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Be afraid, Canadian Conservatives. Be very afraid.

Only a few months ago, many of your leading lights embraced a movement that stated its intention to overthrow a democratically elected government. It was, as you know, led by a motley crew of grifters, racists and far-right conspiracy theorists who have since been charged with a dizzying array of crimes. Interim CPC leader Candice Bergen and putative front-runner Pierre Poilievre would probably like to create some distance between themselves and the movement they hugged a little too enthusiastically, and they’re surely not alone.

Well, too bad.

A public inquiry into the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act has been struck, and it will look into the events that led up to that precedent-making occasion. Justice Paul Rouleau, an Ontario judge who has been described as “practical” and “thoughtful” by his colleagues, will examine the “evolution and goals of the convoy and blockades, their leadership, organization and participants,” along with the role domestic and foreign funding and the spread of disinformation played in turning a protest into an illegal occupation. His report will be tabled in the House of Commons and Senate of Canada by Feb. 20, 2023.

That report should shine a crucial light on the growing influence of far-right radical movements in Canada and the degree to which they’ve infiltrated more mainstream institutions like the Conservative Party of Canada. That didn’t just start happening over the last few months, either. The Yellow Vest movement, which culminated in a convoy of its own to Ottawa, was marbled with white supremacists and far-right extremists, as National Observer’s own Caroline Orr noted in 2019. That same year, David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a Senate committee his agency was “more and more preoccupied” with violent right-wing extremism.

None of this seems to have registered with the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, much less with Maxime Bernier, who came within a handful of votes of becoming its leader in 2017 before breaking off to form the People’s Party of Canada. Surely, they were aware of renewed warnings in late January from the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) that the convoy about to converge on Ottawa was filled with radical elements.

“While the organizers have declared that this is an act of peaceful protest,” ITAC reportedly said in a document seen by The Guardian, “some ideologically motivated violent extremism followers in Canada have seized upon this rally to advocate for their own ideological objectives.” As national security expert Stephanie Carvin told the news outlet, “[The protest leaders] were exceptionally clear on what they wanted to do, and how they were going to go about doing it.”

So why, rather than distance themselves from that movement as it approached the nation’s capital, did so many leading Canadian Conservatives embrace it? And why, given what was already known about that movement’s leaders and their extremist views, did people like Poilievre go out of their way to court them?

Those are questions they’re conspicuously uninterested in answering. If anything, they seem determined to double down and defend the occupiers, some of whom are facing charges ranging from mischief and intimidation to obstructing a police officer and perjury.

In question period Wednesday, Bergen suggested the inquiry is going to be “another chance for [the prime minister] to call innocent people racists and misogynists and accuse them of all kinds of things that are factually not true.”

Opinion: The Emergencies Act commission will probe the influence of far-right radical movements in Canada, and the degree to which they’ve infiltrated Canada's conservative parties. @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver. #cdnpoli #COVIDConvoy

What is and isn’t factually true will be up to Justice Rouleau to decide, and he’ll have plenty of leeway to do that, including the power to summon witnesses under oath and require them to provide documents. Conservatives have complained loudly that the government hasn’t (yet) waived cabinet confidentiality around internal documents related to the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, with MP Raquel Dancho suggesting the inquiry “will be useless unless they waive cabinet confidence and allow Canadians to know the whole story.”

But as Postmedia columnist Matt Gurney wrote, we may not get to know the whole story here. “It’s very possible that the government possesses information that has not been made public for valid national security reasons, which informed its decision-making, and led cabinet to believe the Emergencies Act was warranted.”

Either way, Canadians need to know as much as possible about what happened in Ottawa earlier this year and why the government felt it was necessary to use the Emergencies Act. They deserve the fullest version of the truth possible, one that lays out in very specific terms the danger the government was seeking to avert. And they should demand that any elected official who aided or abetted acts of domestic terrorism be called to account for their words and deeds.

