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For more than four years now, Canadians have watched the slow-motion collapse of American democracy with a mixture of horror and schadenfreude. In retrospect, we probably should have spent that time preparing our own country for the arrival of the political virus that Donald Trump created and is now spreading here. After the events of the last few weeks, it’s become clear that it’s already infected thousands of people — and it’s moving fast.

Witness the surge in abuse and violence directed towards journalists during the recent Ottawa protests. As veteran Global reporter Sean O'Shea noted, “I’ve never personally experienced so much personal harassment while covering a story. I had rarely needed a bodyguard before. Covering the protests, television crews at all networks needed security staff to do our jobs safely. That’s a sad fact.”

So too is the fact that journalists were verbally harassed and even spat on by protesters for simply doing their jobs, something their American peers had to deal with more and more over the last few years. As Brent Jolly, the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, said in an interview last week, “This is what happens when you have brains scrambled by misinformation.”

Some of those brains can be found in the Conservative Party of Canada’s own caucus. Just as Trumpism transformed the Republican Party from a political vehicle for the interests of the wealthy into a clearing house for conspiracy theories and other flavours of paranoid nonsense, so too has it corrupted Canada’s Conservatives and alienated any remaining moderates in their midst.

Take the way they’ve tried to portray the protests in Ottawa. Just as Republicans did in the wake of their near-insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, Conservatives in Canada have tried to spin our own anti-democratic movement that sought to overturn the will of the people as a benign expression of patriotism. In the House of Commons, MP Lianne Rood suggested it was “like a Canada Day times a thousand — bigger than any Canada Day I’ve ever seen in this country.”

Their renewed interest in the so-called “Great Reset,” a benign (if poorly branded) economic manifesto from the World Economic Forum, is textbook Trumpist politics. It’s become the far right’s latest conspiracy theory of choice, one that blends latent anti-Semitism with climate change denial and populist fearmongering, all in response to the suggestion that COVID-19 is a reminder of why we need to put our economies on a more sustainable and just trajectory.

At the heart of this theory is Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman and founder of the World Economic Forum. “The COVID-19 crisis is affecting every facet of people’s lives in every corner of the world,” he wrote in a 2020 piece on his proposed “great reset.” “But tragedy need not be its only legacy. On the contrary, the pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world to create a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future.”

In retrospect, it appears to have represented an even better opportunity for Conservatives to terrify Canadians about some sort of shadowy global conspiracy to undermine their standard of living and violate their rights. In the Commons, Oshawa MP Colin Carrie asked about the “infiltration” and “penetration” of the government by Schwab’s WEF, and asked for names of cabinet ministers who were “on board with the WEF’s agenda.”

This is a long way from 2012, when former prime minister Stephen Harper told Schwab: “You have made the World Economic Forum an indispensable part of the global conversation among leaders in politics, business, and civil society … I know everyone here joins me in thanking you for, in the service of the common good, your leadership and vision.” But that was back when Donald Trump was still just a reality television star (rather than a reality television president) and the Conservative Party of Canada wasn’t so clearly in thrall to his brand of politics.

But while the Conservative Party of Canada has clearly decided it wants to learn to live with the virus of Trumpism, the rest of us must try to fight it off. If Justin Trudeau wants to leave a lasting legacy for this country, that’s where he should focus his efforts right now.

Opinion: Trumpism has corrupted Canada’s Conservatives and alienated any remaining moderates in their midst. @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver. #Trumpism #AntiSemitism #cdnpoli

He can begin with a crackdown on the spread of misinformation, which seems to grow at exponential rates on social media platforms like Facebook. Indeed, as The Verge’s Ryan Broderick noted in a recent story, Facebook amplified some of the most odious examples during the occupation of Ottawa and attracted the attention of the American misinformation-industrial complex. “This pipeline — from physical protest to social media to establishment outlets — is what has helped the convoy evolve from a local standoff into a televised event that can raise millions from supporters thousands of miles away,” he wrote.

Trudeau can also revisit the idea of electoral reform and push harder for a system like ranked ballots that rewards consensus and punishes extremism. More support for the media and other fact-based reporting is an essential part of this broader campaign, as is a renewed focus on teaching civics in our schools and communities.

There’s no guarantee we can fully inoculate ourselves from the threat of Trumpism. But as recent events in Ottawa have shown, we can’t afford to pretend it isn’t here — or that we’re somehow immune to it. Our best hope now is to reinforce the institutions that uphold our democracy and its values as best and as quickly as we can, and hope they can weather the coming storm.

