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Baldrey: Poll raises alarm about growing extremism in Canada

This country can’t claim to be fundamentally different than the U.S. when it comes to “misinformation, conspiracy theories and distrust,” survey suggests.
2022-02-07-ottawa-truck-convoy-2022-02-07-ottawa-truck-convoy-3
The Ottawa trucker convoy and the infamous Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol cannot be dismissed as one-off events, says pollster David Coletto. | File photo

One of Canada’s top polling firms has released research that shows a significant portion of Canadians hold views that put them very close to the politics of Donald Trump and the rightward-drifting U.S. Republican Party.

The firm Abacus Data sampled the views of 1,500 Canadians back in May and what it discovered is both alarming and disquieting to say the least.

For example, 52 per cent said that “official government accounts of events can’t be trusted.” And 44 per cent said “much of the information we receive from news organizations is false.”

So roughly half the population do not trust two key pillars of established society – government and the news media.

On its own, this finding is not necessarily disastrous. There is nothing wrong with people being skeptical of either institution.

But when combined with other findings of the poll, the picture that is painted is worrisome indeed.

More than one-third – 37 per cent – said they “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 known as “replacement theory”, a racist view commonly cited by white supremacists (including the 18-year-old killer of 10 black people in Buffalo in May).

Then there is the finding that millions of Canadians are conspiracy theorists: 16 per cent think the last U.S. election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, 18 per cent think the Royal Family killed Princess Diana (a further 35 per cent think the idea is “plausible”) and 20 per cent think the World Economic Forum has a secret strategy to control the world.

What this poll shows is that Canada is not radically different than the United States when it comes to being home to millions of people who hold unorthodox views that range from intolerance to mere kookiness (did I mention that 11 per cent think the moon landings were faked?).

According to Abacus, these folks tend to occupy the conservative side of the political spectrum (Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre is a particular favorite), which is not a surprise given much of the Conservative Party appears to have been taken over by this crowd.

Indeed, this poll shows why that odious trucker convoy that occupied downtown Ottawa in January and February seemed to attract a not-insignificant amount of support.

In fact, Abacus CEO David Coletto has written the trucker convoy and the infamous Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol cannot be dismissed as one-off events.

“Both events were not isolated nor disconnected. They are built on a foundation of misinformation, conspiracy theories and distrust,” Coletto wrote in The Writ.

Canadians tend to hold a smug view that whatever worrisome event plays out in the U.S., it is unlikely to be repeated in this country. The Abacus Data poll puts the lie to that notion.

At the very least, there are millions of Canadians who subscribe to views wielded by the increasingly right-wing U.S. Republican Party.

While they clearly make up only a minority of the population, it is more than alarming when you consider that more than one third of Canadian adults subscribe to things like replacement theory.

And remember, minority views can become tyrannical as well. Look no further than the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, which went against the wishes of at least 60-70 per cent of Americans.

Extremism, distrust and ignorance are spreading. They are combining to turn the U.S. into potential chaos and the Abacus poll suggests we are not immune to their threats.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca

 

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