Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole recently released a 42-second video decrying the Liberal plan to phase out fossil fuels within the next year and a half, knowing it wasn’t true.
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.”
What people are reading
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.
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.
I agree that, despite being
I agree that, despite being caught out in such blatant and intentional lying, the second and more damaging aspect is that many will choose to still believe Mr O’Toole.
This isn’t new to Canadian politics but is increasing in use particularly by the Federal Conservative Party.
Christopher Wylie describes how deception or misinformation is being used to manipulate the electorate in his excellent book “Mindf*ck: Inside Cambridge Analytica’s Plot to Break the World”. He describes the behaviour that we are witnessing in our federal and also provincial politics; behaviour that in the past would have resulted with the politician being drowned is shame but is now a blip in time. Occasionally there is a retraction or a vague quasi-correction but as you have noted, too often the item remains intact on their Social Media platforms. That is all part of the tactic that Mr Wylie refers to as “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool”, the very tool that he helped to create.
As Mr O’Toole ramps up the use of this form of mendacity many voters may see through the deception but too many, maybe even enough, will believe.
In a naive way it’s like watching your favourite sports team compete with their main rival knowing that they are cheating. There was a time what I was confident that most Canadians would not stand with the plan to “win at all costs”, now I am not so sure.
A lesson that I have learned along the way is fitting, “Someone who will steal for you will also steal from you”. I am confident that Mr O’Toole is also aware.
This is a perfect example of
This is a perfect example of misinformation, and why I pass on the Conservative candidate box on my ballot.
Years ago before the internet he could have gotten away with comments like that, but now in the age of instant info he has no way to win.
Great read and right to the point!
"It should be evident to
"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."
I read the section three times, and still wonder why would that degree of particularity be evident? He was speaking about enacting policies, not their fruition dates!
Perhaps we'd like to see wiggle-room and weasel words taken out of policy, but there was nothing in that piece (or indeed, any of the self-laudatory comments the Liberals make on climate change, reflecting truth, dare, or lies).
As for lying Conservatives, it sounds like O'Toole's placing himself in some kind of race against truth with Kenny and Ford ... and perhaps others that I don't know enough about to have any opinion.
It would be evident "to
It would be evident "to anyone who follows federal politics" (which I would hope would include the leader of the federal oppostion) because the Liberals don't have any policies that look anything remotely like ending the use of fossil fuels in 18 months. If, for some reason, you were willing to imagine that a minister saying something like that was not just a slip of the tongue, you would have to also imagine the minister was about to be sacked because the Liberal government and party in general would never allow it.
Clearly the spectre of
Clearly the spectre of rampant "misinformation" has always lurked in human society, just waiting to be triggered, hence our historical high regard and common quest for the beacon that is "the truth."
At a time of maximum human knowledge, the unscrupulous right wing has taken full advantage of the plethora of platforms and the democratization of "publishing" offered by social media to become shameless purveyors of "alternate facts." Swamped by people not formerly known for much interest in school with its emphasis on reading, writing and/or critical thinking skills, they have become the "low-information" voters who lack the important context for politics. So dangerously lacking is their knowledge base that they either perceive politics as a game where their team winning is all that matters, or an unsavoury "blood sport" that it behooves them to avoid completely. The right wing are therefore also the ones who never even talk about education, because the less the better for their tribal approach.
Knowing this on the left, we rightly see ourselves as the smart ones who value education highly, and understand context, but we have also become mired in "wokeness" and "virtue signalling" to a degree that weakens our natural superiority when it comes to honest governance, and posits us as a bunch of hand-wringing church-lady types. Because our emphasis on multiculturalism and tolerance so defines us, after the horrors of 9-11 and ISIS, or rather despite them, we have fallen into a state of what can be seen as an unnatural sort of "hyper-tolerance" for the religion or creed of Islam, undeniably the origin of both. This is ongoing as we watch what the Taliban is doing in Afghanistan where many people are now starving, and women are disturbingly shown completely covered by burqas. This is the mildest example of the maney "barbaric practices" associated with this religion, and although the conservative "tip-line" was their usual divisive, stupid gimmick, the striking contrast between such practices and our culture was not wrong. It has become the ultimate show of religion's unique power over people, is the original "big lie" still at work. Gods exist in people's heads without a doubt, but the alternate reality they spawn there, imaginative though it is, is a growing societal problem, and our Achilles heel. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, of which there is none. Talk about "truth."