For years now, Canada’s Conservatives have played footsie with an increasingly radicalized right-wing populist movement. The sooner their relationship with them is brought into the light, the better it will be for everyone else.

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IMO, this support for far-right views and actions is the logical conclusion to the move that started when the old god-bless-them Progressive Conservatives, thanks to the lies and treachery of Peter McKay, damned be his name, merged with the Reform Party.

The membership of the Reform Party was, even at that time, far right in many many of its views and positions, despite, apparently, Manning's intentions.

"Christian" right.
Social conservative.
Massive constraints on the role of government, away from addressing social and economic needs of unrepresented people and communities.
Opposed to any "dilution" of the WASP Canadian identity, through immigration, multiculturalism--even through acknowledgement and atonement to Indigenous populations for massive and enduring historic crimes and offenses.
Opposed to equity for LGBTQ2 people and partnerships.
"Xenophobic, homophobic, paranoid".

This is a party grounded in the "rugged individualism" philosophy that has caused so very many problems in the USA.

It is, IMO, a "me first, me and mine only" philosophy in operation. No sense of community needs and rights balanced with those of individuals.

Selfish. Frightened. Angry. And hateful. IMO, the essential characteristics of the far right.

Now, add massive expansion of the gap between the rich and the poor over the last 30 years, the near-obliteration of the middle class, with no government intervention, because the principle of The Marketplace is a sacred cow, which must not be questioned, let alone constrained.

And a pandemic, that hit disempowered individuals and groups far more drastically than others, that all governments mishandled--through their communications if in no other way. Massive job losses or "temporary" lay-offs. In Ontario, at least, totally biased government interventions in favour of large corporations (not even Canadian ones) and almost total neglect of small businesses.

Why is any of this uprising tone a surprise? Why are the only interventions ad hoc, one-time, location-specific?

Is no-one, in any government, looking at all this as a sign of significant and fundamental trouble, throughout our country?

All true. Reform party "bozo eruptions" have never really left, and social media with the pandemic has helped to create what can now be seen as a fully manifested "mob mentality" in the political right both here and in the U.S; a phenomenon that is unimaginable on the left. It has an essence that is entirely male-- aggressively self-serving and extremely competitive in the same way the most popular sports are. Women are also capable of this of course, but it's very much a matter of degree.
In the absence of any real interest in good, democratic governance in the usual sense, and wanting to WIN and gain power more than anything because they simply do NOT represent the actual majority in this country (or the U.S.), have never been seen as the "natural governing party," long-festering resentment of that reality has now been stoked beyond what has ever been possible so that the right wing is now widely perceived as having lost its mind. Hence the blind mob in motion that we are now witnessing.
It's part and parcel of evoking the "Emergencies Act" to require justification after the fact, but the idealized objectivity of the media that skews toward "bothsidesism" means that the melodramatic, stoking style of conservatives, tailor-made for headlines, is employed, so we all have to fall in with the pretense that the Liberals may WELL have had some nefarious, dictatorial purpose, despite the fact that we all SAW IT WITH OUR OWN EYES, were appalled, and very much wanted and were waiting for a commensurate action like the ARMY being called in.
It isn't just the media though; it seems to be human nature that when faced with something shocking, unprecedented and/or highly alarming, many are inclined to downplay it at the time to the extent of even sort of pretending it didn't happen. Flat-out weird people are, truly, but we've also seen it with the Jan. 6th insurrection. So into this very human void come the grifters, the opportunists, the unscrupulous, and generally speaking the very worst among us, who are inarguably the conservatives at this point, period. It's past time to circle the wagons on the left; it's the only real option with a mob.

I agree with your account of the origins of the CPC—the treachery and betrayal of the ProgCon party which had recently won the two largest parliamentary majorities, back-to-back. That remarkable feat was only possible because of the formula conservatives had to resort to to get it: cooperation between les Bleus sandwiched between Atlantic and Upper Canada Tories on either boundary, and the West (the Prairies and the densely-populated riverine-agricultural ridings of BC).