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Sorry Max, a bit of rant here but you and I both know that 'Trumpism' arrived in Canada long before the Convoy. Long before Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister. The ideas behind 'trumpism' have been around a very long time. Racism, bigotry, fear of the unknown, conspiracy theories - all and more perpetuated by a President who only wanted power and money. Nothing about governing or helping people other than his corporate cronies. The same nonsense has been in Canada since the American oil barons (corporate pirates) came up to Alberta back in the 50's and 60's, buying or leasing oil lands and leaving their progeny behind to look after the business. The progeny, now Canadian citizens, in name only as their allegiance is still as American as apple pie, continue fomenting the chaos and mistrust to the 30-40% that love conspiracy theories whether in the U.S. or Canada, the fearful ones, ones that truly believe 'the sky is falling' if people and media repeat it often enough. Our Canadian Conservative Party, more a western rump party than a true Federal representation, and their previous leader, Harper, supported Trump even when no longer Canada's PM's. During his time as PM he did nothing to unite anyone other than his party members no matter his history and mission statement. The ideals that began the 'fellowship' of our current Conservative Party are to be found in the teachings of Ted Byfield. Further enhanced by Edward Bernays brand of mind manipulation, they have managed to subvert Canadian ideals with 'trumped' up American vandalism, ie the convoy. When all is said and done, after all the studies and investigations on the trucker convoy are complete, the final truth will never be shown. Except for the few lone journalistic voices in the wilderness, most of our media have been bought up by governments or corporate entities & will keep the secrets - because it will happen again. Jan 6th in the U.S., the trucker convoy in Canada are current and only a beginning as we've witnessed in many countries around the world. Many of our leaders starting out innocent with a desire to improve things are confronted by power, money, greed - difficult to walk away from when the current belief system is corrupt, devoid of ethics, civics and morals. Remember when Harper turned journalists away; when he eliminted the environmental system in Canada and trashed the paperwork? When Mike Harris was allowed to sell the publicly funded highway 407 to cronies in order to make a buck off the taxpayer's back; allowed to walk away richer after lucrative investments in private long term care facilities after nearly destroying the public medical system in Ontario, I knew then, and now at 75 years having watched history continually repeat itself over and over again, different faces and names but using the same con games, making up their own rules, public be dammed, I pray for the future of humanity. I pray for the trusting souls who get caught up in the red herring games of the corporate elite and government shysters while they sit back in their ivory towers watching and enjoying the chaos as they continue their bafflegab and theft of our lives while doing exactly as they please.

I think Mr. Fawcett's article is a timely and urgent warning for everyone about how the American-International far-right has grown in strength and perilousness across the western world, Canada included. It is true that Canada's experience in being infiltrated by American far-right thinking and money, can be traced back to the 1950s and 60s, when we stood by as Houston bought Alberta, but that doesn't tell the whole story or highlight the present dangers now facing democracies everywhere. As an elder person myself, I find that my peers who constantly observe that there's nothing new going on, that this far-right trend was happening prior to the emergence of Trump, that all has been seen before, are missing the point. The ascendance of Trump was like an asteroid hitting the democratic world. Sure, Trump didn't invent all the lies, misinformation, greed, racism, misogyny, and inequalities that now typify the western world, but he did make it all worse by magnifying it and spreading it like a plague. What's left isn't a "traditional" problem that we've seen before in any similar manner. Technology is different, communications are different, the world is very different. That's why I think the Max Fawcett article here is more accurate and helpful than all my "I've seen it all" peers. What bothers me most about their message is that they are inadvertently sending a hidden, unintended message, through that pleading, namely: "We've been here before kids, so don't panic, it's not a new problem, we'll get by." Sorry, that is neither accurate or helpful. Our democracies are now in the greatest danger from fascism since WW2. It's real, and it demands more than a complacent shrug because we think it is "same-old same old." It isn't. So I thank Mr. Fawcett for his assessment, and I look forward to his further investigations into what is a huge, and novel, problem now facing all western democracies.

Absolutely correct, Peter O'Malley. Thanks for your input.

This quote shows how much the evangelicals have infected American society:
"Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them." Said in November 1994, as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006)

Believe it or not that's from Barry Goldwater!

Wow. Another quote from Goldwater: "Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice." Politics really has created strange bedfellows now with libertarians and Christians somehow on the same page. I keep wondering, at what point does one reconsider or even CONSIDER their affiliations? Rarely, clearly, is the answer; that tribal identification thing is so strong, but with men in particular it seems. John Lennon's song, "imagine there's no heaven," AND "imagine there's no country....."
His observation about governance demanding compromise sounds unbelievable now, he wouldn't be accepted in the GOP, but he's spot on with "these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise." So I think we have to call these people out with the new hashtag TRUTH. It's just not that relative.
"Truth is beauty, beauty truth, it is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."

