Please help prevent the extremists from winning by Linda Leon, Whitehorse, December 31, 2014, Whitehorse Star
Ed. note: this is an open letter to Yukon MP Ryan Leef.
On Nov. 17, CBC’s The Current had a feature on the Keystone XL pipeline and its potential effect on Canada’s ability to achieve its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets.
Anna Maria Tremonti mediated a debate between Keith Stewart from Greenpeace and Ron Liepert, a senior advisor for the Canadian Strategy Group and the nominated federal Conservative Party candidate for Calgary Signal Hill.
In a 22-minute episode, Mr. Liepert referred to people concerned about climate change as “extremist” twice, “extreme environmentalists” twice and just plain “extreme” once.
Ms. Tremonti pointed out that this was exactly the sort of language used to describe ISIS. Mr. Liepert was unrepentant, and continued to slander environmentalists.
Mr. Liepert is used to addressing conservatives. And now there is an explanation for why slanderous fear mongering is so persuasive with this group.
A 2011 study done by University College of London on the brains of students revealed something very interesting. The amygdala in self-identifying conservatives was larger than normal.
The amygdala, often referred to as the reptile brain, is responsible for emotions such as fear and rage. The conservative subjects did not have larger brains than their non-conservative counter-parts.
Rather, the conservative brains had a corresponding reduction in the size of the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with empathy, curiosity and cognitive functions.
Now, The Current’s audience tends to be well-informed, reasoning people. And Ron Liepert is not a stupid person.
So, why was he using this kind of language when he knows well that most CBC listeners would not be persuaded by slander?
Was it a veiled threat to those listeners who might speak out in favour of action on climate change?
A common practice in Alberta right-wing political circles, of which Ron Liepert is an established member, is to use character assassination to counter act opposition and criticism.
For example, a tactic used by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board against Jessica Ernst in her lawsuit with ENCANA and the Alberta government was to accuse her of “eco-terrorism”.
(Jessica Ernst has been embroiled in a lawsuit against ENCANA and the Alberta government over culpability in the contamination of her well water, allegedly a result of fracking. The case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.)
I would contend that the federal Conservative Party borrows heavily from tactics used by Alberta conservatives and the fossil fuel industry.
Conservatives have frequently referred to environmentalists as “radicals”, “extremists” and “terrorists”.
In 2012, then-Public Safety minister Vic Toews lumped environmentalists with white supremacists.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke about “a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families”.
Then-Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver warned on a Canadian government website, “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”
In the same year, a poll commissioned by Sun News found that one in two respondents feared attacks by “eco-terrorists”.
(Only half of Sun News readers have enlarged amygdalae? I would have expected the number to be higher.)
With the exception of Mr. Liepert, there has been a general dial down of public Conservative Party rhetoric on environmentalism since the Oct. 22 attack on Parliament demonstrated what an actual “extremist” looks like.
But who knows how long this will last? And there are plans afoot to increase the ability of Canadian Security intelligence Service (CSIS) and the police to spy on “extremists” and “terrorists”?
Bill C-44, Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act, will allow CSIS greater surveillance powers.
Bill C-13, the Anti-cyberbullying Bill, will allow police to conduct more surveillance of Canadians with little in the way of oversight or accountability.
Since the attack in October, other actions have been discussed.
Justice Minister MacKay said, “We’re examining all of those sections of the Criminal Code and all measures under the law that will allow us to, in some instances, take pre-emptive measures.”
Pre-emptive measures taken against whom?
Was the recent attack on Parliament by a deranged individual a gift to Conservatives who seek opportunities to silence and persecute critics of the current federal government’s environmental and resource development policies?
Ryan, please support a measured response to the needs of national security that include protection of human rights, the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech.
To do otherwise is to let the “extremists” win.
P.S. Ryan, here are links to articles you may wish to read.
I am not now, nor ever have been, a member of any federal political party.
“I know Danielle Smith well enough to know that she reveres Manning, and sees him as the eminence griseof Canadian conservatives,” Mr. Mason wrote. “If Manning argued that the deal was for the greater good of the conservative movement, I’m sure it would counter many objections for Smith.”
