Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

To watch. May make Quebec’s provincial election more interesting but more worrisome:

When Éric Duhaime took over as leader of the Quebec Conservatives last year, the party had never held a seat in the legislature, never been invited to a major debate and never raised more than $60,000 in donations in any given year.

It was, basically, a fringe party, unaffiliated with the federal Conservatives and considered too libertarian for most Quebec voters since it was formed in 2009.

In the last 15 months, though, Duhaime’s party has wrangled a seat in the legislature, started polling near 20 per cent. It has racked up nearly $500,000 in donations this year alone.

Source: Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

Dwivedi: The politics of rage and disinformation — we ignore it at our peril

A warning against complacency:

From 2016 to 2020, I hosted a morning show on a Toronto talk radio station.

Very soon into the gig, a rather discernable and then predictable pattern emerged: other hosts on the station would promote baseless conspiracy theories or blatant misinformation, such as Justin Trudeau being a George Soros-controlled globalist or that a non-binding motion to condemn Islamophobia would criminalize all criticism of Islam. Then, when the morning show didn’t abide by the same rhetoric, I would see a huge uptick in the volume and vitriol in my email inbox.

One of the more graphic rape threats I received during that time made a reference to burning off my clitoris once I had been gang raped. That morning, I had corrected a false notion circulating in conservative circles, and being bolstered by colleagues at the station, that Canada signing onto the UN Global Compact for Migration would mean Canada would no longer have jurisdiction over its borders or have sovereignty in determining its immigration targets.

It has now been documented that there was a co-ordinated campaign to poison the discourse around the compact by pushing misinformation specifically on the issues of immigration and borders. And it worked. Conservatives in Canada repeated the campaign’s unsubstantiated talking points and worldwide, debate over the compact reached such a pitch, the coalition government in Belgium effectively collapsed.

Misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories don’t exist in a vacuum, nor do they only live online. They spill out into the real world and impact very real people. And when misinformation, disinformation or conspiracy theories target groups of people already on the receiving end of hate, unsurprisingly, the hate experienced by those groups tends to increase.

In the aftermath of the last federal election, one thing that became abundantly clear was that much of our legacy political media seemed either unwilling or unable to report on the very real threat posed by politicians who use misinformation and conspiracy theories as part of their political shtick to appeal to voters.

The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) garnered just over 800 000 votes in the 2021 election, more than double its vote share in the 2019 election. Certainly, not every single PPC voter is an avowed white supremacist, but there were clear ties between the PPC and extremist groups that went largely ignored by legacy media. For example, columns and news coverage alike failed to acknowledge the PPC riding president charged for throwing gravel at the prime minister on the 2021 campaign trail had well-established, explicit ties to the white nationalist movement.

Instead of engaging in substantive discourse on the information ecosystem and political environment that allowed Maxime Bernier, a Harper-era cabinet minister and near-leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, to descend into a conspiracy theory-pushing zealot, our political chattering classes chose instead to focus on righteous indignation, decrying the import of American-style politics into our Canadian sphere.

Then came the “freedom convoy.” Suddenly, white journalists were regularly on the receiving end of deranged diatribes and threats of violence for reporting basic facts, akin to what their Jewish, Muslim, and BIPOC colleagues had experienced for years. There was a glimmer of hope that we’d collectively start to take these issues more seriously.

That was, however, short-lived as the bulk of legacy political media reverted to their natural resting state of being wilfully blind to the conspiracy theory-laden rage in this country and the politicians who encourage it, all under the guise of objectivity coupled with a healthy dose of normalcy bias.

Bernier has been unable to secure a single seat for his party in the last two federal elections, and so it’s easy to write him and the PPC off as having been wholly rejected by the Canadian electorate.

It will become much harder to do that once Pierre Poilievre officially leads the Conservative Party of Canada in September. Poilievre is an enthusiastic and unapologetic peddler of conspiracy theories about the World Economic Forum. As both NDP MP Charlie Angus and CPC MP Michelle Rempel Garner have noted, there is a very real danger in mainstreaming conspiracy theories about a secret elite cabal controlling the country.

There are plenty of fundamentally good and decent Conservatives out there, both inside and outside the official party apparatus, who are uncomfortable with the direction their party is taking. However, there is no indication that a CPC with Poilievre at the helm will feel the need to temper its rhetoric. The party will effectively become a better funded, more organized, more mainstream version of Bernier’s PPC.

It’s easy and even tempting to scoff at that notion. But that is being purposefully ignorant to what has happened to conservatism in a lot of places, including right here. When Conservatives point out Poilievre is the best-placed person to lead the party, they’re not wrong. He very much embodies the modern-day CPC core base: angry, aggrieved, and willing to say anything so long as it dunks on Libs in the process.