Name it. Evangelical Christian Fascism. About 15% of Canadians are Evangelicals (USA 25%) the decline in the % of people who vote favors this block. They have far more weight in the Legislatures in this country than they should have. Also, Rural Canada has more representation than the% of population. Electoral Reform is essential we need a Citizen's Assembly pronto, one that is free from Politicians.

Yes, you're right. NOT "naming it" is what has enabled religion to come in the back door or hide in plain sight by using "the economy" as a trojan horse. It's not even called religion anymore, it's now "social conservatism." And yes, they have far more weight in the legislatures than they should have, certainly the case in Alberta. As an example of the subterfuge around this love that dare not speak its name, the Wild Rose Party here was decidedly weakened enough to be rolled into the current United Conservative Party due to what is called the "lake of fire" episode that was overtly biblical and showed that candidates actually believed in the bible as more than just stories because they also believe that God is real, not just a figment of their imaginations. Talk about "the big lie," because the UCP could also accurately be called the "United Christian Party." And about the rural population having too much representation? Indeed. I live in Lethbridge, adjacent to "cult central" which is what rural southern Alberta is, and coincidentally it was where vaccine uptake was the biggest problem, so that urban/rural split definitely ushers in more religion, and has been far too catered to in light of what democracy means. But that reticence about religion generally clearly permeates our media and society, derived in part from our Charter protecting freedom of religion and our desire to appear "tolerant." If there was an outright question of whether people wanted a democracy or a theocracy I'm sure we'd vote for the former, but there's that back door. Given an inch, believers have taken the proverbial mile, and I keep waiting for SOMEONE to bring up the elephant in the room. Even Markiana's sweepingly incisive comment mentions praying as if that does anything. And Joe Biden is a major Catholic; U.S teeters on theocracy actually, so the problem is massively insidious and therefore stealthy as hell. Speaking of naming it. Obviously people want to "believe" and they HAVE tax-free churches (clubhouses) for that, plus their own homes, but that obviously isn't enough to maintain their inherently fragile bubble of "faith" so they have maintained their incursion into our hospitals and schools, and are marching on and winning the most public sanction of them all, government, by keeping the "saints" out of it.
Electoral reform would bring on new voters like younger people who strongly favour inclusion and "a voice," and not following through with that election promise years ago alienated many supporters who voted for Trudeau because of that. That's what he should do before he hands over the reins to Chrystia (who is also religious, as is he btw, therein lies the magnitude of the problem.) And then the NDP should unite with them so we have a chance to survive the lies.

At the very least, we need to revive the vitally important and never- more- relevant idea of "separation of church and state."

Thank you again, Tris, for your insight. As always on the mark!

Besides the nastiness (that is in good portion due to Trump), what burns me is that we're living in the greatest conspiracy ever (Big Oil and Big Money in cahoots with the governments in their pockets to extinguish life on Earth because they enjoy the cannibalistic capitalism game so much) -- but not a single word about that during the Hostage Convoy. Even scarier was what one "called to Ottawa by God" convoyist let out of the bag:
"For Pedersen, ending the vaccine mandates is a first step in what she calls the 'freedom movement.' She worries climate change-related mandates could soon follow" (from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/faith-convoy-truckers-1.6350538).
So the Self-Indulgence Convoy is perhaps a big warning that there's a segment of our society that is going to quite noisily refuse to do what we need to do to avoid extinction.

Hi Max,

I agree with your points made in your article, apart from your support of Trudeau's push for a 'ranked ballot' form of change to our electoral system. A ranked ballot system would favour the Liberal Party over other parties. Instead some form of proportional representation system should be adopted, as was proposed by the all party committee studying electoral reform two or three years back. The vast majority of the committee members recommended some form of proportional representation, but not the ranked ballot system, as a new electoral system, but because Justin didn't like that result (he had been pushing for the ranked ballot system), he dismissed the findings of the committee and said that there wasn't a consensus arrived at - in other words, he lied. I recommend that your readers check out the organization 'Fair Vote Canada' (https://www.fairvote.ca) that has been providing information about the pros and cons of various electoral systems and has been lobbying for some form of proportional representation system instead of the ranked ballot system that would favour the Liberal Party, and I encourage everyone to donate to and volunteer with Fair Vote Canada. Any other system will leave us in the same boat that we're in now, where all of us mice vote for either the black cats or the white cats (look up Tommy Douglas' memorable speech about a country called Mouseland, which perfectly describes our current 'first past the post' electoral system). The majority of developed countries have adopted some form of proportional representation, which results in the percentage of the popular vote that a party receives being directly reflected in the percentage of seats that party wins in the parliament or legislature, etc. Our current first past the post system often results in a party obtaining a majority government with less than forty percent of the popular vote.