The only way out is back the way she came. And that means running headlong into a very inconvenient truth for the wannabe leader of the Tories.
The issue this time is her campaign manager. Nick Kouvalis has admitted that he posted a pack of lies about Justin Trudeau for the express purpose of getting a rise out of the Left.
He trumpeted on Twitter that Trudeau has wasted “billions” of taxpayers’ dollars on dubious foreign aid, including $351 million to the designated terrorist group Hamas. His bogus claim was almost immediately outed as false and cringeworthy, first by Jason Markusoff of Maclean’s, then by others. At least Kouvalis didn’t claim that Trudeau was not born in Canada.
In the dawn of fake news, this story is of high importance. Kouvalis himself has pushed everyone to the obvious question: How will the public ever know when this guy is telling the truth, as opposed to fabricating the facts to get a rise out of the political opposition? When you admit to doing it once, without apology, what’s to stop you from doing it again?
The problem is deeper than that, particularly when fake news is used to challenge the real thing. If Kouvalis had not been outed, some people might have believed his lies about Trudeau and voted against him at the first opportunity — say, in a byelection.
There is not much difference between redirecting someone’s vote based on knowingly false information, and sending them to the wrong poll with knowingly false information. Good information is the lifeblood of democracy, falsehoods undermine and ultimately destroy it.
The question now is what candidate Leitch will do about it. We know Leitch thinks hard work, generosity, freedom and tolerance are shared national traits. But is telling the truth a Canadian Value she is up to defending? Does she really want to be represented by a toxic partisan who makes it up while he goes along?
Leitch’s silence on this suggests that she is as comfortable with a self-admitted liar running her campaign as she has been with subjecting all prospective immigrants to face-to- face screening for Canadian values.
Leitch’s reputation, such as it is, hangs in the balance of how she treats her campaign manager’s Twitter litter. But the matter is also of considerable importance to the Conservative Party of Canada. The party desperately needs to shed the Liar Inc. image of the Harper- RepubliCon years.
Back then, massaging the message became a daily act of disfiguring the facts. Look no further than the lie-ridden government position on the F-35, and the destruction of then Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page for telling the truth, to deliver the point.
There is no reason for the CPC to defend or excuse the actions of Leitch’s campaign manager — unless of course it wants to associate itself with the kind of politics Kouvalis stands for. Rob Ford and Stephen Harper politics.
And it’s not as if there isn’t a track record here. Kouvalis went into Irwin Cotler’s riding and lied about the Liberal MP’s imminent retirement. Harper’s government House Leader of the day, Peter Van Loan, called that “freedom” of expression. House Speaker Andrew Scheer, now a candidate for the CPC leadership, called it “reprehensible.”
Kouvalis is the guy who said, “This is how the Left operates”, in the wake of the alleged break-in at Kellie Leitch’s home. No facts.
Now the Trudeau profligacy story. Total smear. No facts.
The irony is that as comfortable as Kouvalis is with deliberately distributing political fictions, he is sometimes just as uneasy dealing with the facts. When he was called by the press to comment on his drunk-driving charges last May, this is what he had to say: “Listen, I’m not going to discuss it with you. I don’t want to talk about it.” Lesson? Much easier to dish out falsehoods about others than confront painful truths about one’s self.
It’s time for Conservative leadership candidates to speak up on Kouvalis the way they denounced Leitch when she came up with her dreadful plan to interrogate people emigrating to this country to make sure that no Un-Canadians got through the immigration net.
On that front, Interim leader Rona Ambrose “personally” disagreed with Leitch’s approach, in part because she couldn’t visualize how it would work. Michael Chong flatly denounced it as “the worst of dog-whistle politics” and not the way to win on 2019. Deepak Obhrai thought Leitch was fear-mongering with the base in the worst way and said so publicly.
After his opinion appeared in the Hill Times, Obhrai received hate-mail inviting him to leave the country. No wonder he characterized Leitch’s immigration policy as the wrong approach. And perhaps that’s why Chad Rogers, a Conservative strategist and partner at Crestview Strategy, invited Leitch to end her acrimonious and divisive candidacy.
In a way, Leitch has obliged him. Voters who remember her starring role in the tawdry bigotry that the CPC tried to pass off as serious public policy during the last election will never vote for her. Those voters will recognize in her proposed immigration inquisition the same intolerant streak that brought shame and disaster on the party. Nor does it bode well for the CPC that the woman who wants to ride Donald Trump’s coat tails has accused those Conservative colleagues who have criticized her of being out-of-touch elites.
The only person out of touch here is Leitch. She does not seem to realize that Canadians are already deeply wary of her Alt-Right leanings. Having shown the country how far she was prepared to go in abandoning real Canadian values to win an election, the smell of toast will be in the air if she now sits back and accepts blatant lies from her campaign manager as a legitimate modus operandi.
And somebody should tell the good doctor something. Before becoming a total Trump Chump, and taking the party with her as fellow candidate Lisa Raitt fears, she should bear in mind that the road to political success in Canada doesn’t run through Fox News.
On the other hand, there is probably no better place to showcase barbaric cultural practises than the network dedicated to The Donald.
Author: Michael Harris