Four of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet ministers appeared before reporters Thursday to condemn Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s decision to meet with former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.
They also took issue with some of the rhetoric Carlson used while speaking to a large crowd that gathered Wednesday to see the conservative commentator in conversation with Smith at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre.
Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault said he was disturbed by Smith’s call for Carlson to put Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault in his “crosshairs.”
Smith and Guilbeault have been at odds over the federal government’s climate policies, which the premier has said are far too restrictive and are punishing Albertans who rely on fossil fuels.
During a conversation about the pitfalls of solar panels, Smith said to Carlson, “I wish you would put Steven Guilbeault in your crosshairs.”
“He’s an environmental zealot. He happens to be our environmental minister federally. He believes he has the expertise and knowledge to tell us in Alberta how to run our power grid,” Smith added.
Tucker replied that he didn’t want to know Guilbeault based on Smith’s description.
Smith’s comment was interpreted by Boissonnault as a call for violence, an attempt to “summon evil forces from the United States to try and take on one of our colleagues.”
“I can tell you it’s completely unacceptable for the premier of any province to say she wants to put a target on the back of any Canadian politician and my friend and colleague … simply for doing his job,” he said.
“You can have respectful discourse in this country, you can raise the issue, you can bang fists on the table at a fed-prov meeting — that’s all legit. But you do not summon the dogs of MAGA conservatism to try and scare us and try to incite violence against politicians of any stripe,” Boissonnault added, referring to the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement started by former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Guilbeault said he felt “targeted” by Wednesday’s Smith-Carlson fireside chat, which was focused on energy and recent power usage alerts in Alberta, when the electrical grid was severely strained by frigid temperatures.
“This increases political violence against everyone who runs for office in this country,” he said.
Boissonnault also accused Carlson of “spewing hate speech about LGTBQ people” — an apparent reference to Carlson’s homophobic joke about Trudeau.
“I know that in Canada it is official policy that coming out of the closet is good — unless you’re the prime minister,” Carlson said Wednesday.
“For Danielle Smith to bring the mouthpiece of the MAGA conservative far-right to Edmonton Centre to spew hate about LGBTQ2 people is beyond the pale,” Boissonault, who is gay, said of Carlson’s second Alberta event in the provincial capital.
“It’s deplorable and we won’t stand for it.”
Smith clearly anticipated criticism of her appearance with the controversial media figure.
“I know that there are representatives from mainstream media here, and they’re going to ask me whether I agree with every single word you said,” she said.
In a social media post, Smith said: “Free speech means you don’t just have to talk to the mainstream media.”
Speaking at an unrelated press conference Thursday, Smith defended her appearance with Carlson, saying she doesn’t “do a screening test to make sure that every person that interviews me matches 100 per cent of what I believe.”
“I take a wide range of interviews, from CBC all the way through to alternative media, because my job is to get our message out about Alberta. And I told everyone that I wanted to make sure somebody who has a very loud voice in America knew that we were a partner in being able to provide energy security and energy affordability, and I got that message out,” she said.
Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez attempted to link Pierre Poilievre with the event, which the Conservative leader did not attend.
“I’m asking Pierre Poilievre to condemn those hateful and violent statements by Tucker Carlson,” Rodriguez said.
“The extreme-right politics — don’t ask the question if it’s coming to Canada. It’s already here.”
Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said it’s “deplorable” for conservative Canadian politicians to rub shoulders with “the American extreme right.”
Asked for a response to Liberal calls to condemn Smith and Tucker, a spokesperson for Poilievre said Trudeau and his ministers are “yet again twisting themselves in knots to distract from the hurt and suffering they are inflicting on Canadians after eight years in power.”
“With millions of Canadians forced to rely on food banks and more and more middle-class people driven into homelessness, Trudeau’s desperate Liberal ministers will say anything in an attempt to distract Canadians and hope they forget about the misery caused by Liberal policies,” said Sebastian Skamski.
These Alberta stops were part of Carlson’s so-called “liberation tour” of Canada.
He said Trudeau and “woke” politicians like him who have embraced diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives threaten a certain segment of the Canadian population.
Tucker claimed “unrestrained immigration done for political reasons” will “eliminate your country from the map.”
“You should recognize what is happening to you,” he said. “This is a destruction of you and your culture and your beliefs and your children and your future.”
Carlson is a highly controversial figure in American media and politics.
For years, he hosted one of the most-watched shows on U.S. television, rallying a deeply conservative audience to the Republican cause.
After a series of controversies, Carlson was dropped by the Fox network after a racist text message surfaced during litigation proceedings with Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine and tabulation company that was at the centre of conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.
Since his ouster from Fox, Carlson has hosted a program on X, the social media service formerly known as Twitter, where he’s ignited criticism with his anti-Ukraine messaging about Russia’s invasion.