Jason Kenney says he has not heard a “single voice of opposition” to the unification of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties except for “a communist professor from the University of Lethbridge”.
Public political discourse
The philosopher Jason Stanley says the most important political ideals in a liberal democracy are liberty, freedom and the norms governing political speech.
Political speech is flying around all over the place; in town hall meeting, in the speeches, platforms and statements made by candidates and their campaigns, in the Legislature where our representatives express their views on policy and proposed legislation, and in the media, both mainstream and social media.
Political speech should be reasonable and rational.
The last thing anybody needs, according to James Maddison, is political speech which divides mankind into parties, inflames them with mutual animosity and causes them to oppress each other rather than co-operate for their common good.
Sadly, we live in a flawed democracy; often political speech is biased…but red-baiting is beyond the pale.
Kenney sees a Commie
In an interview about the upswing in Wildrose memberships and what this means for the unification of the PC and Wildrose parties, Jason Kenney said that in more than 20 townhall meetings, “I have not heard a single voice of opposition to the agreement, save a communist professor at the University of Lethbridge.”
Dr Jay Gamble, a University of Lethbridge professor, has been identified as the “communist professor” Kenney was referring to.
Mr Kenney’s comment is odious for many reasons including the following:
- The implication that most Alberta conservatives support unification is questionable. A sitting PC MLA, Richard Starke, has expressed his concerns about unification and at least three Wildrose constituency associations are discussing breaking from the United Conservative Party if the merger goes ahead.
- Dr Gamble did not speak up at the townhall to oppose unification, he asked a three-part question about
- policy—why does Kenney believe schools should out LBGTQ students
- strategy—where will Kenney run for a seat (in other words which PC or WR MLA does he expect to step aside)
- integrity—where is the evidence to support the contention that conservative voices in Alberta’s post secondary education system have been silenced
- Dr Gamble is not in fact a Communist. (He has however changed his Twitter handle to Jay Guevara @DrJayDrNo and his Twitter icon now sports a dashing Che beret).
The Red Scare
Dr Gamble asked a legitimate question which would not have raised an eyebrow under ordinary circumstances, but Mr Kenney reacted as if he just met a card-carrying Commie.
Dr Gamble took Mr Kenney’s attack on his character and reputation in stride, however Albertans should not let Mr Kenney get away with this kind of anti-democratic behaviour.
Mr Kenney is an experienced politician. He has held many key federal portfolios including Immigration and National Defence. He’s represented Canada around the world. He knows what Communism looks like.
In 2010, he commemorated Ukraine’s historic election by quoting Stephen Harper’s comment that Canada stands with Ukraine and other “captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe” which were not “free people, living in free nations” and which were “grateful to the strong western leaders who stood firm against the Communists and their apologists.”
In 2010, Mr Kenney, a federal minister, described Canadians as free people led by strong leaders who stood against Communists.
In 2017, Mr Kenney, a candidate for the premier’s office, violated the norms of political speech by calling a university professor a communist because he didn’t like the questions the professor had asked him in a public political meeting.
It took less than seven years for Canadians who question conservative politicians to go from being “snowflakes” to “communists”.
Joseph McCarthy would be proud.
Source: How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley pp 80, 94