PortandTerminal.com, October 9, 2020
OTTAWA – With the high-stakes war of words being played out between the Democrats and the GOP in the run-up to the election on November 3rd it is easy to overlook what is going on these days in Canada.
What is happening in Canada politically now though is in some ways a mirror of the dangerous polarization and hostility that we see now in American politics. Sadly, words like “threat”, “violence” and even “death” are now popping all too often into Canada’s political news.
The events last week in Michigan gave Americans a stark reminder of how quickly things can spiral out of control. State and federal officials issued charges against 13 people Thursday after the FBI uncovered a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation home, hold her hostage and overthrow the Michigan government.
“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.”
In televised remarks Thursday afternoon, Gov. Whitmer specifically blamed President Trump for indirectly encouraging the accused kidnappers.
Gov. Whitmer said the Trump administration was aware of threats against her, and did nothing to reduce their attacks on her.
“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups,” she said. “‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them. ‘Stand back and stand by.’ Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.”
Threats against Canadian politicians
The political rhetoric in Canada is only slightly less dangerous than in the United Sates although there are worrying signs that things are headed in the wrong direction here too.
“Escalating number of death threats”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other prominent political figures in Canada are reported by security services to be receiving an “escalating number of death threats”.
From January to July this year there have been 30% more threats collected by the RCMP’s National Division Protective Operations unit, compared to same time period the year prior.
Last October in the run-up to a federal election Trudeau was forced to don a bullet proof vest at an election rally after receiving a credible and specific death threat.
In another incident, last July an armed member of Canada’s military, Corey Hurren, was arrested after smashing a pick-up truck through the gates of an estate where Prime Minister Trudeau lives. Hurren had multiple firearms, including one rifle and two shotguns and indicated he wanted to “speak to the prime minister” — in the end, he surrendered peacefully to police.
Other leaders being threatened as well
Canadian leader Trudeau is not the only liberal-leaning government leader who is being threatened. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh was accosted last month in Ottawa by a man who threatened to arrest him and warned him “Next time I see you, we’re gonna have a dance.”
Even senior government medical professionals have received death threats too.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s top doctor and the point person in her province’s fight against coronavirus revealed that she has been threatened. “I’ve had to have security in my house, I’ve had death threats,” she said in an interview with CBC News in Canada.
Fanning the flames of division
Many in Canada blame the recent surge in threats against its leaders as a radicalization of Canadian politics similar to what we see happening in the United States. And out in front, fanning the flames of division in Canada, is the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole.
Who is O’Toole?
In September Canada’s official opposition party, the CPC, narrowly elected Erin O’Toole as its new leader. O’Toole (47), the son of a politician, is a former Procter & Gamble corporate lawyer who trades heavily on his 5 years of experience in the Canadian Air Force as a helicopter navigator.
O’Toole has been widely ridiculed for his clumsy attempts to portray himself as a Tom Cruise “Top Gun” tough guy. While projecting a military tough guy guise, O’Toole at the same time has been critical of Canada’s Minister of National Defense, Harjit Sajjan, a highly decorated war hero with four overseas deployments. We should note that while O’Toole saw no active service, to his credit he was recognized for having helped rescue an injured fisherman at sea.
“Mind explaining your role as a fighter pilot or even a pilot for that matter?” – Stephen Fuhr, Liberal Member of Parliament and former CF-18 fighter jet pilot asks Erin O’Toole.
Deafening Silence on Violence
O’Toole’s tough guy guise fails though when it comes to instilling discipline in the party that he now leads.
Since being elected the leader of the CPC, O’Toole has been at best “reluctant” to condemn the growing polarization and threats of violence in Canada being made against his political opposition. O’Toole has also failed to come out and condemn the “conspiracy in every corner” radical elements of the party that he leads.
“O’Toole has condemned threats of violence against his opponents just 2 times out of his last 3,196 tweets even as those threats surge in Canada”
We analyzed O’Toole’s Twitter account – a social media platform that he, like President Trump, is active on. Between June 6, 2019, and October 10, 2020, O’Toole came out only twice on his social media account to condemn the threats of violence being made against his political opponents in the government. That’s just 2 out of 3,196 tweets that he has condemned violence against his opponents at a time when those threats have surged in Canada by 30%.
In a similar fashion, we analyzed the last 3,142 tweets issued by the Conservative Party’s official twitter account @ CPC_HQ. We could find no example of them condemning threats on the lives of their political opponents.
Think about that for a moment and let’s put it into context.
On July 2nd, an armed gunman smashed his way into the residence of Prime Minister Trudeau, the country’s elected leader. The official opposition party was silent. In fact the very next day after the attack, the Conservative party went on the attack itself posting this to Twitter.
There were no words of condemnation of the attacker or support for the country’s elected leader, a father of three young children, who had been the target of what could have been a deadly tragedy. All of this took place against the backdrop of a pandemic that has killed 9,608 Canadians to-date.
Why the silence?
Are we suggesting that Erin O’Toole and the party he leads condone or promote violence against their opponents? No.
We are saying explicitly that Erin O’Toole and the CPC party lack the courage to condemn those in their support base who do promote violence against Trudeau.
They do so because support for Erin O’Toole and the CPC party in Canada is highest in the country’s western provinces – notably Alberta.
“More people in Alberta would vote for Donald Trump than in California and Massachusetts”
If Donald Trump were to hold a rally in Canada he would hold it in Alberta. It is the country’s fourth-largest province by population and home to Canada’s beleaguered oil industry. Polls show that more people in Alberta would vote for Donald Trump than in California and Massachusetts.
So there Erin O’Toole and the CPC party sit. Not ready to lead, and hanging on by a thread – worried of alienating the support that they have from Western Canada.
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