Almost half of Canadians polled last month are not entirely sure Donald Trump lost the last presidential election in the U.S., according to the newest release from Abacus Data.
“Almost 5 million Canadian adults (16 per cent) think it’s definitely or probably true that ‘the U.S. election was stolen from Donald Trump,’” Abacus reported. “Another 29 per cent think it’s possible or aren’t sure.”
It’s the latest in a series of bleak reports from Abacus on the state of trust, confidence and democracy itself in this country. Last week, Abacus reported on the disturbing number of Canadians — also in the 40 per cent range — who place some stock in other conspiracy theories.
Taken together, these results tell a story of a Canada growing increasingly shaky on basic facts and skeptical of almost anyone who purports to have that information.
That’s very bad news for a government that finds itself this week in yet another controversy over the connections between politics and the police — two institutions that hinge on public faith in institutions.
It’s bad timing, too, with another convoy protest lurking as a possibility in the capital around Canada Day next week. On Wednesday morning, some of the leading characters from the winter occupation in the capital were on Parliament Hill, meeting with Conservative MPs who were offering support.
The Abacus polling was carried out in May — before the remarkable, searing testimony we’re seeing at the U.S. hearings into the insurrection on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021. One would think any Canadian watching the testimony — especially the witnesses coming forward this week — would be starting to realize this whole stolen-election conspiracy is entirely the creation of Trump and his ragtag band of enablers.
What’s striking about the story emerging from the hearings, in fact, is just how much of the Jan. 6 siege of the capital was orchestrated by sore losers, confident they could overturn Joe Biden’s election victory with the right application of bullying, bargaining and shows of populist force.
Many have drawn some direct lines between the Capitol Hill insurrection in 2021 and the convoy protests in Canada this year. That’s fair — both demonstrations were fed and cheered on by Fox News, alt-right organizations and not-insignificant infusions of U.S. cash.
Where the comparison falls short, however, is motive and purpose. The people who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building had an objective, however deranged, and that was to get Trump installed as the rightful president of the United States for another four years.
Here in Canada, the convoy protesters’ motives were far more diffuse. They were about vaccine mandates, ostensibly, except that much of the measures they opposed were creations of the provincial governments. They were about the free passage of goods and people, sort of, right up to the point when they blocked cross-border traffic of goods and people. They were pro-democracy, except for those who wanted Trudeau ousted from power and replaced with a star chamber of unelected folks in Ottawa, including the governor general.
In the United States, the congressional hearings into Jan. 6 have a clear focus and one line to follow — what did Trump and his supporters do to overturn an election?
By contrast, Justice Paul Rouleau will have his work cut out for him here in Canada when his formal inquiry into the Emergencies Act and the convoy protest gets under way — merely in finding which motives to pursue. What was it all about? Who led it? What was the end game?
James Topp, a convoy protest supporter who heads up something called “Canada Marches,” was one of the people on Parliament Hill on Wednesday to talk about where the demonstration is going from here. He told reporters of the discontent he was gathering up from the public on his march from B.C. to Ottawa — how it had widened beyond a band of vaccine dissent into something more general.
“Their issue is not so much with mandates anymore, it’s … with the federal government,” Global News’ Alex Boutilier reported on his social media feed after talking to Topp. “They see it as intractable, inflexible and unresponsive to their needs.”
A year ago, maybe even six months ago, the government’s answer to that would have been something along the lines of “trust us.” That’s still more or less what federal cabinet ministers and the RCMP have been saying this week in reply to explosive allegations of political interference into the investigation of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
The Abacus polling results and the still-simmering convoy protests are a splash of cold water into the “trust us” defence. When nearly half of the population is no longer clear on who won the U.S. election, trust in facts and institutions is not a given.
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