It’s tempting to write off the verbal threats and scenes of nasty intimidation federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was subjected to recently as the work of a handful of yobs we needn’t be too worried about.
We should all avoid the allure of that notion.
What happened to Mr. Singh while visiting the Peterborough, Ont., campaign headquarters of an NDP candidate in the Ontario election should never be accepted or normalized. It should be condemned in the fiercest terms possible by every person in this country, especially politicians who might be contributing to these incidents of public rage.
If you haven’t seen the video of the incident, you should take a minute to find it. After walking out of the campaign office Mr. Singh is instantly surrounded by men and women, all screaming horrible, vile things in his face. The premise of their anger appears to be the deal he signed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support the Liberals until 2025. Among other things, he is called a traitor.
Mr. Singh did not have any security. He is fortunate to have escaped to the sanctuary of a waiting automobile before things became violent.
The protesters were very much of the same ilk as those who pelted Mr. Trudeau with rocks at a campaign stop during the last federal election. They boasted about being “freedom convoy” folks whose corrosive anger is fuelled by half-baked conspiracy theories and the heated, discordant rhetoric of people like federal Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Pierre Poilievre.
Mr. Singh issued a statement on Friday in which he absolved the people of Peterborough for what happened, but issued a caution.
“While disagreements are fundamental to a thriving democracy, hatred, violence and wishing death upon others threaten it. Politicians must remember the consequences when they stoke fear and division.”
He could have been speaking directly to Mr. Poilievre.
The Ottawa-area MP didn’t organize the protest in Peterborough, but his campaign to become Tory leader has legitimized the anger that was on display there. In many ways, it’s also his anger, and it reflects the contempt he holds for the Prime Minister. He has given these people reason to believe Mr. Trudeau is one of the most despicable people in this country.
He’s done this by running one of the most dishonest, contemptible political campaigns ever seen in Canada. Every day he seems to find a new low, accusing the Prime Minister of sinister things that the so-called “freedom convoy” folks lap up like mindless fools.
Last week, he told his would-be supporters that Mr. Trudeau was spying on them, everywhere. He said the government has been following them to the pharmacy, to family visits, even on their runs to the beer store. “Stop the surveillance state,” he tweeted.
He does not seem to care about the damage that such ludicrous statements cause. Or about the future crisis he could be causing in this country with his burn-the-house-down approach to politics.
Is the man so bankrupt of cogent, viable policies that this is what he has to resort to, consequences be damned?
Does he not see what his warm embrace of the protesters in Ottawa, the ones who shut down the city for three weeks and cost the economy tens of millions of dollars, has done? He’s given licence to what we saw play out in Peterborough – the people mimicking Mr. Poilievre’s plaintive call for freedom.
Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest denounced the Peterborough protesters and called on Mr. Poilievre to do the same. However, Mr. Poilievre’s social media feeds remain silent on what took place.
The reason, I imagine, is that he doesn’t want to alienate his supporters. Surely, those people in Peterborough were his supporters, at least ideologically. He’s practically feeding them their lines.
What Mr. Poilievre is doing is not only dangerous, but shameful. That there are so many legacy Conservatives, fine people who sat in Stephen Harper’s cabinet, who are willing to sit back and allow this to happen to their party, is shocking. A few sitting Conservative MPs have issued statements, but where are the other influential voices of the party, warning of the profound implications of a Poilievre victory? Of the threat he poses to the country?
But no. They pose for pictures with the man instead, not wanting to alienate someone who is almost surely the next leader of their party.
One day, there may be an incident like the one in Peterborough that has a much different ending. And there will be blood on many people’s hands.
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