The revelations from the Jan. 6 committee hearings in the U.S. should serve as a stark warning to Canadians as to what happens when conspiracy theories and disinformation become mainstreamed by the political establishment. Downplaying or even placating this type of rhetoric poses a fundamental danger to democracy itself. The sooner Canada realizes this, the better off we’ll be.

In the meantime, I look forward to Canadian columnists telling us that we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re not in the same boat as the Americans. After all, our conservatives only actively cheered on and supported the people who were trying to subvert Canadian democracy, they didn’t actually try to subvert it themselves.

Supriya Dwivedi is the director of policy and engagement at the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy at McGill University and is senior counsel for Enterprise Canada.

Source: The politics of rage and disinformation — we ignore it at our peril

Glavin: Good news! Canada is not being overrun by racist zombie hordes

A bit overly dismissive of the Abacus poll IMO:

There are cranks among us. There are racists, loons, nutters, dingbats and weirdos among us and there are millions of them, according to a recent Abacus Data poll. I know this to be true because I read it in all the newspapers.

Here’s a National Post headline from last week: “Millions of Canadians believe in white replacement theory: poll.” Here’s the Toronto Star: “’Kind of terrifying’: Numbers show racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory has found audience in Canada.” Here’s Abacus Data’s own headline: “Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada.”

And then the story just seemed to disappear. If the story were true, why did it vanish after a couple of news cycles? Shouldn’t we all be taking this a lot more seriously?

If the story is true, millions of Canadians are afflicted with exactly the same fascist derangement that drove white supremacist Brenton Tarrant to massacre 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand three years ago. In a similarly live-streamed replication of the Christchurch atrocity only last month, the lunatic Payton Gendron slaughtered ten people in a Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, N.Y. with a weapon with the words “White replacement theory” written on it.

Surely it can’t be true that millions of Canadians are devoted to the same hideous “theory” that motivated Tarrant and Gendron, can it?

I’m happy to report that no, there’s no evidence to support the proposition, or contention, or if you like, this “theory” about millions of Canadians revealed by that Abacus poll, because the poll did not provide any evidence of the sort.

This is not to say that there weren’t some quite disturbing findings that the Abacus pollsters came up with. And the story didn’t quite vanish, either.

In an otherwise thoughtful contemplation of the degeneration of political discourse that appeared in Policy magazine last weekend, the outspoken New Democrat Charlie Angus contemplated the tendency to crazy thinking as a kind of orchard where Conservatives are happy to find low-hanging fruit, and perhaps it explains why “some Conservative leadership candidates have spent so much time promoting all manner of conspiracy claims.”

Angus wrote: “Maybe the Conservatives think they will be able to harness the tactical rage of this phenomenon to the faux outrage of political theatrics.”

And that may be so.

It’s certainly true that the populist Conservative leadership contender and bitcoin enthusiast Pierre Poilievre does sometimes give the impression of being an eccentric who wasted too much of his youth playing with Buzz Lightyear action figures in his room.

But it’s also true that among the poll respondents inclined to believe what is possibly the craziest proposition Abacus canvassed for — the notion that Microsoft uber-zillionaire Bill Gates has been using microchips to track people and their behaviour — New Democrats were only two percentage points behind Poilievre fanciers: 11 per cent as opposed to 13 per cent.

As for the white supremacist “Great Replacement” imbecility, the idea is that there’s a plot, often attributed to the Jews, to orchestrate immigration policies in such a way as to monkeywrench a country’s demographics in order to replace “white” people with Muslims, specifically, or with people of colour, generally.

The Abacus poll doesn’t provide all that much insight into how many poll respondents, let alone Canadians, actually believe this drivel. If you drill down below the way the poll findings have been reported and then dig below the way Abacus described its findings to the bedrock of the poll question itself, you might be relieved to discover that it isn’t quite time yet to head for the hills to build yourself a compound to defend yourself against millions of marauding racist zombies.

Abacus described its findings this way: Some 37 per cent of Canadians (11 million people) think “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Canadians with immigrants who agree with their political views. This is an articulation of what is commonly referred to as replacement theory.”

Set aside the fact that this isn’t so much an “articulation” of any theory, exactly, and the fact that the lunatic “replacement theory” doesn’t quite match the Abacus description of it. Last month, Statistic Canada reported this simple fact: “Canada is a low-fertility country, or below the no-migration population replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.” The Abacus poll didn’t ask about “white” people, but rather “native-born” Canadians. And native-born Canadians are retiring in huge numbers. Boomers are exiting the job market in droves.