As remarkable, despite the greatest Tory influence in Canadian politics since the Great Depression (perhaps ever, given the size of Mulroney’s majorities), Manning felt the timing propitious to propagate his “the-West-Wants-In” paean—and old trope not entirely illegitimate, but which was terminal for Mulroney’s grand coalition when his counterpart and rhetorical rival, Bouchard, thought it propitious to propagate another old trope at the same time: “Quebec-wants-out.”

Neither faction had enough democratic heft to win federal government —which suited Bouchard’s vision just fine since his semi-popular vision to separate would leave his BQ paramount in an independent Quebec (and the provincial PQ was, at the time, powerful, too); but it was frustrating for Manning who seemed to have (mis)calculated (as he certainly bloviated) that Western Reformers could win government if (“when”) Quebec ridings were subtracted from the formula. When the second Quebec referendum failed to provide that scenario, Manning thence resorted to sub-ethical tactics like proselytizing the religious right by assuring them they could realize their retrogressive political mores if they just kept them under their hat until Reform somehow grew into the winner’s circle; failing at that, he stumbled over his next, “unite-the-right” tactic and lost the leadership of the resulting Alliance Party to a scion of Klein’s Alberta PCs. It was a three-step shuffle to disaster.

It was rather like a third punch to the nose for Reformers; and no sooner had Stockwell Day become leader of the Loyal Opposition, his caucus split into two over his galling ineptitude; and Chrétien’s snap election (which caught Day, pants-down, enraged the right, and led to fixed terms so nonCons could never “play politics with the election date” ever, ever again ) was like a fourth, humiliating blow. Marauding the resulting boil of blood, guts and scales, the betrayal of the rump ProgCons you rightly mentioned effectively took the next step down the slippery slope of perfidy required to win the Commons. And it did, but just barely.

Call it the ‘CPC jingo phase’: big belt-buckle, high-struttin’, spurs a-jiggling as uber-partisan knee-to-groin politics was received by Canadians with stunned groans of disbelief and stampede-whoops of celebration loud enough to distract from an indisputable fact: as the dominant Reform faction brazenly brandished irons red-hot, they and everyone else knew that their tepid win—a begrudging minority—was gotten dishonourably in three perfidious steps: the bifurcation of the PC party, the proselytizing of the religious right, and the treachery of Peter MacKay (I can’t think of a better ‘accolade’ than yours...)

The HarperCons were never loved and, after two back-to-back minorities (one of which they stepped freely further down the ethical vortex—to the very brink of constitutional crisis— to avoid the traditional test of confidence they would have lost), they did win a majority. CPCers danced elatedly and got in a mood to avenge Canada’ luke-warm acceptance—but, again, a win which eventually proved to have availed dirty psephological tricks to achieve. The culmination of such revelations, only three years into the fixed term, forced Harper to put his government’s first and last majority on life-support, even the NDP taking first pole-position to start the race. Plumbing the pit of shamelessness, Harper deployed his ‘niqab’ campaign gimmick, but both he and hitherto frontrunner Mulcair were convincingly defeated by the resurrected Liberals.

Enter the dark, ‘cornered-rabid-skunk’ phase of neo-right partisan politics: the post-Harper CPC-in-opposition, thrashed three times in a row, its bag of dirty tricks hangs limp as an empty Christmas stocking with a lump of bitumen in its toe after the appalling leadership contest of bigoted one-upmanship, the petulant hiving-off of the even more bigoted faction (Bernier’s PPC), the bitter unsportsmanship riled by ScheerCon’s failure to win power back in 2019, O’Tool’s cagey, ultimately futile plea to moderate, and the utterly galling rise of self-legitimizing neo-Nazi convoys and la Meute/Soldiers of Odium bikers marauding the land getting endorsements from opportunistic demagogues —and the sickening feeling of defilement by the tRumpublican-infested USA through the back door of Albetar. Et, voila! Here we are.

