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Canada's Conservatives are adopting a disinformation strategy straight from Trump's playbook

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Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer (L-R). Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

"Huge pothole on #StAlbert Trail right now! This is a preview of Canada’s future if Justin Trudeau is re-elected as prime minister, as he continues to implement his terrible anti-automobile agenda."

Were I to take to Twitter and say such a thing, dear readers, presumably many of you would conclude that I had gone over the edge. In the absence of hints this was done for comedic effect, you might be justified.

I give you, then, Senator Denise Batters, an actual member of Canada's Upper House, the chamber of sober second thought, as it was declared to be by Sir John A. Macdonald, a Conservative politician of the old school.

Batters is a Regina lawyer who once served as the chief of staff for a Saskatchewan Party justice minister. She was appointed to the Senate by prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013 and it would be fair to say she is known for intemperate remarks on Twitter and other social media sites.

Still, she outdid herself on Saturday, when she tweeted: "Major power outage in SE #Regina right now. This is a preview of Canada’s future if Justin Trudeau is re-elected, as he continues to implement his terrible anti-energy industry agenda. #C69 #C48 #carbonTAX"

Lacking any evidence that this was done for comedic effect, many Twitter users concluded Batters had gone over the edge, prompting a lot of mockery. Certainly that is a plausible explanation under the circumstances. I am not so sure, however, so bear with me.

Consider this from Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta and a former minister in Harper's cabinet: "It appears quite possible I inherited the NDP's second recession," he told his favourite Postmedia stenographer late last week. He accused the NDP of lying about the state of the province's finances in the same screed. He has tweeted much the same thing.

Similarly, in his victory speech on the night of April 16, Kenney accused "foreign-funded special interests" of "leading a campaign of economic sabotage against this great province." He has repeated this claim numerous times on social media.

Neither assertion is supported by much evidence.

Or ponder these words from Doug Ford, Kenney's sentence-finishing bromantic partner and the Conservative premier of Ontario, who tweeted without irony on Sunday: "Our government has accomplished more in 12 months than any other government in Ontario's history."

Seriously? Seriously?

Does this all sound familiar? Does this all ring a bell, as it were?

Of course it does. Because, considered together, this is Trumpism of the first water.

There is a pattern here: Bizarre and illogical accusations about political opponents' supposedly conspiratorial connections and intentions; attempts to identify and persecute scapegoats for real and imagined crises; and fantastic claims unsupported by evidence. Plus, of course, an endless stream of outright, knowing lies. All of it amplified by weaponized social media and compliant right-wing mainstream media.

It all fits the disinformation-loop strategy perfected by Donald Trump and the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line, and imported to Canada by the new post-Reform Party Conservatives of Harper, Batters, Kenney, Ford and federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer.

It's easy to mock such disinformation a tweet at a time. It's not so easy to undo the corrosive effect over time.

With a federal election looming and Conservative trolls in full throat, Canadians should take this very seriously indeed. We've already seen what's happened, and is still happening, south of the 49th Parallel. It can happen here too, and very well may.

Indeed, it's already happening in Alberta as the New Conspiracism transforms itself into the New McCarthyism as Kenney's War Room becomes the House Un-Albertan Activities Committee.

Which is why I don't think Batters's comments came out of nowhere. I think she's reading from a script. Unfortunately, it's a script we now know works pretty well.

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 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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