Conservative party’s embrace of trucker convoy is deeply troubling

Article originally published in The Star

One of the more graphic rape threats I’ve received over the course of my talk radio career involved a reference to burning off my clitoris. It was after I had addressed the false notion that had been circulating in Conservative circles — and was being bolstered by my talk radio colleagues — that Canada signing onto the UN’s Global Compact for Migration would mean that Canada would no longer have jurisdiction over its borders, ensuring the ultimate destruction of our country because of “globalists.”

There was a co-ordinated campaign to poison the discourse around the compact by pushing misinformation. It worked, largely by having considerable swaths of conservative politicians and media repeat and disseminate the misinformation themselves — which is a lot like the current misinformation and disinformation campaign we’re seeing regarding vaccines.

There are consequences to peddling misinformation and refusing to overtly condemn extremist rhetoric, as any journalist who has had to counter misinformation can tell you.

So it’s especially worrying to see CPC MPs who are explicitly egging the protesters on by calling the prime minister the “biggest threat to freedom in Canada,” stating he has a “vaccine vendetta,” all the while turning a blind eye or making excuses for the more troubling aspects of the protesters and the extreme, violent language they are using.

The vast majority of truckers are fully vaccinated. The truckers who made their way to Ottawa represent a fringe minority. Political parties looking to be taken seriously do not usually try to pander to fringe minorities that are increasingly out of touch with the majority of accessible voters, though the Conservatives are certainly the exception to that.

There is a gradation when it comes to vaccine hesitancy. There is a difference between someone who harasses children entering vaccine clinics, and those who have suspicions with health care more generally. It’s obvious which side of the vaccine-hesitancy spectrum most of these protesters lean toward.

As the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has reported, some of the organizers and supporters of the Freedom Convoy have very clear far-right elements to them and are overtly advocating for violence. To deny that a sizable portion of this protest movement has hateful elements to it is either wilfully blind or incredibly stupid.

The truckers represent a larger problem for the Conservatives, who keep pandering to the extremist elements of their base. Every political party has its own gaggle of objectionable supporters. Ideally, though, a party’s official strategy doesn’t include trying to actively appeal to them. Once you do, it’s hard to convince normal voters that your party should form government.

All of this is made worse by the fact that our legacy political media has largely ignored the Conservative party’s increasing willingness to placate the more unsavoury elements of their base, as well as the thriving misinformation and disinformation networks that are as Canadian as the tenacious little rodent we put on our nickel.

Normalcy bias — the cognitive bias that minimizes threat warnings and ultimately leads people to underestimate the likelihood of an adverse event happening to them — is a heck of a thing, and the majority of our political coverage suffers from it.

Our unfortunate reality is that one of the two parties in regular contention to form government has sitting, prominent members who spew all sorts of conspiracy theory nonsense and have spent the better part of the last decade either disregarding the more troubling aspects of their voter base, or trying to directly pander to them.

Yet the dominant political narrative in this country continues to pretend that voters are choosing between the political equivalent of Coke and Pepsi.

Canada desperately needs a healthy Conservative party. Not whatever this is.

Author’s note: this column was filed before the protesters reached Ottawa.

Stay informed

Sign-up to receive our updates in real-time directly to your inbox.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Thank you for signing up!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.