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We deserve better

Facebook, apparently, is good enough for our member of Parliament. St.

Facebook, apparently, is good enough for our member of Parliament.

St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper has gone radio silent since his Facebook post Saturday evening, in which he apologized for his behaviour in a justice committee meeting last week.

The post comes on the heels of a chat with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who booted Cooper off the committee after he accused witness Faisal Khan Suri, the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, of linking mainstream conservatism with violent extremism.

The justice committee was exploring online hate and seeking input from witnesses on its dangers and possible solutions. In his presentation, Suri described the internet history of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, along with two other mass shooting suspects. Suri also referenced the activity of “right-wing extremist groups” on social media platforms.

Cooper took exception to the inference and told Suri, “You should be ashamed.” Cooper obviously showed up to the committee meeting looking for a fight. In an attempt to defend conservatism, he conveniently began quoting from a 74-page document written by the Christchurch mass shooting suspect, in which the suspect denounced conservatism as “corporatism in disguise.” Cooper was trying to prove that extremists can be anti-conservative, too.

All of this occurred last Tuesday. When the Gazette spoke to Cooper last Friday, three days after the incident, Cooper was steadfast in his actions and only said his statement spoke for itself. Cooper had a couple of days to think about how he treated Suri, and presumably received feedback from his parliamentary colleagues during that time. He remained unapologetic.

Cooper’s tune obviously changed after Scheer spoke to him. Cooper apologized to Suri, on Facebook, and announced that he will no longer sit on the justice committee.

Cooper’s St. Albert-Edmonton constituents deserve a better explanation than a four-paragraph statement on Facebook. He has much to explain to the voters of this riding. Why did he show up to the justice committee meeting with quotes from a white supremist, anti-Muslim mass murderer at the ready? Does he have a history with Suri and prepared himself to challenge him at the committee meeting? Why did he defend his actions three days after the committee meeting, and then apologize only after Scheer spoke to him? Is his apology sincere, or did he apologize only because his leader forced him to? Does he still think conservatism is being unfairly linked with extremism? Does he still intend to seek the Conservative nomination in St. Albert-Edmonton? What has been the feedback from his constituents? What has been the feedback from his constituency association?

These questions, unfortunately, remain unanswered because Cooper has refused to respond to repeated requests for an interview. The electorate of St. Albert-Edmonton deserves better.

The worst part of this mess is it deterred from what is an important topic – online hate and what can be done about it. Cooper’s politicization of the topic and his choice of using a mass murderer’s manifesto to defend his extreme partisan viewpoint has actually given conservatism a black eye at the very time his party is gearing up for a federal election. With the Liberals bouncing from scandal to scandal and sinking in the polls, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been struggling to change the channel by painting the Conservatives as socially conservative Neanderthals. And now Cooper has put the Conservatives' own hand on the dial.