Indeed, the National Post’s Jen Gerson has now written a detailed explanation of “how Preston Manning convinced Wildrose MLAs to join mass defection,” as the paper’s headline writer put it. Personally, I think Ms. Gerson’s sources fudged the timeline a little for their own benefit, but she is quite believable when she reports “Mr. Manning’s pep talk was the moment that turned the tide.”
But why the hurry? Mr. Mason explains: “The answer comes from Smith herself. As I’ve watched her round of media interviews defending her decision, my Pepto-Bismol at the ready, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And she did indeed reveal the political basis for the betrayal of her own party. … In the era of $50 oil, says Smith, she is ‘bringing conservatives together to make sure the tough decisions get made.’ She adds that this includes ‘selling them to Albertans.’”
… The hurry’s partly about the temporary nature of the decline in the price of oil – driven down by the actions of the Saudi-led Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which itself is going to suffer pain if the tactic is carried on too long. So if “shock doctrine” marketization propaganda is going to be applied effectively in Alberta by Mr. Prentice, it’s going to need to be done sooner than later because the winning conditions won’t last long.
The Wildrose forces were also needed in the PC caucus, Mr. Mason argues, to shift the balance of power the right way and ensure genuinely progressive Conservative MLAs can’t rebel again, as they did against Alison Redford when she turned sharply right after campaigning to the left.
Mr. Prentice, who is also in the process of turning sharply right after campaigning to the left, certainly wouldn’t want to find himself in the same pickle. It “prepares the political ground for a brutal restructuring of public services in Alberta,” Mr. Mason wrote. “Jim Prentice it turns out, is Alberta’s first Wildrose Premier.”
Ironically, it was the existence of an effective Wildrose opposition, even though it was on the right, that gave leverage within caucus to the opponents of Ms. Redford’s attacks on public services.
Why be prime minister when you can establish a host of provincial governments following your credo, and then see your former apostate Stephen Harper fight his way [break the law] to a majority government? … Showing how seriously he took this issue, Manning devoted some time to the reduction of bozo eruptions. Step one: training candidates to be “wise as serpents and gracious as doves” rather than “vicious as snakes and stupid as pigeons” — a damning shot at most right-wing Canadian governments and many of their supporters.
… The unspoken message in Preston Manning’s speech was that ideology, however true and however sincerely believed, can’t be allowed to alienate the voters. After seven long years of Harper, the vast majority of Canadians still don’t like even his watered-down ideology.
Manning knows how weak his conservative movement really is — just as Stalin and Mao knew how weak their regimes were, and how only unquestioning obedience to the party line could hide that weakness. Conservatives telling us what conservatives truly believe would ruin them. …
….Preston Manning drew on a lifetime of political wizardry to send a private warning to his apprentice Stephen Harper: We are all in trouble, and we will lose everything if you do not come back to orthodoxy and bring your snake-vicious, pigeon-stupid government with you. [Emphasis added]
Ok so who’d ya get?
Preston Manning – founder of Reform and Alliance parties, Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute
Rick Anderson – ASCI-Anderson Strategic Consulting Inc and chairman of Hill & Knowlton Canada
Tom Long – chair of Ont Premier Mike Harris’ campaigns, co-chair of the founding convention of the Canadian Alliance Party
Tasha Kheiriddin – CBC Newsworld producer, Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, VP of the Montreal Economic Institute, member Fraser Institute
Nigel S. Wright – Managing Director of Onex Corporation aerospace and defence group
…and much much more!
Patrons – Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, Bernard Lord
Fellowships – Blogging Tory Stephen Taylor, seen here being recognized by Preston Manning “for outstanding contributions to conservative online communications”
Advisors – Andrew Coyne, Tom Long, Hon. Tony Clement, Michael Walker – founder of the Fraser Institute, Michel Kelly-Gagnon – president of the Montreal Economic Institute.
Incestuous little bunch, aren’t they?
