As the Conservative Party goes full MAGA, we all lose

    Apr 27, 2022
    Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, left, former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and former Conservative MP Derek Sloan.

    OTTAWA—The Conservatives have removed their patina of integrity and propriety to go full MAGA. Finally. They’ve been swirling around this bowl for a while. If former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who infamously defended the residential school system, was their great moderate hope, they have some serious problems. 

    We are at a crossroads in this country. Society is fractured and tearing at the seams, and we have a tepid, duplicitous Liberal Party, which—judging from the release of Budget 2022—is also out of touch. 

    In other words, we’re screwed. 

    Canadians have been quite smug and supercilious about the political transformation of American politics into MAGA-ness; many laughed and pointed the finger at the mania of our cousins down south, others wagged their finger at Republicans’ sometimes violent assault on human and civil rights. The made-up cultural controversies are to ensure that a white, Christian, powerful minority shapes the future of that country for at least another generation. The “culture wars” are the currencies of political support that place the actors in this circus in powerful positions to realize their goals. Cancel culture, free speech, critical race theory, feminists, Black Lives Matter, “globalists” (read: Jews), wokeness, groomers, and whatever other whiny escapades in white fragility they offer. These trends are now firmly in Canada, as evidenced by the Ottawa Convoy, whose biker buddies will be revisiting the issue in Ottawa this coming weekend. 

    Seems like libertarianism wasn’t that far from the far right. Go figure. 

    The Conservative Party has ensured that these trends are integrated into Canadian politics and policy. In an interview with the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos, Conservative Party leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis asserted that Canada would be giving up its health-care sovereignty to the World Health Organization (WHO) if it signs on to a new accord on pandemic prevention. This agreement would be modelled after a previous agreement on controlling the spread of tobacco products. In a clever bait-and-switch, Lewis referenced an agreement that had not yet been drafted, so it’s not clear what the convention would require from member states. In reality, the WHO’s international negotiating body hasn’t even held a meeting to develop a critical path for establishing timelines and deliverables. Under Article 19 of the WHO Constitution, the organization has a right to “adopt conventions or agreements on any matter within WHO’s competence.” Canada was the third member state to sign on to the WHO and ratify its constitution in 1946. In other words, this isn’t new, but there’s just enough uncertainty in the process that it creates a perfect opportunity for creating and spreading disinformation. The WHO is a boogeyman for right-wing voters, as the pandemic created a vacuum of consistent government messaging, only to be filled by misinformation and disinformation campaigns. And it’s partisan. According to Pew Research, only 27 per cent of conservative Republicans trust the WHO. Contrast that with 86 per cent of liberal Democrats. Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said he had “‘serious concerns’ about the WHO” according to the National Observer. 

    And guess who started it? Trump. 

    Former U.S. president Donald Trump, pictured during a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2016.

    Former U.S. president Donald Trump, pictured during a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2016.

    In order to cover up for his incompetence in killing hundreds of thousands of Americans through flagrant incompetence and lies, former U.S. president Donald Trump shifted blame to the WHO by halting funding to the organization. On April 14, 2020, The New York Times reported: “In effect, Mr. Trump was accusing the world’s leading health organization of making all of the mistakes that he has made since the virus first emerged in China and then spread rapidly.” And therein lies the legitimization of the WHO as an instrument of China, whose loyalty must be questioned. 

    Fast forward a few months later to then-Conservative MP Derek Sloan’s racist attack on Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, which I wrote about in this paper: “Sloan’s racist diatribe against Dr. Tam was a white supremacist conspiracy theory elevated to the mainstream by someone running for the leader of the modern Conservative Party. Far-right conspirators ‘allege that Tam is a long-time Chinese spy, sent to rise through the public health bureaucracy to one day use the coronavirus scare as a way to increase Chinese influence. They wonder whether her loyalties can really be vouched for and warn that she may import the Chinese government’s heavy-handed ideologies and methods at the expense of Canadians’ rights,’ according to an op-ed in Foreign Policy. The Conservatives spoke volumes with their silence.” Wonder if they knew they were agents of Trump’s disinformation campaign with their go-along-to-get-along silence. Other Conservatives must be fine with the way the party is shaping up, considering they say nothing to the contrary to demonstrate they stand against racism, xenophobia, and disinformation.

    Speaking of Sloan, guess who is advising his campaign for Ontario’s June election (via his Ontario Party)? It’s none other than Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser and ex-con, whose sentence was commuted by his friend, the Donald. And the grift continues.  

    Face it, the Conservative Party is turning into a party of grifters, and these political pranks are all game. While the public continues to suffer under COVID and the long-term effects of the pandemic, these politicians are, on one side, out of touch, and on the other side, playing a game of chicken that ensures we all lose.  

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.