The former leader of the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative Party said extreme views are taking hold.
Ken Grey told Global News he resigned the Sask PC Party leadership position in January because of the disappointing results in the election last fall — the once-serious contender garnered zero seats and less than two per cent of the popular vote — and because he’s alarmed by some members’ beliefs.
“There’s a lot of folks that seem to be coming to the Progressive Conservative Party that wanted to believe that COVID-19 is a hoax,” he said, speaking over Zoom.
He said party members and some in the leadership were pushing for the party to adopt more extreme views, like “some of the QAnon theories,” the position that “climate change is a hoax” and racist beliefs.
Grey said party members sent him messages after the Oct. 26 election criticizing him and his decisions. He said he felt threatened by some of them.
He also said he recognized some of the people who messaged him from news coverage of the anti-mask and “freedom” rallies held around the province.
Grey denied he was speaking out to slander the party, stating he doing so to warn others about what’s happening to conservative politics.
“I’m a fiscal conservative. I don’t think we should park our brains at the doorstep when we’re in the conservative party.”
A PC spokesperson said Grey resigned of his own accord.
He also denied the allegations the party position or the 12-person party leadership has embraced extremist or conspiracy views.
“I can say unequivocally that this party has no desire to be part of anything as ridiculous of that,” Dave Buscis said.
But he said he couldn’t answer for the entire party membership, stating the PC Party has a broad base and members hold different views.
Buscis also told Global News he didn’t know if any members attended anti-mask rallies.
He said the party leadership is working to rebuild, to “develop modern conservative policies,” to reengage with voters and that the party’s future does not include extremism.
Ken Coates, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, said a few members attending wasn’t cause for alarm because every party has fringe elements.
“Folks with these kinds of extreme views have always been part of the political culture in different jurisdictions, particularly in Saskatchewan,” he said, speaking over Zoom from Whitehorse.
He said Canada is lucky extremism and disruptive politics hasn’t infiltrated the country’s discourse in any major way. But he also said that makes Canadians “hypersensitive” to it, especially with the recent riots in Washington, D.C.
Coates said the beliefs are dangerous but any reaction must be tempered by the severity of the threat.
“I think that’s very, very destructive of our political culture, if we start over reacting to what one or two fringe members might say or might think.”
He said the claims made by Grey reveals an intra-party conflict.
“When the when the battles start, they tend to get fairly vicious,” he said, referencing the Sask NDP dropping Sandra Morin just weeks before the October election.
Coates said the discord makes the party’s chances of getting elected in the future even more challenging.
“The only hope they have is sort of solid unity and a clear message and strong leadership and strong internal coherence,” he said.
“And right now, that doesn’t exist.”
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