It’s data of this kind that the Trudeau government has quite openly factored into its Immigration Levels Plan, which sets out the objective of drawing 430,000 newcomers to Canada each year. This is the highest level of immigration in Canadian history, and a higher immigration rate than any other G7 country. Only a small minority of those immigrants are coming from Europe, so they’re not, you know, “white” people. And anyone who hasn’t noticed that it has been a custom of the Liberal Party to jimmy with immigration so as to replenish its urban vote banks hasn’t been paying attention to the way things are done in Canada. The Conservatives do it too, but they’re just not very good at it.

The Abacus poll findings are perfectly consistent with a series of polls of its own and of other polling outfits that show Canadians are becoming deeply distrustful of politicians, government institutions and the news media. The world is in a state of upheaval to an extent unparalleled in decades. Overseas there’s war and looming famine in Central Asia and Africa, and here in Canada you have to be rich to be poor these days, especially when it comes to housing. Canada’s economy is a house of cards that’s increasingly dependent upon high immigration levels.

Canada’s “native-born” population can’t replace itself. Just one reason is that you have to be quite well-to-do to raise a family nowadays, and you can’t raise a family in a 600-square-foot, $600,000 condo. It’s no wonder that nostalgia is so commonplace. So is the sentiment that we’re all being dragged by forces we can’t control into a maelstrom of inhospitable, culturally fractured bedlam. People have every right to look at the rich and famous of the World Economic Forum, for instance — the object of quite a few silly conspiracy theories — with utter contempt.

But millions of Canadians are not setting out across the landscape in roaming hordes of racist zombies. That’s the good news.

These days, we should take the good news wherever we can find it.

Source: Glavin: Good news! Canada is not being overrun by racist zombie hordes

Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada

Interesting public opinion research and worrisome. The “great replacement” slide below is the one that most attracted my attention. It does track, to a certain extent, the Focus Canada question, “Too many immigrants do not adapt Canadian values,” 48 percent Fall 2021:

We recently completed nationwide surveying among 1500 Canadians.  The focus was on the levels of trust people have in institutional sources of information, and belief in conspiracy theories.  This is the second in a series called “Trust & Facts: What Canadians Believe”

• 44% (the equivalent of 13 million adults) believe “big events like wars, recessions and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people working in secret against us”. Almost as many agree “much of our lives are being controlled by plots hatched in secret places

• 37% (or 11 million) think “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native born Canadians with immigrants who agree with their political views. This is an articulation of what is commonly referred to as replacement theory.

• 20% believe it is definitely or probably true that “the World Economic Forum is a group of global elites with a secretive strategy to impose their ideas on the world.” Another 37% think it is possibly true or aren’t sure either way.

• 13% think it is definitely or probably true that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using microchips to track people and affect human behaviour. Another 21% say it’s possible, or aren’t really sure.

A deeper dive into demographic and other variables that correlate with these beliefs revealed:

• Belief in these theories is higher among supporters of the People’s Party, those who self-identify on the right of the spectrum, those who have not received any COVID-19 shots, and those who think media and official government accounts of events can’t be trusted. Those who feel Pierre Poilievre is the Conservative leadership candidate closest to their values and ideas are more likely to believe these theories when compared to those who feel more aligned with Jean Charest.



Canadians who want to believe that Canadian society is relatively unaffected by conspiracy thinking will find little comfort in these results. Millions believe that our lives are controlled by secret plots to undermine our interests.

That such beliefs correlate strongly with the instinct to mistrust what media report and what governments say –is a challenge that threatens all institutions that depend on an informed body politic and is like a poison affecting our civil discourse. Only recently we’ve witnessed how a massive demand for the protection offered by Covid 19 vaccines fostered a strenuous effort by those who disbelieve government and media to deny the value of those same vaccines.

This question of whether people can and should trust in institutional voices and known facts is the central theme running through the current leadership dynamic within the Conservative Party leadership race. The data make it clear that to compete for votes from the People’s Party base, Conservatives could choose to embrace conspiracy thinking, but in so doing would alienate a good portion of others, and create hesitancy among half their current voter coalition.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing in these numbers is the fact that mistrust of institutional accounts isn’t simply neutral skepticism – it is often accompanied by a willingness to believe dangerous contrarian theories. This threatens to undermine the ability of political parties, businesses, civil society groups, and governments to help build consensus and make progress together.

Source: Millions believe in conspiracy theories in Canada

Picard: The troubling Nazi-fication of COVID-19 discourse

Good commentary:

If you spend any amount of time on social media engaging about COVID-19, you will know discussions tend to get personal and ugly pretty fast.

