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VIBERT: Federal Conservatives risky as ever

Jim Vibert
Jim Vibert - SaltWire Network

Just when you think it might be safe to give the federal Conservatives a look, up bubbles some of that malignant mucus so many in their party seem to secrete as dependably as an old Harley leaks oil.

Last week, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins, an over-coiffed lad from Lacombe, just up the road from Red Deer, inexplicably resurrected a long-since discredited slur against Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs in the Liberal government. 

Calkins tweeted out a screenshot of a scurrilous blog by far-right academic-conspiracist Daniel Pipes, which was, in turn, based on a notoriously unreliable source that claimed Alghabra celebrated his 2005 nomination as “Islamic power” entering the Canadian political bloodstream. 

Mr. Alghabra, MP from Mississauga Centre, said and did nothing of the sort – although so what if he had – and Calkins deleted the yet-more-offensive post once he was convinced it was wrong on so many levels, beginning with its total absence of truth. 

The larger question remains. Why does a Conservative MP find it necessary or appropriate to trade in anti-Islamic hysteria and fuel Islamophobia? 

A more prominent Conservative, Maxime Bernier who nearly won the party leadership waded comfortably into the waters of a myopic, intolerant Canada over the weekend, with a series of odd tweets denouncing Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to the broad-minded world view his father bequeathed to Canada as multiculturalism.

 “Why should we promote ever more diversity?” asks Bernier, before breaking into full-blown xenophobia.

“Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.”

Twitter should have held Bernier, et al., to the old 140-character limit, so he would have been forced to write: “New people are different. Big trouble.”

The unidentified people in Bernier’s serial-tweet may choose to live apart from him in their so-called ghettos as protection from his brand of tolerance and openness. 

No one in the Conservative Party is likely to tell old Max how it’s been working in Canada for several generations now. Those already here, extend a welcoming hand to new arrivals. It’s understandable if First Nations regret that mistake from five centuries back, but in more recent years, it’s worked pretty well.

But Max was not done becoming undone. 

“Trudeau’s extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa. These tribes become political clienteles to be bought with taxpayers dollars and special privileges.”

And how was The Donald when you last chatted about golf and border walls, Max?

So far, Canada has dodged the too-right doctrine of Donald Trump, which has found a receptive audience in a number of western democracies. It’s contagious, and it attacks the liberal traditions upon which democracies rest and then the democratic institutions upon which they rely. 

The erosion is already in phase two in America, where the checks and balances built into the constitution in anticipation of Trump are breaking down under the weight of his brand of populism, which is an amalgam of white anxiety, resentment, and fear of “others.”

Republicans in Congress have been co-opted into the nationalist Trumpian nightmare that usurped the GOP.

Bernier is clearly a proponent of an “us” versus “them” worldview, that gains traction where ever the dominant, advantaged group fears losing some of its social and economic privilege.

Bernier, Trump and their ilk are certain to create the divisions Max claims to abhor, except on a global level. A wall between the west and the rest will coalesce humanity as “us” and “them,” and, given global inequities, that’s not going to end well.

Further, the political philosophy of “us” versus “them,” like most political philosophies will, when practised, achieve the ugliest mutation imaginable. Start with an objectionable philosophy, and you can bet the time-share the reality will be truly repugnant. 

Perhaps Canadians should thank the Conservatives for sparing us Maxime Bernier as a national leader, and we’ll do that as soon as they take the next logical step and eject him or his worldview from their midst. And, while they have the ejection seat out, see if Calkins will sit.

It won’t happen, because the Conservatives’ big tent accommodates paranoia and bigotry.

Jim Vibert, a journalist and writer for longer than he cares to admit, consulted or worked for five Nova Scotia governments. He now keeps a close and critical eye on provincial and regional powers.

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