The slide from “the-West-wants-in” to Confederate and Nazi battle-flags parading radical urinators over puddled National War memorials is a sordid continuum—the slippery slope, as ‘t were—the spectrum of which has two basic relationships: the direct one where more and more voters are repelled by neo-rightist tactics to win power, and the inverse one in which far right radicals repel voters more and more the deeper into the black slime they plumb to pull gimmicks out of their horned helmets. Most horrible is that the chauvinists the moribund neo-right invites into itself (to compensate for moderates departing in disgust) seem willfully blind—like zombies in the Night of the Living Dead—to two simple facts: Canadians are middle-of-the-road moderates and these reactionary tactics have crossed the line into sedition and, further—as the fascists like to call anyone who doesn’t agree with them—“treason!”

The Q-a-now is whether they’ve scraped the bottom of their sludge yet. Here we have the ostensible neo-right dream to win democratic licence by recruiting those who flout it. Hypocrisy is their calling card, yes, but so blatant we are horrified. The realization that they are among us—even of us—is as grim as whatever responsibility any ordinary, law-abiding Canadian might take for our governments’ unjust treatment of indigenous people, or for our contributions to climate change. It’s like United-We-Roll, the Freedumb-Convoy, Ambassador Bridge, Coutts, anti-vaxxers, and battle-flags shamed us all—even thought 95% of us do not subscribe. That, I believe, is a hopeful sign.

For me the next, desperate tactic—after all so far have failed to grant power to those who would abuse it—is the far-right’s attempt to achieve “globalism”—like the fascist Germans, French, Italians, Japanese and, as a temporizing marriage of convenience, the USSR fancied while blaming a fantastic Jewish cabal is, naturally, hypocritical. Donald tRump makes a dubious art of it. With failure upon failure to achieve a fascist state within their own nations, they now—as in the 1930s—trade gimmicks and coordinate tactics. That’s why Bolsonaro, tRump, Modi, Putin and others look so bromantic in each other’s company. Their screed is to realize racial legitimacy by the most democratically illegitimate means—by cheating at the polls: disenfranchisement, voter-suppression, coercion, and violence.

That’s what Poilievre and Kenney (who regularly gets inky blood-transfusions from the USA) look and sound like. It’s not for nothing that they and their ilk affect their antics when otherwise peace-loving, moderate Canadians are distracted —with one hand tied behind our backs, as ‘t were—by more important challenges, by winter, Covid, legitimate protest, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, &c. Whatever it takes, right? Tilt the playing field, stack the deck, load the dice, thumb-to-the-eye...and then claim some bullshit sense of honour and patriotism. Yeah, “patriotism,” said the fifth column...

My gut tells me the neo-right is in its throes but still dangerous enough—like a cornered rabid skunk—to be wary of. The law must try and punish those who deserve it—even as it might look like stoking Pierre le Puke Poilievre’s ire. Even as we condemn the extremists among us, we—and they— better hope we don’t need to resort to tyranny of the majoritarian kind. That would make us like them when there shouldn’t even be either.

Great summation, and most entertaining to read! Thanks...

Evangelical Christian Fascism has been at the core of the Right wing parties starting with Parson Manning's Reform Party, then with subsequent mergers to form the CRAP.

The presence of the far-right in the Police and Military needs to be exposed also, how far up the chain of command are they imbedded? Remember that most of the protestors got off with nothing more than a HUG

It was clear to anyone paying attention as far back as Stephen Harper that the leaders of Canadian Conservatism don't care in the slightest about democracy. I mean, if you told Justin Trudeau that he could have a coup tomorrow and stay in power for the rest of his life as a dictator, I don't know for sure what his answer would be, but I think it's clear he'd at least hesitate. He would feel like there was something wrong with the idea of just dumping democracy even if it would 100% surely give him more power. And you know, the same is true of Conservatives back in the day--no way would Joe Clark have taken such a deal, and I don't think even old lyin' Brian would have gone for it. Indeed, to be fair, probably not Preston Manning.

