O’Toole starts off by telling us the temperature and informing us we live in a cold country before alleging the Liberal government wants to phase out fossil fuel usage in 18 months.
“But Steven Guilbeault, he wants to end fossil fuel usage in 18 months. He just said that in an interview. Someone so disconnected from reality that he’s making policy that will hurt our country.”
Aside from not wearing a toque when it is apparently below -20 C outside, the problem with O’Toole’s video is that his phase-out assertion is completely false.
What O’Toole was referring to were comments made by Guilbeault to The Narwhal wherein the minister rattles off some of the things the federal government is aiming to accomplish in the near term: “We don’t have five years to consult every time we want to introduce a new measure. I told you earlier that my timeline is two years, so in the next two years, more stringent methane regulations, zero-emission vehicle standards, net-zero grid by 2035, cap on oil and gas, and obviously phasing out fossil fuel, all of these things must be in place in the coming 18 months.”
It should be evident to anyone who follows federal politics or has more than one functioning neural synapse that Guilbeault was referring to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.
We shouldn’t expect politicians from opposite sides of the aisle to help their opponents take their feet out of their mouths. If politics is a blood sport, then surely jumping on your opponent’s inability to communicate is fair game. But that’s not what this is. This is a willful misrepresentation of what Guilbeault said. As Toronto Star journalist Althia Raj noted, O’Toole expressly acknowledged earlier in the day that the minister likely erred, stating, “I’m sure he made a mistake saying that.”
Shortly after O’Toole posted the video, Guilbeault took to his own Twitter account to make the explicit clarification. Yet both the video and the subsequent written statement put out by the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition echoing the remarks made in the video are still up on O’Toole’s account.
It’s certainly true that politicians of all stripes massage facts in a way that advances their own political goals or partisan agenda. But we should all be concerned when run-of-the-mill partisan spin delves into the wilful promotion of objectively false information.
This peddling of misinformation isn’t a one-off for this iteration of the Conservative Party. Rather worryingly, mainlining misinformation to rile up its base has been the Conservative shtick for a while now, and besides appealing to common collective decency, there’s no real incentive for the Conservatives to stop, as their fundraising numbers attest.
Opinion: Canadians deserve a Conservative Party that will hold the government to account while refusing to peddle misinformation and blatant conspiracy theories, writes columnist @supriyadwivedi. #Politics #CPC
Misinformation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Saying false things to simply make people angry has consequences that go beyond trying to reach Conservative Party fundraising goals. It’s how extreme rhetoric against your political opponent becomes normalized.
The Conservative Party’s embrace of misinformation is made worse by the fact that Canadian Tories have been fomenting a climate of hate and vitriol for a while now, all as part of their strategy.
It was an active choice by the party to make the barbaric cultural practices tip line and the wearing of a niqab during a citizenship ceremony an election issue in 2015. In 2017, during the federal Conservative leadership race, a majority of contenders shored up support among Islamophobes by attacking a non-binding parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia (known as M103) mere weeks after six men were gunned down in a Quebec City mosque.
About a year later, during the debate on whether Canada should sign onto the UN Global Compact on Migration, Conservatives regularly misrepresented the compact’s scope and intent. Ridiculous claims such as Canada relinquishing control of its borders to the UN or that Canada would no longer have jurisdiction over its immigration process.
Canadians deserve a Conservative Party that will hold the government to account while refusing to peddle misinformation and blatant conspiracy theories. Yet given the way the Tories have decided to conduct themselves since the 2015 election, it’s clear they seem to think blatant dishonesty is a winning strategy for them.
That’s bad enough. What’s worse is it might just eventually work.
Then we’re really screwed. We have ample examples from around the world, including in the U.S., of what happens when mainstream political parties embrace misinformation all for partisan political gain.
Truth is the last bastion of any civilized society. Let’s not give up being civilized so easily.