Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Happen In Canada. It’s Happening Right Now.

“We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”

It’s reassuring to think that a candidate like Donald Trump will never happen in Canada. Here’s the problem with that notion: a candidate like Donald Trump is happening in Canada right now, in full view of the media, and if all we do about it is post online, there’s a good chance it will be on the ballot in the next federal election. This is not a drill. This is not a joke. Canadian democracy doesn’t ask much of us, but today it’s asking for $15 and we’ve gotta step up.

It’s a little awkward for me to be writing this. One year ago yesterday, I was on Parliament Hill watching someone I had spent hundreds of hours volunteering for get sworn in as an MP. Today I called the Liberal Party of Canada to cancel my membership.

What changed? This.

Now, we can (and should) laugh at a former cabinet minister and pediatric surgeon railing against elites. But in this fundraising email, as well as in last night’s CPC leadership debate, Kellie Leitch invoked Donald Trump and made clear that she intends to introduce values screening for every immigrant, refugee, and visitor(!) entering our country.

A values test is pretty easy to circumvent if doing so suits your purposes, but let’s say we establish this test and it does what we want. If it screens out people we would have let in otherwise, it follows that among Canada’s already-settled immigrants are people we shouldn’t have let in, not even as tourists. What happens when someone unstable sees the government clamping down on the border while doing nothing about people who are already here and who implicitly pose a threat? Who gets hurt in that scenario?

Because this isn’t just about the leaders. Donald Trump got enough votes in enough states to become President and hopefully, the responsibility he now faces leads him to the counsel of his better angels. I’m less hopeful about his supporters, emboldened by a win and taking it as a free pass to abuse people. Every word in this sentence could be a link to a distinct example of people invoking Trump to treat minorities like crap in the 36 hours since the race was called.

It’s easier to go through life trusting that things will work themselves out. When I first saw this from Leitch, my first impulse was to think “well, that’s disqualifying” but I did a little digging, and here are some objective facts.

  • She’s had a cover story in Maclean’s.
  • She’s raised the most money.
  • She’s wrapping herself in Trump’s victory in a year when Trump won, Brexit won, and elites collectively freaked out about both. Doesn’t that strike you as a pretty compelling pitch to the subset of conservatives so passionate about the cause that they bought a party membership? Conservatives who’ve seen themselves go from a Harper majority to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and who want to take their country back?

If you think this can’t happen here, you are misreading the situation and avoiding your responsibility to influence what happens next. If Kellie Leitch becomes leader of the CPC, the odds that our next Prime Minister, our face to the world, is parroting the same kind of rhetoric that’s contributed to spikes in hate crimes in both the US and UK… those odds go up by a lot.

Kellie Leitch’s candidacy is a clear and present danger to our values as a country. We cannot gamble with this. Not after everything that’s happened this year.

Thankfully, there is hope. We’re never going to have a better opportunity to reject this than we do right now. It may require stepping out of our comfort zone a little bit. I know that’s not always easy. But if you agree with me on the basic premise that this kind of rhetoric is immediately disqualifying for anyone who wants to be considered for the job of Prime Minister, you have a responsibility to do the following if you’re able:

  • Sign up for a Conservative party membership. It’s $15 for a year. You may disagree with the CPC on a lot, and giving them money may not feel good, but it’s the burden we need to bear in the face of our current reality. When you sign up, follow the rules. Pay with your own money and resign your membership in any other Canadian political party. You’ll have time to switch back before the next election if you so desire.
  • Research the candidates. Kellie Leitch has been the most blatant about it, and the way she’s done it is most deserving of a rebuke, but she’s not the only one selling toxic rhetoric. There are candidates who think there are better approaches to moving Canada forward than what the Liberals are currently doing, and candidates who think they can gain power if they set the right groups of Canadians against one another. Prioritize the former.
  • Stop Kellie Leitch and her ilk by voting for candidates who believe that treating everyone with equal respect and dignity is non-negotiable.

If you’ve read this far and you’re still with me, maybe you’re thinking of reasons you can’t do this. I’m going to try and address a few of those now.

One vote won’t matter! Well, you might be wrong about that, especially if you live in an urban riding. The way the leadership votes are assigned, every riding counts equally. That means votes in lower-membership ridings count more, potentially a lot more.

They’ll find out about what we’re doing and stop us, so why bother? I’m going out on a limb by saying this publicly, but here goes: I want a strong and principled Conservative Party of Canada because I truly believe that Canadians of all political stripes win when we’ve got robust parties debating the best approach to moving Canada forward in accordance with our shared values. If the party wants to disqualify me from voting because I’m acting on that sincerely held belief, that’s a choice they can make and I’ll respect it if they do. But bear in mind that all the CPC candidates are working hard to sign up new members who will vote for them. I do not expect them all to be subjected to values tests.

I don’t want to give money to the Conservatives! I wasn’t thrilled about it either, so I balanced it out with a donation to my preferred party. There’s a tax credit for political donations that gives you back 75% of anything you donate up to $400, so for 30 bucks net spend, my preferred political party gets $60 and I get to repudiate Trumpism in Canada. I feel pretty good about that.

But I can’t afford $15, much less $30! Don’t put yourself in a tight financial spot, but if you can do this… do.

I don’t want to be a Conservative! “to be a Conservative…” Listen. I’m suggesting a specific course of action to stomp out harmful rhetoric in our politics before it has the opportunity to flourish, because there are people in this country whose well-being will be at risk if that rhetoric defines our next election. I don’t care who you are on some primal level. I care about what you’re going to do right now, when you have an opportunity to take a meaningful stand against xenophobia and hatred.

I opened with Picard and I’ll close with Peter Parker:

“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”

Again: this is not a joke. This is not a drill. I don’t normally ask for shares, but the only way this works is when everyone who can get involved does get involved, and for the sake of our country this needs to work. Get a CPC membership. Recommend/Share this post. Write your own appeal to get the message out there. Make it clear that Canadians will stand on guard against this kind of rhetoric infecting our politics.