. pogo

    June 3rd, 2019

    As someone who comes from a farm that spoke french? I’d say watch out! They lie with both sides of their mouths! They steal with both hands! They betray others while they are covered in righteousness! They absolve themselves as if sin doesn’t exist and it’s consequence was a single tear from a virgin! Ok then! No swears! But? Good Lord find an old street car and throw it now!

    Reply
  4. Bill Malcolm

    June 3rd, 2019

    Cooper may be intelligent, but he is about as bright as TV’s Sheldon Cooper. A stiff ostrich-necked socially backward lecturing twit – the ideal Conservative, he completely believes in himself and the rubbish he spews. Rigid-minded Cons seem to sprout fully-formed out of thin air in Alberta, but this one only appeared as a full-blown nitwit with regressive views at the advanced age of 14, you say. Must have been charming around the home and at school. His tone on TV was about all I could take without getting angry at his smug haughtiness and racism.

    If anyone disagrees with them, the standard Con response is to say that such folk are socialist/leftists, are highly argumentative and incoherent, and won’t engage in civil discussion. Right out of Playbook 101 of the Conservative mindset. Disagreement with nitwiticism means you’re argumentative and uncivil? Of course! That’s because Cons are always correct in their twisted illogical minds, not subject to doubt or to ever acknowledge other viewpoints as valid, so mere disagreement with them means you’re uncivil. Deep brainpower at work. Then they sit down in self-realized triumph and figure they’ve won an intellectual battle while looking smug. It would be comedy hour if it weren’t so serious.

    Another trope is to proclaim that anyone to the left of them is socialist, and invoke the spectre of Commie hordes and “immigrants” over-running the land and carrying off the daughters of decent citizens, and we all know commies and socialists are godless authoritarian technocrats who want to order people around, don’t we? Yes, indeed, social democracy is evil, dontcha know.

    In fact, of course, it’s the Cons who want to order everyone around and place people in slots of social hierarchy where they can be picked off individually as unreliable, if they even squawk a little bit at crap treatment, for the benefit of the corporate order who want more labour for less reward. Anyone who starts a business to use plebs at minimum unliveable wage is a Con hero, even a greasy spoon or Timmies’ owner. Hence anti-unionism remains at the forefront of the narrow Con mind — can’t let those peple share thoughts and organize against employers for decent wages, now can we? Upsets the pecking order. Turn any Con critical comment about social democracy, er sorry “socialism”, on its head, and you will find their real feelings about the sheeple who are only useful for getting them into power, after which exploitation is on the cards, no complaints allowed. Legions of Federal government scientists found that out the hard way under harper, where “handlers” even accompanied scientists to international conferences to make sure they toed his dictatorial Con line of retrograde BS. Why, he even became a nuclear expert on the Chalk River matter – thank you, Stevie, from the bottom of my scientifically-trained heart. Beware Con pols who proclaim their opponents want to control citizens – because that’s exactly what they want to do themselves — harper showed that in spades.

    Michael Cooper is an xenophobic misogynist Con. That’s a statement. And not worth an argument.

    Scheer doesn’t seem to know which way is up, so covers all the bases just in case. Love me please, he pleads. I wanna be your leader. Good god. It’ll be harper time again. Meanwhile Sub-Pope Jason 1, another social regressive who at heart thinks he can order women about and control their bodies for the Lord, manages to dig up female supporters with brains of petrified lard who for unknown reasons, except possibly religion, apparently agree to subordinate their free will, while rubbing his hands with glee at Scheer’s incompetence. Jay’s smarmy ways look hot to convince your average apolitical Canuck that he might eventually be PM after Scheer shows he’s amateur hour personified. Only thing is, Thug Ford is kind of screwing up the Con message in Ontario, which may finally impinge on brains there except for the slavering attack dogs who think he’s the bee’s knees and wouldn’t know a legal from an illegal immigrant if you gave them a squad of PhD sociologists to assist them. So to be on the “safe” side they hate all of them; it’s easier that way for people of limited intellectual capacity and education.

    The trouble is, the alternative to the Cons is the shape-shifting Trudeau, bringer of promises and deliverer of none, and friend of unethical billionaires who need a bit of special treatment and excuses now and then because they’re so special and pay scarcely no taxes to support the common-weal, yet somehow sometimes provide jobs which strikes Justin bodily to the very core of his conscious soul. Jobs trump ethics, oh yeah. At heart he’s conservative, and along with Wilson-Raybould brought in the attack on charter rights last fall in a new law, where any dope of a cop can stop any driver for no reason whatsoever and administer a sobriety/drug test of questionable efficacy. That’s your Liberal malleable brain power at work for you. Genteel removal of your rights.

    All this general furore is happening before any consideration of climate change effects that now bring each year more bad floods in the east and ever-worsening wildfires from the West to Northern Ontario, which crisis no mainstream pol wants to tackle except the Greens. So your grandkids are in deep do-do, folks. Dig an extra barrel of tarsands for god and hope it all goes away seems to be the average citizen’s response. The latest NDP environment plan is sickeningly plagiaristic and paper thin in detail, and probably dreamed up of an evening over a couple of beer. The party is useless under Singh.

    The country is screwed.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    June 3rd, 2019

    Mr. Scheer’s mild chastising of Mr. Cooper is not going to help the situation for the Conservatives, indeed it probably hurts it. There is already a sense that the Conservatives are soft on anti Muslim right wing extremists, Mr. Cooper’s comments and Mr. Scheer’s response reinforces that.

    We must remember two things about Mr. Scheer in order to understand why he would behave in such a politically unhelpful way. First, Mr. Scheer won the leadership because he was to the Conservatives the most innocuous candidate. He was socially conservative enough to appeal to enough social conservatives and fiscally conservative enough to appeal to some Conservatives who might have liked Bernier, but worried about him being a bit of a loose canon and too controversial. While recent good poll numbers are helpful, his hold on the party is still rather tenuous. so his ability to actually seriously discipline anyone is therefore probably rather limited. Second, there is the Bernier problem, which while it has receded somewhat still exists. Mr. Bernier seems to be going after the anti immigrant, anti refugee vote. These are people who probably voted Conservative in the past and in a close race, Mr. Scheer probably can’t afford to lose them, although I am sure he realizes there is a danger in pandering to them too much.

    So of course the type of solution to his quandary, is a solution that will probably satisfy few or no one. Mr. Cooper will get off with a slap on the wrist. I have a feeling that the political career of Mr. Cooper. despite being him being a bit of an embarrassment to his party at an inopportune time, will probably outlast that of Mr. Scheer’s. Perhaps Mr. Cooper will learn from this, or perhaps not, but whether Mr. Scheer does or not, I doubt Mr. Scheer will develop any more back bone any time soon.

    Reply
  6. CovKid

    June 3rd, 2019

    That grating voice of his that sounds like he’s a clone of Preston Manning … aargh!!

    Hard to believe he’s only 35 yet sounds (and behaves) like a grumpy septuagenarian.

    Reply

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