Generally speaking, Canadians take pride when their fellow countrymen and women make it big in America. And few have made it bigger than one Rafael (Ted) Cruz, the junior senator from Texas who played a key role in the failed coup against his own government. Last week, while a gang of fired-up Trump supporters was in the midst of storming the U.S. Capitol building and occupying the Senate floor and various congressional offices, Cruz was texting his own base, telling them he was “leading the fight” to overturn the election results.

Ironically, Canadians were also involved the last time anyone occupied the capital of the United States, when British soldiers burned the White House and other buildings to the ground in 1814 after the Americans destroyed Port Dover in Upper Canada. But while Canadians like to brag about that historical footnote, few should be celebrating Cruz’s role in the revolutionary cosplay that left five Americans dead and millions utterly humiliated. And although it might be tempting to think that Cruz’s willingness to trade in far-right fantasies is a uniquely American phenomenon, conservatives here in Canada do it almost every day.

Not all of them, of course. In a recent piece for The Line, conservative strategist and former Harper staffer Ken Boessenkool noted that “American politics is sick. That sickness has many causes, with acceptance of bad character being near the top. If we don’t recognize that, and do something about it, it could infect us as well.”

But with all due respect to Mr. Boessenkool, the movement and party that he’s spent the better part of his adult life in already has a full-blown case of Trumpism. The real question that people like him need to answer is whether it’s terminal or not.

Take his own political backyard of Alberta, where the current government has both staffers and elected officials — including one cabinet minister — who have proudly worn the red MAGA hat in the past. Devin Dreeshen, the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and the minister of agriculture and forestry, even worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. And while he released a statement last week condemning “all forms of political violence,” he has yet to apologize for his decision to associate with the Trump universe — or explain why he found it so attractive.

Dreeshen isn’t alone. At the federal level, a photo of MP Candice Bergen wearing a camo-style MAGA hat emerged recently, one she has so far declined to explain. On Monday, Bergen’s office told the Globe and Mail that the photo was taken at an event a few years ago when someone handed her the hat and asked for a picture, but the influence of Trumpism on Canada’s conservative movement goes much deeper than their occasionally questionable choices in hats.

The rhetoric coming from conservatives in both Alberta and Ottawa, for example, is inescapably Trumpy. There’s the constant fear-mongering about Canada’s borders and the threats posed by illegal immigrants, which was Trump’s North Star during the 2016 election campaign. There’s the talk about “taking Canada back,” which Erin O’Toole used repeatedly during the course of the recent leadership campaign.

And, like Trump, Canadian conservatives are more than happy to demonize the media. Indeed, in his final speech as outgoing leader, Andrew Scheer encouraged conservatives to “challenge the mainstream media” and “check out smart, independent, objective organizations like the Post Millennial, or True North.” These “independent” and “objective” organizations happened to be run by conservative partisans, including Jeff Ballingall, the founder of the Ontario Proud and Canada Proud Facebook pages and O’Toole’s digital campaign director. However, this somehow escaped mention.

And then, of course, there’s the Rebel News Network. Rebel personalities were present at Jason Kenney’s victory celebration in 2019 and have done interviews with numerous federal conservatives, including O’Toole. But he disavowed them in a 2019 tweet, noting that “I stopped appearing on Rebel when they veered from journalism to divisive and dangerous theatrics and innuendo.”

Those theatrics have only continued since then, and the Rebel has been at the forefront of Canadian efforts to discredit the U.S. election — including sending correspondent Keean Bexte to the failed coup. But for some reason, O’Toole’s office decided it was a good idea to participate in an interview with none other than the Rebel’s Ezra Levant. They've since announced that they won't work with the Rebel in the future, but the Conservative Party of Canada's history with that organization suggests the breakup won't last for long.

It’s not hard to see why they’re doing this. After all, Derek Sloan — someone whose values and beliefs would be right at home in a Trump rally — received nearly 15 per cent of the first-place votes in the first round of the Conservative Party of Canada’s recent leadership race, and played a key role in ultimately handing the crown to O’Toole. And while O’Toole has since made noises about moderating the approach that Scheer took to issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, he’s done nothing to curb the party’s fascination with Trumpist thinking.

Trump-style rhetoric from key politicians is damaging Canada's Conservative Party, and it's dangerous for the country, @MaxFawcett explains, writing that it's a "full-blown case of Trumpism" and starts with @TedCruz

Despite his fondness for far-right conspiracy theories, Sloan remains a member of O’Toole’s caucus, and Pierre Poilievre, the party’s shadow minister of finance, continues to trade in half-baked theories, whether it’s about the federal Liberals planning on taxing the equity in people’s homes or their apparently nefarious intentions associated with the so-called “great reset.”

And so far, at least, the failed coup on Jan. 6 doesn’t seem to have prompted anything in the way of soul-searching. Despite the obvious similarities to the “stop the steal” rhetoric that’s been coming from Trump supporters ever since they lost on November 3, the Conservative Party of Canada left a post from 2019 featuring a grainy photo of the Prime Minister next to a suggestion that he was “rigging the next election in his favour" up on their website until finally pulling it down a few days ago in the face of public pressure.

