What are we to make, fellow Canadians, of federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer's now justly famous Louis Riel Day tweet?
Bear with me while we ponder this. There is a troubling point. It will take us only a moment to get there.
Scheer, who leads the Canadian political party most directly descended from the one responsible for hanging the man who was president of the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan for three months in 1885, tweeted on February 18 that, "as a Canadian politician of Métis background, Louis Riel was the driving force behind the creation of Manitoba as a new Canadian province."
This is even sort of true, in a soaringly idiotic kind of way. If you didn't know better, you might assume it was the work of someone who hadn't read a lot of history -- which can't be reassuring if you're a student contemplating pursuing a degree through the History Department of the University of Ottawa, where Scheer studied for a spell.
At any rate, Scheer's tweeted observation, while unique, is paradoxically not unusual.
Consider the televised commentary the very same day by former MP Peter MacKay, briefly also leader of the same party, although while it was doing business under a slightly different name in the early Zeroes.
Speaking of the resignation that day of Gerald Butts, the prime minister's principal secretary, MacKay similarly opined, "I don't think there's ever been this much power vested in a single non-elected person, certainly in my memory of political history. You have to go back, years and years, perhaps to the Tsar in Russia and Rasputin before you had somebody who wielded so much power, and we know that it didn't end well there."
This prompted a flurry of hilarious tweets in response, many quoting the immortal Boney M hit -- Rah, Rah, Rasputeen, lover of the Russian Queen, that was a cat who really was gone …" -- which has a great beat and lines bad enough for a Conservative Party of Canada press release.
Neither Butts nor Henry Kissinger will likely bother to pick up the phone and complain directly to MacKay, but let's just say he and Scheer demonstrate a similar grasp of political history.
Actually, as an aside, I suspect the Rasputin line was put in MacKay's head a couple of years ago when journalist Marci McDonald described how he was deftly outmanoeuvred by Stephen Harper in the hostile reverse takeover the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, comparing the former Conservative prime minister's adviser Tom Flanagan to … yes, the Russian mystic and Tsar Nicholas's BFF, Grigori Rasputin.
Be that as it may, as MacKay's commentary illustrates, Sheer's breathtaking Riel tweet is part of a pattern -- which, at last, brings us to the point.
We are all familiar with the modern philosopher George Santayana's observation that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
But what about those who can't remember the past correctly? One shudders to think what they might be doomed to repeat!
This is a serious matter. After all, Scheer seems to be someone who doesn't quite grasp the historical political antecedents of the "United We Roll" folks he keeps telling us are just ordinary working Canadians who want a pipeline or two, are worried about sinister United Nations plots, and, by the way, happen to blame immigrants for all their economic troubles and want the prime minster tried for treason. He seems to be prepared to do this while posing for photographs in their trucks.
Either that, or he understands who they are perfectly well, as his recycled Rebel Media advisers certainly do, a possibility that is considerably more troubling.
As for the famous aphorism above, speaking of popular music as we were, one can only hope that Scheer thinks the speaker was Carlos Santana.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr
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