We have mentioned before that Hill and Knowlton, a PR company who worked to convince people that there was no proven link between smoking and lung cancer were hired by America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
Now we read that Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group have played a major part in creating the Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline. Whilst this is not directly related to fracking it is a clear demonstration that the energy industry is not particular about who they work with as long as they get the result they want.
Even more interesting though is the clear suggestion that these apologists for the energy industry are using tactics from what has become known as “the Tobacco Industry Playbook”.
ERM Group – headquartered in the City of London – a square mile sub-section of London infamous for its role in serving as a tax shelter for multinational corporations – has aided the tobacco industry in pushing the “Tobacco Playbook.”
Many fossil fuel industry public relations flacks learned the tactics of mass manipulation by reading the “tobacco playbook,” meticulously documented in Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s classic book, “Merchants of Doubt.”
“Doubt is our product,” a tobacco industry document once laid out the playbook, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
ERM has done studies on behalf of both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, penning a report titled “Fundamentals of Environmental Management” for the latter.
Clearly, we should be careful what we swallow!
2015 01 04 Snap taken of Preston Manning’s Con the Public Board of Directors:
The meaning of Alberta conservatism by Trevor Harrison, University of Lethbridge, January 3, 2015, Lethbridge Herald
The recent capitulation of Danielle Smith and eight of her Wildrose party colleagues to the governing Progressive Conservatives can only be understood by decoding the meaning of conservatism in Alberta and the political purposes that construction serves.
The comments of Preston Manning and Premier Jim Prentice are instructive here. Manning played a major role in bringing about the mass defection, an act for which he has since provided written comments both justifying and then apologizing. [ Does anyone believe that Manning’s apology is sincere?] The latter repentance need not concern us, but central among his stated justifications is the need for “Albertans, including conservatives [What if Albertans are sick and tired of corrupt “conservative” politicians of every stripe?] of every stripe, to ‘pull together,’” to deal with the province’s current economic downturn resulting from a decline in the price of oil.
Also instructive are Premier Jim Prentice’s comments, in defending Smith et al. against charges that their defection was undemocratic. “No one should equate democracy to conservatives fighting each other for the entertainment of the NDP.” In short, conservatism is a single bloc against which no man or woman should stand opposed.
But what is this conservatism that Manning and Prentice invoke? Conservatism comes in various forms – Tory and republican [And more and more tea. Do you see any real conservatives in the Harper or Prentice-Wildrose PC Parties?]; economic, political, and social. Indeed, Danielle Smith referred to social conservatives in her former caucus as the reason she abandoned Wildrose. Does the call for conservative unity include these elements? One wonders.
The fact is, few people are ideologically motivated. Most people, and this includes Albertans, hold a mix of beliefs and values that range from socialist to liberal to conservative, and points extending. People cast a vote for a host of reasons, the least of which is strictly ideological.
If the definition of conservatives is unclear and even contradictory, what then is the purpose of calling for them to unite?
The answer is simple: it is a call for voters to rally, not around some chimerical orthodoxy, but around the Progressive Conservative party itself; a party, in turn, controlled by a very small corporate elite. The call for conservative unity in fact serves to neuter any voices that might challenge the party’s penthouse apparatchiks, keeping them silent and contained within the PC party’s big tent.
The current “unity debate” in Alberta has its roots in the 2007 election of Ed Stelmach as party leader and premier. Stelmach’s victory was a surprise, as he defeated the oil industry’s hand-picked candidate, Jim Dinning. Even more of a surprise, Stelmach soon after struck a review panel to examine Alberta’s oil royalty structure. The panel’s subsequent report recommended a moderate rate increase that would be phased in over time.
Alberta’s petroleum industry was livid and reacted as though someone had poured sugar into one of their CEO’s gas tanks. Clearly, Stelmach needed a reminder about who actually runs the province, but how to send it?
The problem was made even more complicated when Stelmach handily won the spring 2008 election, taking 72 of 83 seats, and 53 per cent of the vote. But the fates were against him. The effects of the Great Recession, begun months before, slowly rolled into Alberta. The price of oil declined. The oil industry and its acolytes in the media promptly blamed Stelmach for daring to tinker with the royalty regime.
