OTTAWA–A prominent Conservative MP is taking aim at Justin Trudeau, suggesting the prime minister has endorsed a global initiative that has also become the target of baseless conspiracy theories on social media.
Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre has been posting messages to social media and on his constituency website about a “Great Reset,” which he suggested the Liberal government plans to impose on Canadians.
“Global financial elites have called for the same ‘Great Reset,’ which would re-engineer economies and societies to empower the elites at the expense of the people,” read a petition posted to Poilievre’s website this week.
“Canadians must fight back against global elites preying on the fears and desperation of people to impose their power grab.”
The petition had been signed more than 76,000 times as of Friday morning.
The “Great Reset” from which Poilievre says Trudeau is drawing his inspiration is a World Economic Forum initiative that aims to envision how countries and the global economy can emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
However, it has also become the target of conspiracy theorists and the far-right online fringe groups, who allege that the initiative is actually the cover for a plot that would see an international cabal strip citizens of their property rights, force them to get vaccinations, create “isolation” camps for anyone who resists.
The conspiracy theory — which fact-checkers at Snopes.com suggest started as a chain email picked up by QAnon-associated internet forums — relies on an allegedly “leaked” email from a Canadian “Liberal committee member” outlining the scheme to suggest the “Great Reset” liberal buzz term is actually an international plot.
While Poilievre’s posts do not repeat the conspiracy theorists’ sensational allegations, his criticism of the WEF initiative has drawn unfavourable reactions online.
“’The Great Reset’ — the language a Tory MP is using here — is a debunked conspiracy theory,” Global News reporter Rachel Gilmore tweeted on Wednesday. Gilmore went on to quote a New York Times story: “The conspiracy alleges that a cabal of elites has long planned for the pandemic so that they could use it to impose their global economic control on the masses.”
Poilievre declined an interview request from the Star this week.
But in response to a written question about what he meant by the statement about “global financial elites” preying on citizens’ fears about COVID-19, Poilievre replied, “It means what it says.”
Poilievre also cited a speech Trudeau made to the United Nations in September.
“Canada believes that a strong co-ordinated response across the world and across sectors is essential. This pandemic has provided an opportunity for a reset,” Trudeau told the meeting.
“This is our chance to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts to reimagine economic systems that actually address global challenges like extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.”
Aengus Bridgman, a Ph.D candidate at McGill focusing on online political participation, said the timing of Poilievre’s petition coincides with a revival of the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory online.
“This is clearly mobilizing many anti-Trudeau, Conservative and/or conspiracy-minded Canadians,” Bridgman said in a statement to the Star on Friday.
“The timing seems unlikely to be a coincidence, with the revival of the Great Reset conspiracy theory getting a lot of attention on Twitter first called out by, then going viral, with (Rebel News founder Ezra) Levant’s tweet.”
Levant, a far-right media personality, tweeted a video clip of Trudeau which Levant claimed was proof that the pandemic “is the excuse for a ‘Great Reset’ of the world, led by the UN.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also took aim at Trudeau’s comments Thursday in a video posted on social media. O’Toole attempted to contrast Conservative priorities — a safe restart for the economy and regaining jobs lost during the pandemic — with what he called “risky experiments” proposed by the Liberals.
“Mr. O’Toole has been fighting for COVID-19 support and jobs for the millions of Canadians Justin Trudeau left behind,” spokesperson Chelsea Tucker said in a written statement.
“You will have to ask Prime Minister Trudeau why he chose to use the word ‘reset’ in his speech about using the pandemic as an “opportunity” to “reimagine the economy.”
Trudeau said “we’re seeing a lot of people fall prey to disinformation” when he was asked Friday about Poilievre’s comments.
“If Conservative MPs want to start talking about conspiracy theories, that’s they’re choice,” he said. “I’m going to stay focused on helping Canadians get through this (pandemic).”