Port Darlington Road is right on the water in Bowmanville, Ontario, and the late October wind was blowing in fierce. The sky was dark even though it was early afternoon. Drizzling rain pelted us from all sides.
I’m a naturally quick walker, which sometimes annoys my friends and my wonderful wife Devon. Various campaigns have told me that I do come in handy when there are lots of doors to knock on, though.
But Erin O’Toole, competing in a byelection against an unusually tough challenge from a popular local mayor running for the NDP and a Liberal Party that had found new appreciation for our country’s veterans, had me beat. When I found someone at the door, he’d take off running and cover the distance in seconds. He didn’t stop to catch his breath once.
You can dismiss the above as partisan drooling, or you can understand that this is a man not easily knocked off his game by things like bad weather, or accusations of signalling to white nationalists because his tweets have 88 characters in them.
I don’t want to completely dismiss the possibility that O’Toole’s tweet character count, or word count, or his “Secure The Future” slogan add up to some sort of secret Nazi code that only experts in Twitter gematria can decipher.
It is, however, election time, and interested parties have an interest in certain parties being held to account and other parties, not so much. If you want to see Erin O’Toole or Justin Trudeau or Jagmeet Singh taken down a peg, or if you want to believe that COVID vaccines contain microchips, you’ll seize on anything that helps your case.
(By the way, if you’re wondering why we can’t have a nice election about issues that matter, like climate change? This is why we can’t have nice things.)
Canadians do seem to be more upset than usual at the government. Again, that could be because of a Conservative Party dark money campaign aimed at whipping up political violence, or because the government’s actions have upset them. It depends on who you ask.
I do know that this isn’t even the first time that people opposed to the Conservatives have made this sort of leap in logic. I remember a time when it was discovered that the CPC was compiling a separate list of Jews so they could send them Rosh Hashanah cards, and this seemingly benign act was compared by certain community members (who may wish to remain nameless) to the lists of addresses the Nazis used to keep so they’d know which doors to knock on.
Somehow, this didn’t stop Stephen Harper from eventually winning his majority.
And so I say this to the narrative-builders: Your problem is that you are signalling to your own true believers and that many other voters, even Jews who didn’t know what the “Fourteen Words” are or what the significance of the number 88 is, aren’t always going to be picking up what you’re laying down, because you’re talking in your own secret codes. You’re not openly naming and shaming the specific people responsible, if they exist. You’re just levelling a lot of vague and plausibly deniable broad-brush allegations.
From a purely strategic, tactical perspective, if you want to stop Erin O’Toole, or force him on the defensive, this isn’t going to cut it. He’s going to go right back to talking about loving dogs and banning puppy mills.
Wait a minute… dogs? Like the dogs that the Nazis used to use to sniff out Jews? I knew it!
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.
LISTEN to the first 18-minute election episode of The CJN’s podcast Bonjour Chai