The frenzied barking of dissent without substance

A friend’s dog runs off in a frenzy, barking wildly, when anyone utters the word “bunny.” It’s the emotive, reactive response of an animal with a limited faculty to filter stimulus and information. jail notley?

The human equivalent, in 2016 Alberta, is apparently to utter the words “Rachel Notley,” “carbon tax” or even “Sandra Jansen” to a certain segment of the population. Let the chaos and barking begin.

How else could you explain the braying, manipulated clot of protesters who gathered at the legislature in Edmonton on the weekend? Among other things, this group of about 1,000 people, including those bused in from Calgary and Red Deer, chanted “Lock her up,” about Premier Notley, as they listened to speakers deride Alberta’s coming carbon tax.

How else could you explain the death threats Alberta’s premier has received in the 18 months since her New Democratic Party was elected? Apparently, there’s no need to offer productive criticism or viable alternatives to policy choices when you can simply threaten the premier’s life.

How else do you explain the hateful, misogynistic attacks directed at Jansen during her now-abandoned campaign to win the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership, and since she left the party in disgust? From the vantage point of the intolerant, there was apparently no point in considering Jansen’s credentials or platform. It was much simpler to direct copious venom at her and her political perspective.

As everyone who has been exposed the recent U.S. presidential election knows, “Lock her up,” is a refrain delivered again and again by the Donald Trump choral singers about Hillary Clinton.

But in Alberta?

As federal Conservative leadership hopeful Chris Alexander spoke at the gathering in Edmonton on Saturday about Notley’s failings as a leader, the chant began.

Why in the world would that be appropriate in reference to an Alberta politician and a policy decision made by her government? Nothing illegal or immoral has happened here. Notley’s New Democratic government has a clear mandate to aggressively address climate change, and it certainly isn’t responsible for the devastating downturn in the world price of oil.

But beyond all that, why does this group think that its boorish behaviour will stop the carbon tax from being levied starting on Jan. 1? It’s difficult to image the circumstances that would lead Notley to meet with such an elbows-up, reactionary group to hear their opposition to carbon taxes, let alone reverse that policy based on their browbeating.


Dissent is a cornerstone of democracy. But it’s a cornerstone that only supports weight in a civil society. Dissent delivered as insult, pejorative or hate loses its substance.

The protest at the legislature was hosted by Ezra Levant and his right-wing bully organization Rebel Media. This group blithely lumps all Muslims in the “violence and intolerance” category, idolizes Trump and his Canadian mini-me Kellie Leitch, celebrates ownership of assault-style guns, demonizes mainstream media as conspirators and calls climate change “science fiction.”

In the crowd were supporters of Immigration Watch Canada. Immigration Watch representatives were passing out flyers opposing Canada’s policy on newcomers. The organization’s website says our nation’s immigration policy is “a social engineering experiment that is conducted on Canada’s mainstream population to make it a minority.” That sounds suspiciously like white-supremacist rhetoric.

No doubt the crowd also contained Albertans who are legitimately concerned about the impact of carbon levies. In a depressed economy, where every dollar counts for so many families, the estimated $500 a year (about $42 a month) the tax will cost each family may be one expense too many.

But the tax is designed to only cost those able to pay. Those in financial distress will receive a rebate.

And the tax is designed to help generate made-in-Alberta energy solutions, not go into the general coffers.

No doubt none of that was mentioned at the rally.

And no doubt Levant and his devotees aren’t interested in the joint provincial government-industry announcement this week of two new petrochemical projects worth as much as $6 billion combined. Never mind the thousands of jobs to be created next year when construction begins, or the permanent employment and royalty revenue it will create for the province in the future. That’s the work of Notley’s policies and her leadership.

Instead, these protesters seem bent on dissent without perspective or progressive alternatives, herded along by a group of troubling people whose values insult the very core of this nation.

It all just seems like frenzied barking at an imaginary prey.

— John Stewart is Editorial Vice President with Troy Media Digital Solutions Ltd. and Editor-in-Chief of Troy Media. 

© 2016 Distributed by Troy Media