But Stephen Harper? In a flash. He would not have seen any downside to such a deal. And he surrounded himself with people who also thought of politics as purely an exercise in gaining as much power as possible, while crushing everyone who disagrees. International, often US-driven, trends have pushed this further. At this point there aren't a lot of people at the top of the Conservative party who have even a vestigial attachment to the concept of democracy, loyal opposition or any of that jazz. In effect, the modern Conservative party is not fascist solely to the extent that they feel they can't get away with it.

True, good summary except I'd include Trudeau in the reasonable group. As I keep saying here, the fact that you entertain otherwise is one of the best examples of how insidious and pervasive the conservative narrative has become, especially with the main media being that way. In the Globe and Mail you only need to peruse their headlines over the last week to see that a majority are anti-Liberal. It's not unlike the new denialism with climate science; they still have lots of good and progressive "content," but the reality is that they have always come out behind the cons at election time until recently when they haven't endorsed anyone, possibly because they're finally starting to perceive some risk there. And risk there is aplenty, hiding in plain sight all these years. The alienation that people like us have felt has driven many reasonable people away from paying much attention to politics, which has probably been the most successful feature of the con agenda. It's given new meaning to the word "base."
Remember how, back in the day with Presto's boys how the question of an agenda kept surfacing in a newly recurring way, i.e. did they or did they not HAVE one? Well they bloody well did, and still DO; religion certainly figured into it, still DOES, even in its usual auxiliary function. But the whole thing has taken on a life of its own, which is why its so dangerous.

Thank you for this and please continue to keep us informed on this issue Max. Personally, the memory of the siege of Ottawa in February still haunts me.

It seems to me that that Conservatives are courting the Far Right in order to gain votes- and steal some from the PPC. This is so similar to the tactics of the Republican Party in the US. Shame on them. They should be doing what's right for Canada and upholding the oath they took when they became MP's.

However, I agree with Kathy that the pandemic was hard on many Canadians, and the increasing financial inequality in Canada makes some people vulnerable to Far Right tactics. Nothing much is being done to address income inequality and to tax the ultra-rich.

Over the last 40 years we Canadians have experienced conservative leaning governments who have embraced budget and service cuts, keeping wages for most below inflation and productivity gains, decline in labour unions who really are the only folks who care about the little guy. And the selling and privatizing of public owned assets.
Is it any wonder many feel ignored, left behind and frustrated? Combine that with the the USA influence thru social media on Canadians who believe in conspiracy theories (1 in 4 according to poll this week) , an American interpretation of freedom, then throw in a pandemic which really brought this cost cutting to a head. This is what we get. Max Fawcett is correct in warning us . Former USA secretary of state Albright has also warned us. Conservatives aren't playing footsie, they are in bed with populist. With 4 very conservative provincial premiers leading 60% of Canada's population, they are determined to change and Americanize they very fabric of our society, from our family relationships to our community relationships and our relationship with our economy. The trouble is just beginning.

I'd like to know, too, who told the police to stand down, and not issue parking tickets, etc. ... and for that matter, the presence of extreme right bias in the police forces.

I'm having trouble googling up some news from the time.

What I could swear I remember, the day before (two?) the Emergencies Act was called, that the $400M/day lost at the one border, after escalating to the closing of some car factories, two (?) American politicians gave quotes about how this shows that Canada can't be trusted as a manufacturing partner, their problems were causing American factories to close, it would be better to withdraw from the relationship and manufacture all in "America First".

I wondered if that was the real final straw: existential threats to the trade relationship. And, since the politicians in question were MAGA-end of the spectrum, it even whiffed of (sorry) 'conspiracy', between the convoy with American funding, and the American pols with an anti-Canada agenda.

But darned if I can find the story, the names of the American pols. Did I just dream that?