Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre doesn’t like “rage,” and he doesn’t like profanity-laden flags about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he told reporters on Friday.
But that anger is because people are “hurting,” he added, as a result of cost-of-living struggles and leaders that “talk down to them.”
His comment comes on the heels of a Substack post his predecessor, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, published Friday morning. In the piece, O’Toole slammed what he called “political stunts” and “aggressive rhetoric” that he said are proliferating in politics today.
O’Toole pointed to the widely used “F— Trudeau” flags that were a mainstay at the “Freedom Convoy” protests earlier this year as evidence of the issue.
“I say this as the person who ran against Justin Trudeau in the last general election and someone who remains very critical of his record in government. But as I told my kids during that national campaign, Mr. Trudeau was my political opponent not my enemy,” O’Toole wrote.
“These flags and the hyper-aggressive rhetoric that often accompanies them are slowly normalizing rage and damaging our democracy.”
Many of the people flying these flags, he said, “claim to be conservative.”
“This might also be an appropriate time to tell them that these flags are the very antithesis of what it means to be conservative,” O’Toole wrote.
When a reporter pressed Poilievre on his predecessor’s comments, the Conservative leader said he has “never seen so much hurt and so much pain and suffering in our population in (his) nearly two decades in politics.”
“I don’t like the flags, and I don’t like rage,” Poilievre said.
“But I think we have to ask ourselves: why are people so angry? Like, why are people so angry? And the answer is that they’re hurting.”
Poilievre agreed people can be told to “be more civil,” but said it’s the responsibility of politicians to “actually try to solve the problems that have upset and angered and hurt people so badly.”
“It is our job to turn that hurt into hope, to transform it into something better,” he said.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino warned over the summer that the growing frequency of harassment against Canadian public figures poses a “threat to democracy” that needs to be taken seriously.
His comment came shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was verbally attacked in Alberta. In June, Mendicino also revealed that Canadian members of Parliament will be getting panic buttons amid a rise in death threats, intimidation and verbal harassment.
When asked to reflect on this growing trend in a year-end interview with Global National‘s Dawna Friesen, Trudeau said there are “going to be people who disagree with any position that we take.”
“You can’t govern for eight years, now, and do significant things, as we have, and keep everybody onside all the time,” he said.
The pushback, Trudeau added, tells him Canada needs “more good people” to get involved in politics — but the growing anger is making that increasingly difficult.
“It’s hard to convince people to get involved in politics now,” Trudeau said. “It’s harder to find good candidates. It is harder to convince people to step forward and represent their communities.”
Both Poilievre and Trudeau have taken turns alluding to the other’s role in fuelling Canadians’ anger.
Poilievre said on Friday that the profanity-laden flags are a manifestation of Canadians’ frustrations — including with political leadership — and that Canada needs “a prime minister that actually brings people together.”
Speaking to a room of Liberal Party members in mid-December, Trudeau also pulled no punches as he criticized the Conservative leader.
“Mr. Poilievre might choose to undermine our democracy by amplifying conspiracy theories … that’s his choice,” Trudeau said.
“But when he says Canada is broken, that’s where we draw the line.”
In his own recent critique, O’Toole suggested the causes of polarization are “many” and “most are likely not going to change.”
“But the real risk to our democracy stems from the growing complacency of the majority. Canadians seem to be getting used to this high level of polarization in our country,” O’Toole said.
“Too many people just shrug and ignore the rise in aggressive language, the social media pile-ons and the elimination of informed debate. This tone of division and mistrust is slowly becoming the new normal in politics.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.