The House of Commons is in the home stretch before the Fall election, as the final month of sitting is underway. We’ve heard time and time again that this election is going to be a nasty one, nastier than what we’re used to, and so far, that prediction has seemed to hold water. But on Tuesday this week, something happened in the House of Commons Justice Committee that went so far beyond the pale, so far beyond what is acceptable from a Parliamentarian, that it needs to be called out:
I needed to take a few deep breaths after reading that to get calm again because just how wrong that is on so many levels. For starters, in our Parliamentary tradition witnesses are treated with a great deal of respect, even when we don’t agree with them. Sometimes there is heated debate about their opinions but very, very rarely does it ever devolve into cheap personal attacks. What Michael Cooper did on Tuesday is the worst example of what I’ve ever seen in my time in Parliament, bad none. Mr. Suri was there testifying on the behalf of his group and should have been shown that respect, even if Mr. Cooper disagreed with his testimony. But he couldn’t give that basic respect, something that doesn’t shock me and I will come back to later.
Secondly, the entire line of attack from Mr. Cooper was some of the most ignorant pearl-clutching that I’ve ever witnessed. The idea that many of these terrorist attacks have been made by people connect to or inspired by the Alt-right is not in dispute. Nor is it in dispute to see certain conservative outlets defend and sometimes promote these kinds of individuals and their views. A great example of this came in my Twitter timeline this morning out of the US, where a Fox News host did this just the other day:
That folks is an avowed conservative news network, saying on national TV that “conservatives” are being censored, then listing an infamous list of alt-righters, conspiracy theorists and alike. That “conservative” network is calling those people “conservatives”. That’s the same network where conservative politicians flock to, including Canadian ones when they are graced with the opportunity. We see the same kind of language, complaints and such from Canadian alt-right outlets, grasping at the same straws. Remember even Andrew Scheer, when it was seeking the Conservative leadership, went on Faith Goldy’s former show to flog himself and to try to get support. This is all on the record and clear as day.
So Mr. Cooper may not like “conservatives” being linked with acts like these, but when those who are doing the attacks say it themselves and the evidence shows that is where they are getting their inspiration from, the link is clear. The facts don’t care about Mr. Cooper’s feelings. And you know what’s an even worse way to try to prove that you’re not linked? Reading the damn manifesto of one of those terrorists in a House of Commons committee, ensuring it ends up in Hansard for all time. That is not just a total insult to the victims who lost their lives at that man’s hand but is a stunning terrible example of crappy political judgement.
I can understand why Mr. Cooper doesn’t like or chafes at these facts; heck, who wants something they believe in to be linked with such horrible crimes on innocent people? No one wants to wear that millstone around their neck, so I get that anger. But instead of attacking an innocent witness whose sole “offence” here was simply to tell the truth, Mr. Cooper should be looking at his own party, going after them and telling them to clean up their act. The fault here lies with the party that isn’t trying to repudiate or reject these ideologies and that hateful rhetoric, not with the person who dares to point out the facts.
What happened on Tuesday was shocking to me but the fact that it came from Mr. Cooper wasn’t a shock to me at all. In his first term, he’s become known for being a full on partisan of the worst sort, giving no respect to opponents or those who he disagrees with. He’s part of a younger generation of Conservative MPs who seem to feel this is how they should act, and the do so with a disturbing level of zeal combined with a lack of life experienced combined with even less judgement. You saw that when he wouldn’t even apologize for having stepped so far outside the lines of what is acceptable of a parliamentarian.
By acting in such a way, he’s not only doing our democracy a disservice, he’s doing the same to people who serve in the same party as he does. The other day I saw someone who I follow on Twitter comment that they wished there were more decent and good politicians out there. When I saw that, I just thought to myself about how many MPs we do have like that in this Parliament, in all parties, including the Conservative Party. They exist, they are there and while I disagree with them on most things, they are respectful of their colleagues, their duties and of being a good example. I would hope that some of those Conservative MPs would take Mr. Cooper aside and give him the chewing out that he so richly deserves for his abhorrent behaviour on Tuesday, if they haven’t already. There is no excuse and no respectful justification for doing all of what Michael Cooper did on Tuesday. By doing what he did, I believe he proved Mr. Suri’s whole point and I would hope that if Mr. Cooper was sincere, he would reflect on that and venture to do better. But I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that to come.