Federal Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was in P.E.I. earlier this week. She says she is concerned about a “severe polarization of discourse” happening at the public policy level.
©TERESA WRIGHT/THE GUARDIAN
Federal Conservative MP Michelle Rempel says she “fundamentally disagrees” with the notion her party has courted the alt-right or extreme right vote in Canada.
Rempel sat down for an interview with The Guardian during a visit to Prince Edward Island this week.
She expressed concern about a “severe polarization of discourse” happening at the public policy level, which she believes is interfering with important policy decisions.
“We’re not talking about solutions, we’re not talking about the core of the matter, we’re not talking about public policy, it’s, essentially, radical ideology that’s very harmful,” Rempel said.
“Yes, we enjoy the privilege and the right of free speech in Canada, but we also have to make sure that we’re not, as public servants and public policy administrators, going down an extreme rabbit hole or validating that inadvertently.”
But when asked how this jives with the Conservative party’s efforts to court some more far-right voters in the past, Rempel immediately rejected this.
“I think that’s your characterization,” she said.
“I don’t agree with all of the decisions that we’ve made in our party in the past, but I think to characterize our party as that is wrong.”
Rempel says proposals such as the barbaric cultural practices tipline from the 2015 election campaign and Tory leadership hopeful Kelly Leitch’s plan to screen immigrants for anti-Canadian values were rejected by voters, both in and outside the party.
“I think our party is the party that does stand up for equality of opportunity,” she said.
“I’ve spent the last six years of my life talking about women’s equality and these sorts of things. Just because I come from a small ‘c’ conservative school of political thought, I just refuse to be put on the defense on that. Because I think that my party offers a lot of positive public policy options for the country and I do think we need to challenge the mainstream dogma that the Liberals put forward.”
Last week, Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer said he would no longer grant interviews to Rebel Media after the right-wing outlet came under fire for what was considered overly sympathetic coverage of the white-supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
Other Tory MPs are also distancing themselves from the outlet and from the alt-right movement.
Rempel she says believes the Charlottesville incidents have created a “flashpoint”, but she says she hears far more concerns about tax policies that affect small businesses and about the Trudeau government’s deficit spending than about extremist ideology.
“To me, those are the voices that our party has always represented. It’s the voice of the small business owner, a family, somebody who is just starting out in life,” she said.
“I’m proud to represent those voices because, frankly, in the dogma that I hear in Ottawa on a daily basis, I don’t see those voices represented. And that’s the role of our party.”