Encourage vaccination of young people, and you’re labelled a pedophile.

Support masking in indoor settings? You’re a goose-stepping fascist.

Laud vaccination as a way out of the pandemic, and you are Joseph Goebbels and should brace yourself to be on trial for crimes against humanity at the fictional Nuremberg 2 tribunal.

Acknowledge that lockdowns are sometimes necessary to control the spread of a pandemic virus, and brace yourself for the onslaught of Hitler images.

These types of responses are predictable to a certain degree.

Godwin’s law (coined by U.S. lawyer Mike Godwin in 1990) holds that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler becomes more likely.

These days, debates go from zero to Hitler in about a nanosecond.

Some may want to dismiss this kind of over-the-top rhetoric as laughable, the work of a tiny minority of extremists and their bots.

But it’s obscene, and obscenely commonplace.

The Nazi-fication of public discourse is no longer the sole purview of pathetic man-boys holed up in their basements.

Enabled by social-media giants hiding behind freedom-of-speech arguments, trolls can now spread their misogynist, racist and anti-social views readily and mercilessly.

The goal here is to muddy the waters between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, and to undermine democratic institutions.

The grunts of a few can be turned into shouts that unfortunately have a growing audience, especially among the disgruntled and disenfranchised.

Playing the victim card appeals to them.

The ragtag collection of conspiracy theorists who gather at anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown rallies is fascinating – a stinking potpourri of grievances, with denunciations of everything from vaccines to “fake news,” to 5G, to the so-called “deep state.”

These rallies – which are getting bigger as pandemic frustrations grow – have more than their fair share of Hitler talk and imagery. They also include people wearing the yellow Star of David, implying that being told to wear a mask or get a jab is a level of persecution comparable to Jews who were rounded up and shipped in cattle cars to death camps.

Clearly some people have lost the plot.

Yet, they are being encouraged by politicians who embrace rhetoric suggesting that a position is invalid because the same view was held by Hitler.

A case in point is odious Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, who claims that lockdowns, mask rules and vaccine mandates are forms of Nazi-like tyranny.

His perverse version of freedom holds that individual rights are absolute, and that, for example, unvaccinated people have a God-given right to do as they please up to and including infecting others with the coronavirus.

Mr. Hillier and his acolytes have made a habit of casually tossing around Nazi analogies and Hitler images.

This mainstreaming of hateful images and thinly veiled hate speech should alarm us on a number of levels.

First of all, it betrays a profound ignorance of the Holocaust.

There can be no comparisons made between the state-sponsored mass murder of six million people and the temporary shutdown of the local mall.

Those who have the unmitigated gall to wear yellow stars to anti-mask rallies offend the memory of the victims of the Shoah and their descendants.

It is worth noting that Mr. Godwin, when he fashioned his adage, actually wanted people to think harder about the Holocaust and why Nazi comparisons should not be casually tossed into conversation.

Thinking is certainly not what’s happening here.

What we’re seeing is a lot of projection, the psychological impulse to project on other people what you’re actually feeling.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump, sometimes called the “Projection President,” was the embodiment of this phenomenon.

Mr. Trump, a chronic liar who wallowed in corruption, routinely attacked his opponents as corrupt liars. He also frequently described his opponents in a derogatory fashion, a lynchpin strategy of hate-mongers, and now a mainstay of social media.

Next time you hear the claims of Nazi-like tyranny and oppression, think about what is really being said.

Those who don’t want masks under any circumstances – those who not only want to refuse vaccines but prevent others from getting them – are actually the tyrants.

Their use of Hitler images and analogies are not a caution, but an embrace, one we should call out, not dismiss casually.


How Religion, Education, Race And Media Consumption Shape Conspiracy Theory Beliefs

Of note:

Religion, education, race and media consumption are strong predictors of conspiracy theory acceptance among Americans, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey of 5,149 adults living across the United States released on Thursday finds a strong correlation between consuming right-wing media sources and accepting conspiracy theories such as QAnon.

The poll examines ties between religious beliefs and belief in false conspiracy theories. White evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants were the most susceptible to the QAnon theory. 

About 1 in 4 respondents from those religious groups said they believed that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” a statement associated with the false QAnon conspiracy theory. 

That’s notably higher than the 15% of Black Protestants, as well as 15% of Americans overall, who agreed with that statement. At 8%, Jewish Americans were the religious group least likely to say they agree.

The report also looks at education and media consumption. Americans who said they consume far-right news sources reported the highest rates of conspiracy theory acceptance; close to half said they believe in the tenets of QAnon. The survey defined outlets such as Newsmax and One America News Network, or OANN, as “far-right.”