Even before former health minister and deputy premier Sarah Hoffman’s NDP leadership campaign launch was over Sunday, the first tweets insulting her physical appearance began to appear on the social medial platform previously known as Twitter.
So you can see why Ms. Hoffman made a point in pre-launch interviews last week, and in her remarks to the hometown crowd in her Edmonton-Glenora riding Sunday morning, of pre-empting the garbage she had to know would soon be flowing her way.
“Women like me aren’t supposed to be in politics,” she told the packed Woodcroft Community League Hall. “I’m fat, I’m sassy, and I have a really hard time trying to be something that I’m not.” That brought one of the loudest cheers of the boisterous event.
Ms. Hoffman had made similar remarks to journalists and commentators who sat down with her to discuss her planned announcement late last week, obviously honing what she knew would have to be a key talking point.
Of course, we all know there is a long tradition in North America of men who lack intellectual horsepower denigrating women in politics by mocking their appearance rather than challenging their ideas.
This kind of behaviour may have fallen into disrepute in most parts of Canada, but inspired by Donald Trump and his acolytes in those parts of America that desperately want to be great again it seems to have thoroughly infested Alberta’s MAGA right.
Ms. Hoffman had barely stepped onto the stage to make her announcement before a vile tweet about her appeared on the X account used by the founder of the far-right Take Back Alberta faction that now dominates Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party.
To wit, Danielle Smith’s friend and advisor, self-described Christian and anti-woke activist, David Parker.
It’s significant that this tweet came from Mr. Parker because he is an influential figure in the UCP, leader of the group that controls the party’s board and is apparently the driving force behind Ms. Smith’s ugly war on trans kids, and, so it would seem, a source of considerable fear, even terror, among the members of the UCP Caucus in the Legislature.
Arriving at 11:25 a.m., Mr. Parker’s childishly nasty tweet was immediately followed by a number of similar comments, several emanating from accounts that showed signs of being automated bots, the origin of which of course is unknown, as is certainly the intention of whomever controls them.
Not that this is likely to much bother Ms. Hoffman. She’s used to it and shrugs it off with the disdain it deserves.
Indeed, Mr. Parker’s pathetic attempt at undermining her is about as likely to succeed as the infamously malicious 1993 Conservative attack ad mocking Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien’s facial deformity, caused by Bell’s palsy. Those ads were greeted by voters with contempt and revulsion, and were soon followed by the most crushing defeat in the history of the federal Conservative party.
But that was then. Here’s the thing now: Because of Mr. Parker’s association with members of the party board, his influential relationship with the premier, and his childish need to constantly attract attention to himself, the UCP Caucus in the Legislature can’t just blow this off and pretend it has nothing to do with them.
Perhaps some influential UCPers have tried to persuade Mr. Parker to zip his lips – although getting that guy to shut up would be a formidable task.
Indeed, when I suggested on social media Sunday that some respectable member of the UCP cabinet needs to speak with Mr. Parker about his the impact of his misogynist abuse – on the party if not his victims – the great man himself not only continued with more of the same but published an infantile tweet boasting that “I’d like to see the politician that tries to tell me what opinions I should have.”
Of course, as everyone in the UCP Caucus and Cabinet knows perfectly well, the problem isn’t Mr. Parker’s opinions, hateful and paranoid as they may be, but his abusive language, irrelevant insults, and his refusal to engage in civil discourse.
So surely the time has come for someone within the UCP to publicly condemn the kinds of things Mr. Parker has to say.
Where are cabinet ministers like Ric McIver, Rick Wilson, Brian Jean, and Nathan Neudorf? Gentlemen, your silence about this appalling behaviour so close to the centre of your party speaks volumes.
It’s time you said something to Albertans about this, lest we conclude you think this kind of behaviour is entirely appropriate.
Indeed, what else are we to conclude?
And where is the minister of Status of Women, Tanya Fir? One would think, ex officio, she would see the need to take Mr. Parker to task.
If no one in the leadership of the UCP has anything to say for themselves, or even for their party, the only reasonable conclusion is that the entire UCP sees denigrating women by mocking their appearance as a perfectly acceptable part of political discourse.