Progress Report #164

Your weekly update on Alberta politics for April 29, 2019
Near San Diego, on Saturday, a young man burst into a synagogue with an assault rifle, murdering one person and injuring several others.

The attack–a terrorist attack, by all indications–came six months to the day after 11 Americans were killed by a terrorist in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The San Diego police say the man posted a manifesto in advance to 8chan, a forum frequented by the online ‘alt right,’ which praised the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand–an attack that was itself ‘inspired’ by the mass shooting against a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.

Here at home, far right extremism continues to spread. The Globe and Mail reported this weekend on a group of white supremacists and neo Nazis who are organizing and meeting both online and offline. The group was active across the country, including in Alberta–among them was Adam Strashok, best known previously as a call centre manager for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign who also managed Fireforce Ventures, a white supremacist memorabilia shop.

The Globe story is likely to provoke from mainstream pundits the same question they’ve been hand-wringing about and failing to answer for what seems like at least three or four years now. “Why do these racists and white supremacists feel so at home in the conservative parties?”

It’s practically a punch line at this point. You hear it almost as much as ‘thoughts and prayers.’ To hear it repeated when the answers are so obvious is nauseating.

These people feel at home in the conservative parties because the conservative parties court them.

For months now the federal Conservatives have been campaigning against the ‘UN Global Compact on Migration,’ a non-binding, largely symbolic pledge in favor of modestly increasing rights and protections for refugees. And before that campaign, they fear-mongered about the similarly symbolic Motion 103. Both campaigns were absolute hits with the extreme Yellow Vest / Soldier of Odin types and drew upon the particular expertise in xenophobic messaging that is concentrated among Andrew Scheer’s advisors.

These people feel at home in the conservative parties because the conservative parties defend them.

When UCP star candidate Caylan Ford was revealed to be trucking in the same xenophobic nonsense that filled the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto, her party leader Jason Kenney didn’t denounce her or take to the mic to explain why the ‘demographic replacement’ theory she repeated was so pernicious. In fact every effort has been made to portray Ford–and others involved in similar UCP scandals, like Eva Kiryakos–as victims. Likewise Keean Bexte, who was implicated with Strashok in the Fireforce Ventures matter, has already been recycled back into the conservative machine–he’s now a host for Rebel Media.

And these people feel at home in the conservative parties because the conservative policies really do appeal to them.

2015 feels like a lifetime ago but that Harper Conservative administration really only was four years back. It was only a few years ago that the Conservative party was campaigning on banning the niqab and promising to set up a ‘barbaric cultural practices tipline’ that appeared to largely target Muslims. In Ontario, the conservative party rails against the attempt to ban carding–a policy which largely targets Black and Indigenous people. And we’re all familiar with the policies conservatives are pushing that make life worse for gender and sexuality minorities, too.

To question at this point why white supremacy, bigotry, and anti-Muslim racism is deeply embedded in Canada’s conservative movement is just ridiculous. It’s there on purpose.

Mercifully, immigration was not an issue in the Alberta election but it certainly will be in the upcoming federal election. Now that Jason Kenney has shown that the electorate often just doesn’t pay attention to far right extremism, and that being associated with these people really isn’t as politically toxic as we all thought it’d be, this upcoming election looks like it’s going to be a mess. Prepare to have your faith in humanity tested.

Okay, here’s a palette cleanser after all that grim far-right stuff: the story of Melina Laboucan-Massimo from the Lubicon Cree nation. Laboucan-Massimo will be hosting Power to the People, a documentary series on APTN covering new renewable energy projects owned and operated by Indigenous communities.

Jason Kenney and the UCP officially get started this week on implementing what can best be called a revenge platform. David Climenhaga predicts the most immediate consequence of all this bluster will be reprisals from the federal government–and their first target is likely the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

In a report for the left-leaning/NDP-affiliated Broadbent Institute, Tom Parkin argues that if the left is to consider a ‘Green New Deal’ for Canada, workers need to be at the centre of it. There’s a lot of work that will need to be done to get Canada in gear for a sustainable future in a carbon-constrained world and that work needs to be done by someone. The private sector isn’t stepping up, either. So if the public sector can employ Canadians to do that work, that makes sense to us. Maybe we should be talking about a green jobs guarantee?

Yup, that RCMP investigation into Jason Kenney’s leadership race is still going on. The investigation has now apparently spread to Edmonton as more and more people are being interviewed to see whether they got to cast a vote in that race–or whether someone stole their identity to cast a vote for Kenney with it. It’s wild, what people will put up with for a guy who says “jobs, economy, pipeline” loudly enough.

The weirdest (but if you ask me, sweetest) story of the Alberta provincial election: Highlands-Norwood MLA Janis Irwin didn’t just win her election, she won $100,000 in the lottery too. Hey, congrats Janis!