‘A lot of fear and anger and hatred’

As noted previously, there have been moments in the House this week when the rhetoric and language felt, very literally, dangerous. This isn’t about saying not nice things about one another, or being mean. It is about carelessly, needlessly, inciting a violent sort of fury and division—forces we cannot easily control once unleashed.

Immediately after Question Period this past afternoon, the NDP’s Libby Davies rose and asked that Conservative Dean Del Mastro be made to withdraw various invectives hurled in the direction of the New Democrats. Apparently Del Mastro had referred to Ms. Davies and her peers as “traitors.” 

Del Mastro stood and twice, instead of apologizing, defended his slurs. His fellow Conservatives applauded him.

After Question Period, the NDP’s Nathan Cullen scrummed with reporters and explained that the night previous a sign advertising his riding office in B.C. appeared to have been, in his words, “firebombed.” (David Akin has a picture.)

It is, of course, entirely possible that such destruction is entirely unrelated to the discourse in Ottawa this week. But then the mere possibility of a connection—after an election campaign that included dangerous acts of anonymous aggression—might be enough to justify serious worry for what is being done to this country right now.

After the jump, the full transcript of Cullen’s exchange with reporters.

Question: So I understand that you put up signs in your home riding, advertising your phone number and that sort of thing.  Someone’s interfered with one, is that right?

Cullen: Someone late last night essentially firebombed one of our signs, they, in the middle of the night. We assume the police have begun an investigation to find out if they can determine who did this, but you can see the result of the incendiary language that’s coming out of Parliament that is invoking a lot of fear and anger and hatred. And it’s, I think the Prime Minister has to take some account of this.

Question: Was it completely destroyed or what?

Cullen: Very nearly. We can, we’ll send you some photos to see, but it was, it’s a big thick aluminum sign. They had to spend quite a bit of time and effort to, to burn this up.  It was

Question: Do you think this is a sign things are getting a little bit nasty, or what?

Cullen: I think this is, the economic crisis is where this started.  The Prime Minister has turned this into a political and now a national unity crisis and it’s, we have to pull back from the edge and he’s got to learn to step back from this type of language because it’s having an effect on Canadians.

Question: Let me ask you this. In, in that theme, pulling back from the edge, the Prime Minister sat, prorogued Parliament for two months for a cooling off period, (inaudible) presumably facing (inaudible) gets back. What do you think can happen on, in any party on any side in that two months to calm things down?

Cullen: I think that can start right now, and it doesn’t actually require the Prime Minister shutting out parliamentarians for two months and doing nothing about the economy. He can step up and do his job as Prime Minister of this country. His duty is to this country and this Parliament. It is, it is not for him to determine that a democratic vote may or may not be taken. This is, this has gone beyond anything and any sensible reaction we’ve known from a Prime Minister before. He has to understand that taking two months may make the situation much worse. It certainly will make it economically much worse. 

Question: You don’t think it’ll, it’ll help calm tensions? Then you (inaudible)?

Cullen: I, I very much doubt that the Conservative party is going to spend those two months trying to bring the country together. 

Question: What do you think they’re going to do?

Cullen: I think they’re going to continue their campaign of trying to put, instill fear and rage in Canadians.  And we see it.  We see language like traitor being used by Conservative members.  When I showed my signs, pictures of my sign to members of the government, they said it was, I had it coming.  I mean, these guys are, it doesn’t seem to be in their nature right now when they’re so desperate to pull back from this anger and (inaudible) policy.

Question: I am hearing like anecdotally though (inaudible) there are NDP members who are (inaudible) they are not happy with what you’re doing.  There are some that are (inaudible).  They feel that, (inaudible) the NDP is now going to acquiesce to the Bloc (inaudible) even more money than you did in the last election into Québec.  (Inaudible) what you’re doing?

Cullen: I, I’ve been on the phone non-stop, both with people who are supportive and people who have concerns. Those that have concerns, we’ve been able to have very good conversations and actually correct some of the mistruths.  The government, the government

Question: (inaudible)?

