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Pierre Poilievre, champion of the free press? It wasn’t on my 2024 bingo sheet either, but Canada’s leader of the official Opposition tried to use the arrest of Rebel Media’s David Menzies to suggest that Justin Trudeau is the real threat to journalism in Canada. That’s a bold move for a guy who’s been railing against journalists and the media ever since he entered politics, and then turned the volume up on that to 11 when he became CPC leader. If nothing else, you almost have to admire the chutzpah.

Almost.

Poilievre’s attempt to gaslight an entire country into believing he actually cares about things like journalistic integrity and free speech is about three bridges too far, given the obvious joy he has taken in smacking down organizations like The Canadian Press, the CBC, and other professional media outlets in the past. As freelance journalist Dale Smith noted, “This guy’s wannabe goons tried to have me removed from the press gallery for making a joke about how terrible one of his MP’s questions was, so I really don’t think he’s all that concerned about the free press.” Former Global News reporter Rachel Gilmore had a similar bone to pick. “You released an entire press release attacking me, a journalist, for asking you questions you didn’t like,” she tweeted.

Ironically, Poilievre’s own party had Menzies arrested on two separate occasions, once at a 2019 event when Andrew Scheer was leader and once when he tried to ask Melissa Lantsman — Poilievre’s current deputy leader — some loaded questions about her sexual orientation at a July 25, 2021 event. As Menzies said in his video of the incident, “What kind of political party has a reporter arrested and then steals their notebook and takes pictures of it? You think Justin Trudeau’s media party is bad? These are the guys who want to form the next government.”

In a statement her campaign released later that day, Lantsman said, “When Mr. Menzies' line of questioning became homophobic and related to my sexual orientation, I ended the interview. Afterward, I spoke to some constituents but ultimately left the event because I felt unsafe.” She’s not the only Conservative who has issues with Menzies’ style of reporting. “He’s a typical Rebel News lout,” former CPC MP (and journalist) Peter Kent said in a 2021 Twitter exchange with Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy. “Create an incident, bully, insult, defy security and police cautions … then [fundraise] as a bogus ‘victim.’ Fundraising theatre. He gets ‘arrested’ all the time.”

It should surprise exactly nobody that there’s already a fundraiser underway over at the Rebel. This is what they do. But it should be a little more alarming to see the Conservative Party of Canada doing essentially the same thing. “Freedom of the press is being buried by the Trudeau government and state-controlled media,” their email says. “Trudeau has divided the media into two camps: those he has bought off with bailouts and those he has censored and arrested. This is a dangerous trend.”

None of that is true, of course, unless you think the entire Postmedia chain — including Trudeau-loathing luminaries like Brian Lilley and Rex Murphy — has been “bought off.” But the email is right about one thing: this is a dangerous trend. Poilievre’s willingness to misrepresent reality and feed it to his anger-addicted base is only going to make them hungrier and hungrier. For a guy who keeps accusing the prime minister of dividing Canadians, he sure seems determined to spend a lot of his time doing the same thing.

As to his apparent crusade for a free press? It’s all in keeping with Andrew Scheer’s resignation speech as party leader in 2021 when he encouraged Conservatives to “challenge the mainstream media” and “check out smart, independent, objective organizations like the Post Millennial or True North.” There is nothing objective or independent about either organization, least of all when it comes to the Conservative movement in Canada. But for Scheer and Poilievre, that’s a feature, not a bug.

If Poilievre is truly interested in supporting a free press, he could stop treating journalists like enemy combatants rather than people simply trying to do their jobs. He could refrain from launching personal attacks against individual reporters, understanding the vitriol that inevitably sends in their direction. He could even stop threatening to defund the CBC. But he won’t do any of those things. After all, Poilievre and his party aren’t actually interested in supporting a free press. Instead, they want to secure their own freedom from it.

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For Canadian "Conservatives", it's all about the Bordens. Follow their money.

I have little sympathy for Lantsman. She's the one who decided to get and remain involved with a political party marked by strong anti-gay beliefs. If she's gonna stay in bed with the scum, she's gotta expect to get a bit of slime on her.

And this is why I;
a) refer to this party as Reform, in spite of official brand name, &,
b) always tag the 'victim' here as Rebel (Still Not) Media.
The latter because in his own defence at one of his libel/defamation trials the publisher (I won't use his name) declared that he WAS NOT a journalist.