Something rather remarkable happened in the House of Commons earlier this week: A sitting MP accused this country’s Prime Minister of running a jackboot dictatorship.
And in his next breath, he referenced Russian President Vladimir Putin, a dictator currently unleashing death and destruction on a peaceful democratic neighbour.
Yes, federal Conservative MP Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West) really did compare Ottawa’s use of the Emergencies Act to help end the so-called “freedom convoy” occupation of Ottawa to what Mr. Putin is doing to Ukraine.
It gets worse.
When Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen got up to complain about the language Mr. Redekopp used, Conservative MP Rachael Thomas (Lethbridge) jumped to her colleague’s defence.
“Mr. Speaker,” she began. “I just did a quick review in the dictionary. According to the Oxford dictionary, a dictator is a ‘ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained control by force.’
“There are many Canadians who would hold the view that this applies to Mr. Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada.”
This is what passes for parliamentary debate in this country in 2022.
Look, I understand that the House of Commons is not immune to incendiary language. And it might be tempting to slough this off as the kind of partisan slander you expect in Ottawa. But it’s not really. At least it shouldn’t be.
It likely isn’t coincidence that Ms. Thomas and Mr. Redekopp are from the Prairies. Alberta and Saskatchewan represent the epicentre of anti-Trudeau rage in Canada. That same rage was at the heart of the Ottawa protest and related border blockades. Vaccine mandates were just a proxy, the cover used to give the insurgency some vague credibility. We can’t forget that organizers had drawn up a manifesto that included the demand that the current government, and Mr. Trudeau in particular, be removed from office.
We can talk all we want about the Internet and the role it is playing in the slow, painful disintegration of civil discourse. About how misinformation is eating away at democracies around the world. But let’s not be blind to the contribution our own politicians are making to these outcomes – politicians from all different parties.
When people in Saskatchewan and Alberta hear politicians they elected to office say that the Prime Minister of Canada runs a jackboot dictatorship, it gives them permission to believe the same thing. Some might even be prompted to write it on a placard and wave it around at the next “freedom” rally they attend.
It won’t matter to these people that Mr. Redekopp and Ms. Thomas were both elected in a free and fair national vote only six months ago. They will hear Ms. Thomas recite the Oxford dictionary definition of a dictator, hear her say that it is typically someone who obtains power by force, and make the case that many Canadians believe this applies to Mr. Trudeau.
I’d like to think most federal Conservatives find this kind of language abhorrent. And if there was a permanent leader in place, someone of Stephen Harper’s no-nonsense demeanour, this wouldn’t have happened. Or at least the two MPs would have retracted their comments by now.
But interim leader Candice Bergen is like the substitute teacher that everyone ignored in Grade 9. The one who tried to teach while kids were talking and throwing things at one another. Otherwise, she would have forced some sort of walk-back from her two caucus colleagues by now.
Politics in this country have changed a lot over the last number of years. Civility can still be found when you look hard enough but it can also feel like an endangered species. Ideological differences shouldn’t be fuelled by the demonization of those you disagree with. And yet that happens all the time, especially with this Prime Minister.
Pierre Poilievre, the presumptive front-runner in the federal Conservative leadership race, is touting a campaign video that gives prominence to a woman wearing a vulgar anti-Trudeau T-shirt.
Political leaders such as Jason Kenney have made personal attacks against the PM an art form. The Alberta Premier does this to fuel his base, to make those who hate Mr. Trudeau hate him even more – consequences be damned. It’s what he and his advisers believe is in his best political interests.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe does the same thing.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that federal politicians from these provinces might employ the same type of provocative language in Ottawa? Prime Minister Trudeau is a dictator. It’s so easy to say, and yet so harmful to this country.
Unfortunately, our politicians are not only contaminating the minds of the public but poisoning our democracy at the same time.
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