To ensure Stelmach was disciplined, however, the oil industry threw its weight behind a political party it found stranded on the right side of a rural road, the Wildrose Alliance party. Founded just prior to the election from the remains of two earlier fringe right-wing parties, Wildrose seemed at first going nowhere. But it gained traction in the fall of 2009 after electing Danielle Smith, a Fraser Institute alumni, as leader. Smith quickly solidified the corporate sector’s support.
The charismatically challenged Stelmach was no match for the media savvy and telegenic Smith. Amidst declining poll numbers, Stelmach stepped down as PC leader in the fall of 2011. Wildrose’s primary political purpose was fulfilled. But then the unexpected happened: the party, formed as a pressure group, instead continued to grow in electoral strength. Facing Alison Redford, the new PC leader going into the 2012 election, Wildrose for a time even seemed poised for victory.
Wildrose did not, of course, win; the loss to political cartoonists is incalculable. But it was not Wildrose’s strength that worried Alberta’s corporate elite. More worrisome was the growing independence of progressive voices both within and outside the PC party. The oil industry’s death grip over the province’s economy depends upon keeping everyone trapped inside the PC party tent where contrary views can be assuaged and, more often, ignored.
[And gagged and silenced:
Recently unsealed court documents tell the truly bizarre story of a Pennsylvania family’s 2011 legal settlement with natural gas producer Range Resources and other companies. The Hallowiches claimed the industrial activities surrounding their 10-acre Washington County farm was ruining their health, endangering their two young children and polluting their land. The company agreed to pay the Hallowiches $750,000 in exchange for dropping their complaints and accepting a gag order not to talk about marcellus shale gas or hydro-fracturing (fracking) for the rest of their lives.
Such gag orders are common in legal settlements. What was different here was Range Resources’ insistence that the Hallowiches’ 7- and 10-year-old children be included. … ]
In the end, Redford proved hapless and self-destructive. No one lamented her resignation as premier in the spring of 2014. Thus, the way was paved for Jim Prentice. In Prentice, Alberta’s petroleum-based corporate elite – not to mention Danielle Smith – at last has its man. As for Wildrose, its purpose completed, it could be kicked to the side of the road from whence it came. The danger of pluralism breaking out in Alberta was thus thwarted. “Conservatism” [Tea Partyism?] in Alberta seems once again safe.
Trevor Harrison is a political sociologist at the University of Lethbridge and director of Parkland Institute.
2015 01 05: The top Canadian legal stories to watch in 2015, Mike Duffy: The most closely watched trial of 2015 will involve a case of alleged political corruption that is anticipated to draw as witnesses officials of government at the highest level of the country. The trial of Mike Duffy, the suspended Senator, will unfold in an Ottawa courtroom before a Superior Court judge. Mr. Duffy is facing 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery that include allegations relating to false residence and travel expense claims he made as a Senator and a $90,000 payment Mr. Duffy received from the Prime Minister’s then chief of staff to repay one of his questionable expense claims during a swirling public controversy. Mr. Duffy’s defence will likely highlight the lack of clarity of Senate rules in claiming expenses and the dubious allegation that the $90,000 payment was a bribe when he was the only person charged. The evidence adduced at the Duffy trial may affect the 2015 federal election and possibly impact its timing.
Selective Conservative thrift by Geoff King, January 4, 2015, Ottawa Citizen
Re: John Baird, Ottawa’s other mayor, Dec. 30.
John Baird’s claim that the federal government just doesn’t have the money for a new science museum is both pathetic and laughable.
They somehow found more than $100 million to advertise their so-called “economic action plan”, and about $30 to 40 million to “commemorate” the War of 1812, along with other major ad campaigns that were light on content and heavy on politics. Their obsession with gimmicky tax cuts, many benefitting mainly the rich and the corporate sector, has also limited their room to manoeuvre.
The failure to build a new national science museum on LeBreton Flats will be a lasting, historic mistake, and a huge lost opportunity in a city running out of large, prime, central locations for major institutions.
Geoff King, Ottawa