The Alberta N P has wasted no time since being elected to office in May. The 2015 provincial election marked the first time many Albertans had e- ver witnessed a transition in gov ernment and the N P has not been g-entle or incremental. Its first legislative session was bold, filled with controversial proposals ranging from raising taxes and implementing a- new climate change regime, to im posing health and safety legislation on farmers.
The reaction from Albertans has been, unsurprisingly, mixed, at best, a-nd certainly heated. The farm safe ty bill, i-n particular, is inspiring pro tests among rural Albertans who fear what the poorly communicated Bill 6- will mean for their farming oper a tions. There are many legitimate criticisms to be levelled at the N P. We have offered a few ourselves. That said, Premier Rachel Notley has done absolutely nothing that warrants the threat of violence.
It is, frankly, baffling that we should have to write that sentence. Yet here we are. Th-e threats have be come so vitriolic and so widespread that even Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has responded.
On his Facebook page, Jean wrote: “Over the last few days, I’ve seen far too many hateful and even violent social media posts directed towards our political opponents. This needs to stop. These kinds of comments c- ross all bounds of respect and de cency and have absolutely no place in our political discourse. This is not how Albertans behave.”
He is correct. These are the types of messages that have been left in t-he comments sections of news stor ies and in Facebook groups devoted to discussing politics in the province: “W-e honestly need to start kill ing off politicians. Not vote them out cause that doesn’t work. They will continue to push their beliefs long after they’re gone. Politicians need to fear the people not the other way around. Alberta needs to flush out its politicians and carefully rebuild t he province properly.” And “burn down parliament and put a pitchfork through Notleys ( sic) neck?” And: “Someone’s gotta man up and kill her, dibs out.”
S-ocial media has a tendency to re ward exaggeration; people will often level bombastic threats online that they would never say in person, nor d ream of carrying out. Still, there is no excuse — there can be no excuse — for this kind of behaviour. Politics is o-ften personal, and it’s certainly pas sionate. But you can’t threaten to kill those whose policies you oppose. It’s not funny. It’s not minor. And when you’re publishing such comments online, it’s not private.
Jean, to his credit, has promised to respond to threats by reporting them to the police, as he should. As for the rest of us, we simply encourage calm and hope that you won’t hesitate to add your voice to those speaking out against such vile, undemocratic behaviour, even if it’s “only” online.
It apparently needs saying: don’t threaten to kill politicians