There is, of course, no way that the prime minister can “rig” an election in Canada, just as there was no way the Biden campaign rigged it in the United States. But truth and reality don’t appear to be important priorities for the Trumpist movement, either in its original incarnation down south or the branch plant that’s been set up north of the border.

And while it might have once been possible for conservative politicians to deceive themselves into thinking that this was all a harmless flirtation, the events of the last year have proven that notion dead wrong. In addition to America’s failed coup, there was the incident last summer in Ottawa where a Canadian Armed Forces member named Corey Hurren — a man with a well-documented fascination with far-right conspiracy theories — drove onto the grounds of Rideau Hall with a bunch of loaded weapons and the intention of arresting the prime minister for, among other things, his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That no bloodshed occurred was fortunate, and far from guaranteed. But there is one guarantee here: if conservatives insist on continuing to trade in their own brand of Trumpism, there will be more Corey Hurrens in the future. That’s why it’s long past time for people like O’Toole, Doug Ford and Kenney to disavow the radicals in their midst. Yes, it will probably cost them a few votes. But as Ted Cruz inadvertently showed the world recently, playing for those votes can come at a very high price.

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
January 12, 2021, 10:15 am

This story was corrected to amend the date the Conservative Party of Canada posted an allegation that the Prime Minister was “rigging the next election in his favour" on the party's official website.

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Totally agree. Conservatives in Canada have a base of around 20% who are extremists by any measure. They have another group, probably 30% who are silent enablers of the extremists. Both of these groups vote every time in block form. The rest of the populace certainly has some conservative representation, but it is uncomfortable being associated with this base. As long as the Conservatives continue to sell their souls to the extreme right end of the spectrum in Canada, they really are not much different from Trump.

Far right values begin with the desire to seek hegemony over the masses. People who are addicted to power for power's sake destroy peaceful civil societies. Be careful of thinking that gaining power without integrity is the only way to win.

I point to the Reagan era as the start of the current brand of conservatism, especially in North America. While I and many others like to say Canada is no USA we consistently end up reflecting their politics. How can we not considering our geographical proximity and language etc. But, we are decidedly not Americans of course.

We have more right wing extremists than most people realize. Their end game is...well, not sure to be honest but I think just being in power and control of social direction is more than likely it. That and creating more money for those on the top of the corporate food chain. I mean, it used to be about smaller government and fiscal responsibility but that is no longer true for some time now.

The constant strain of conservative extremism in North America can be traced back to its colonization by disaffected Europeans looking to get rich quick through rapacious versions of capitalism that thought (and continue to think) nothing of destroying species, ecosystems and leaving in their destructive wake devastation that may never be repaired. All the yearning for "freedom" and "liberty" had at its roots the quest for opportunity, advancement, and wealth. Everywhere the European nations explored and colonized the underlying impetus was the exploitation of other "inferior" peoples - including, if necessary, the literal enslavement of populations and or the extinction of indigenous people who could not be turned into slaves.

All of our governmental organization in the New World was built on the "superiority" of the European and a great deal of money and energy was devoted to the removal, extermination of native civilizations. The original policing in the U.S. derived from the slave patrols established throughout the South - and by the looks of it, that origin has never been erased from the white man's racial memory. In Canada the British army was the model for the RCMP and such local constabulary personnel as existed were closely tied to the militia structure up to and including the days of Confederation. Policing around the world, as we know it now has uncomfortable historical connections to militarization and the caste system that descends from royalty and aristocracy. Even the most cursory reading of history leads inescapably to the ties between wealth and policing. Capitalism is so deeply enmeshed in this systemic control of the unruly population that it is impossible to disentangle it.

Conservatism is utterly mired, embedded in this plague of hierarchy and caste; all of which revolves around the control of resources and wealth. Conservatism has thrown in its lot with the greedy, the accumulators, the autocrats, the dictators, the tyrants. Conservatism has decided that humanity has already reached its peak, it knows that we are exceeding the earth's capacity to sustain us and it is ruthlessly rushing to ensure it's control of what remains of the planet's resources and wealth.

Canada's conservatives - at least the would be leaders, are slavishly following the playbook.
One does not have to be a Marxist to know this.

Trumpism is a logical, if extreme, extension of the "conservative movement" which is a cynical, reactionary branch of conservatism. Psychologists tell us that conservative-minded people tend to put loyalty over principle and find it difficult to question authority. That makes the very concept of democracy a problem to them. When Stephen Harper formed the CPC I fear that he basically bought a franchise from American right-wing think tanks and I think the party needs to put the "progressive" back into the mix otherwise the only way to victory is by inflaming the credulous.

The courting of so-called "social conservatives" is because they tend to be gullible and obedient. This has become a poisoned chalice in the US as we see Trumpies who think that accepting everything Trump says is a test of loyalty. He has become their personal Jesus. Belief trumps reason and violence is the usual end.

I was shocked to read this quote from US Sen. Barry Goldwater who used to be thought of as an extreme right-winger: "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)

The CPC must tread very carefully. Anyone who will not denounce Trump after the attack on the Capitol is an enemy of democracy. The USA has let this fester for far too long and is now facing the likelihood of serious bloodshed. We must not allow this in Canada.