And the fact that we on the left use our tolerance of any and all religions to virtue signal, even though its already far too ensconced in separate schools (but still gunning for governance) sullies OUR superior credentials for governance, revealing our own willingness to compromise the truth for political favor.
Quebec is the only province with the courage to actually apply what is entirely fair-minded ENOUGH secularism when it comes to this thorny, telling issue.
The problem for modern
The problem for modern Conservatives is that Conservatism has always had basically two strategies. The first is economic Conservatism, which in modern times has involved support for free markets, free trade, low taxes, unfettered corporations. The second is various sorts of appeals to cultural and/or racial paranoia, which necessarily involves a lot of lying about the "other" cultures, races, religions and so on.
The problem for today's Conservatives is that economic Conservatism has been thoroughly debunked. It turns out it doesn't work. Not only do right wing economic policies not lead to a rising tide lifting all boats, they don't even lead to a rising tide AT ALL. Right wing economics turn out to lead to not only greater inequality, but less growth, more instability, all kinds of bad stuff. Literally the only thing they do that anyone desires is make the very rich very much richer, and the very rich aren't a voting base. And it's been failing so long few people are buying it any more--even the right wing base, when polled, often support various kinds of government intervention and taxation of the rich. So, modern Conservatism has no choice but to fall back on the paranoid misinformation, culture, race, and religion wars, side of things.
Luckily for Conservatism, it turns out having gobs of money is just as good for leveraging misinformation on the internet as it was on more traditional media.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau Pipe -
Meanwhile, the Trudeau Pipe -- er -- Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is moving ahead, if only by cutting corners and placing thousands of Canadian lives at risk. TMX is currently applying for a constitutional exemption to the city of Burnaby's required permitting for basic, standard fire safety features at the expanding TM terminus storage tank farm on Burnaby Mountain. Oil tank fires are the worst possible kind of fire, some of which cannot be extinguished by average fire department efforts. They often have to let them burn out over several days.
Putting this strategic tactic in perspective, the planned 21 humongous storage tanks are located on the slopes of a mountain directly above several residential neighbourhoods. Hydrogen sulphide gas from oil fires is very deadly to human beings, and its effects can materialize up to five km away. That places ~100,000 people at direct risk should a big fire break out, let alone a fire that cannot be contained because the oil company got away with lowering its fire fighting standards.
On TMX there is no difference between the federal Liberals and Conservatives. They are one and the same. And they are both equally dangerous.
On TMX, yes, and the oil and
On TMX, yes, and the oil and gas industry generally, and corporations as well, all true, but that's it. The glaring difference is in the reading of the room, i.e. appreciating and being able to gauge change and adapt accordingly. And speaking of that, don't forget that every step of the way, Liberals have conservative dead weight to reckon with because a percentage of every population is conservatively inclined. Another huge difference is how nasty and oppositional they are even when in power, graceless even in victory i.e., so no class.
This article nails them to the wall once and for all.....https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-pro...
This is a first rate article,
This is a first rate article, and demonstrates once again that the wilful propagation of misinformation seems to be sole territory of the Tories. All parties are engaged in truth-Stretching, but this goes well beyond that. They are helping erode democracy and, what’s worse, they don’t care.
The truly not caring thing is
The truly not caring thing is what makes these people so different and so dangerous. I now see them as monsters like the "orcs" in "Lord of the Rings."