EDITOR’S NOTE: Video edited to add credit to Rebel Media.
A growing number of provincial and federal politicians say a Donald Trump-style “lock her up” chant that called for Premier Rachel Notley to be jailed is completely inappropriate and a form of verbal violence.
“It’s not only unoriginal, it’s completely inappropriate,” Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said Monday. “We don’t lock people up in Canada for bad policy, we vote them out.
“We heard it in the U.S. and it’s just …people acting like idiots. If you don’t like someone’s policy, just vote them out. That’s how we live in a democracy.”
Watch below: Federal MPs react to ‘lock her up’ chant directed at Alberta Premier Rachel Notley
Federal Conservative leadership candidate Chris Alexander mentioned Notley during the rally and was interrupted by chants of “lock her up.” Alexander said he disapproves of that particular chant, but has been under criticism for not being seen to do anything to stop the protesters.
It echoed refrains heard at many Donald Trump campaign rallies when the president-elect accused opponent Hillary Clinton of destroying email evidence in a congressional investigation.
Alexander told Global News he was mortified and hesitated because he was “taken aback” and trying to think of the best way forward.
“My first words were ‘vote her out’ and I said that relatively faintly. And then I went on to talk about voting and the ballot box.
“At the same time, it’s not my job as a politician to tell Albertans who’ve lost their jobs, who’ve lost everything, who are worried they won’t be going back to work any time soon, how to feel or what to say. I disapprove of that chant, but I take those sentiments very seriously.”
The rally was organized by Rebel Media, an online news and right-wing opinion outlet. On Monday, Global News asked the head of Rebel Media for reaction to Alexander’s comments that he was “taken aback” by the crowd calling for the premier to be thrown in prison.
In a statement to Global News, Ezra Levant did not directly address Alexander’s comments and instead criticized “the media” for “holding citizens to account on behalf of the government, instead of holding the government to account on behalf of citizens.”
“A 20-second boisterous chant is remarkably restrained in a province with nine per cent unemployment,” Levant wrote. “The media should stop taking that spontaneous riff literally, and start taking it seriously – a cry for help that is falling on deaf ears.”
Alberta’s government house leader Brian Mason said the province’s Opposition Wildrose party and its leader, Brian Jean, need to disavow what Mason called “hate politics.”
Jean was one of the speakers at the weekend rally, which was held to demonstrate against Alberta’s looming carbon tax.
Jean responded Monday, saying he doesn’t think Trump-style politics has any place in Alberta.
“I denounce the activities that took place at this particular rally in relation to the chant,” he said.
“I wish people who have those desires to have those chants…would just stay at home and keep those opinions to themselves.”
Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney also weighed in on social media, tweeting: “I understand many Albertans are angry with the direction of our province. But anger never wins an argument. Be persuasive instead.”
The federal minister of the status of women said the chant perpetuates problems which discourage women from running for office.
“Here we have someone vying to be a leader of a party that has a considerable standing and is not taking steps to actually condemn behaviour that’s quite violent in its nature and isn’t an example of our democracy,” Patricia Hajdu said.
She said threatening a political leader with jail time is an intimidation tactic she considers akin to verbal violence.
“If the threat of incarceration comes with the job, that is going to be a deterrent for many, many women who are seeking to reach this level.”
Alberta-based political commentator Janet Brown said she believes it was an emotional spur-of-the-moment incident that should be taken as a cautionary tale for all politicians.
“You had better be prepared to deal with these kinds of things when they erupt,” she said. “You have to be prepared to shut negativity down.
“I think Canadian politicians have to keep in mind that there is a different expectation of decorum here in Canada. Unfortunately we are going to see a little bit more negativity but it’s not going to win it for a politician here in Canada.”
Tory hopefuls Chong and Obhrai denounce ‘lock her up’ chants aimed at Notley
A couple of Chris Alexander’s rivals in the Conservative leadership race also denounced what happened at the rally.
Conservative MP Michael Chong said while the right to free speech must always be defended, it must also be used responsibly.
Chong says that by chanting “lock her up,” people in the crowd were urging “undemocratic action” that would be more at home in a dictatorship than in Canada.
Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai called it “Trump-style politics invading Canada” and called on the organizers to distance themselves from “hate-mongering and insults.”
With interviews from Global’s Carolyn Kury de Castillo, Reid Fiest and files from The Canadian Press