Cullen: Sure. The government, the Conservatives have talked about a constitutional crisis. Not true.  They’ve talked about the Bloc being in the cabinet. Not true. Look at, in this heated political rhetoric, the government has gone so far as to illicit these types of reactions from Canadians. These are, these are, I know these people. These are may neighbours, this is home town. We can have debates. We can have disagreements. When it comes to this, somebody has to take responsibility and tone it down. That screaming traitor over and over again in the House of Commons at elected Members of Parliament, representing their constituents and their country can only lead down one path and that is towards further destruction and ripping up the fabric of this country.

Question: (inaudible) what is the message you’re taking from that (inaudible)?

Cullen: I think it’s an attempt to intimidation, it’s an attempt to bullying me or my staff and to send a signal through the constituency.  I think it will backfire.  I think the rallies that are being held in, in my community and communities across the North of BC tomorrow are going to show them otherwise.  And this is, this is hope winning out over fear and, and we will not bend to this intimidation.  I’ve already received calls from folks back home saying you know, stand strong.  Do not, do not bend down to these guys.

Question: Does this raise concerns for you about (inaudible) when it comes right down to it? I mean, burning a sign is one thing (inaudible).

Cullen: I, I, you know, I think if the Conservative Party continues this campaign of fear, it’s, it’s unpredictable. I think it’s what they are doing. And they’re inciting this type of anger and violence. It seems unreasonable to think otherwise, that they can use this language, they can present this to Canadians and not expect there to be some kind of result at the other end.

Question: It’s unfair. If there isn’t too much (inaudible), do you think this will accelerate these types of acts or (inaudible)?

Cullen: The, the strategy that we’ve seen from the Conservatives is to spread mistruths to invoke anger and disruption in the Canadian people to produce backlash.  They will no doubt continue that.  These folks do not seem at all interested in finding another way, a way of reconciliation with the other parties and (inaudible) is the only way I can look at it.  They way they’re talking about Quebec, the way they’re talking about increasing western alienation.  This is something that they absolutely have no regard for the unity of this country.  And created a unity crisis from a political crisis that started as an economic crisis.  This is absolutely insane that the Prime Minister is doing this.

Question: Can you describe the sign (inaudible) and what actually happened to it?

Cullen: Sure. We can, we can send you photos as well.  Someone in the middle of the night essentially firebombed it. It’s a big thick aluminum sign.  We’ve had them up for years and they just give office information. Somebody essentially burned almost the thing right off.  And they were very determined. 

Question: Are people in your (inaudible) and staff members I guess in your riding, are they quite concerned (inaudible)?

Cullen: I mean we’ve talked to the police of course, and we’re going to have more vigilance about goes on. They’re feeling, some are trepidatious for sure. I mean, if you showed up to work and your company sign has been burned in the middle of the night out of pure hatred, I mean you’d probably have some (inaudible).  (Inaudible) did on your lunch break. 

Question: (inaudible) riding security (inaudible)?

Cullen: We’ve, we’ve talked (inaudible) security in terms of what’s going on.  The topic of (inaudible) and the threatening letters.  We’re now engaged with (inaudible) RCMP to make sure they’re well aware and they’re very supportive. 

Question: (inaudible) and I’m paraphrasing (inaudible) he said it was time for a time-out.  He said things had gotten a little wound up and (inaudible) wondering what you think about all that?

Cullen: Yeah, I’m not sure that

Question: (inaudible) Sure. I just, I just want to finish this and then we can (inaudible).

Nathan Cullen:  I’m not sure if the Conservatives are so invested in this campaign of fear and anger that two more months of this would do any good.  I think they’re quite committed to soliciting this type of reaction from Canadians to, to provoke anger. And I don’t know, I just think it just serves the Conservatives (inaudible) to try to get away from the democratic vote.

Question: So would you be calling for a cooling off period as well?

Cullen: I’m, I’m asking all the MP’s in the House to cool off.  We had, asked a member today of the Conservatives to stop screaming traitor out at the top of his voice.  And he got up and told us to take a hike.

Question: Who was that?

Cullen: Dean Del Mastro. From Peterborough. That’s what he spends his Question Period doing.  And he got up today and defended himself and said he has every right.  So, is this, is this a group of people that look invested in reconciliation?

Question: Thank you. 

Cullen: Not a bit.

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