Sask. MP tries to 'turn the temperature down' with statement on truck convoy, decries divisiveness
Gary Vidal calls division created by the pandemic 'heartbreaking'
While several Saskatchewan MPs have been very outspoken on social media about the truck convoy that made its way to Ottawa recently, the member of Parliament for the province's most northern constituency admitted last weekend that he has been "relatively quiet."
On Saturday, Gary Vidal posted a letter on Twitter and Facebook about the convoy protest in Ottawa, saying his statement was not an endorsement of a position.
"It is an attempt to turn the temperature down," wrote the MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
He said some people want him to take sides, and when he doesn't, "they become angry. Unfortunately, that is a choice and is not my desired outcome."
My statement regarding the convoy protest happening in Ottawa this weekend.<br><br>Having recently tested positive for COVID19, I am following public health guidelines and isolating at home until I am symptom free. <br><br>Thankful to be vaccinated and recovering quickly. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CdnPoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CdnPoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/yZJymh7yyX">pic.twitter.com/yZJymh7yyX</a>—@GaryAVidal
Positive COVID-19 test
According to Vidal, he wasn't able to be out last weekend since he recently tested positive for COVID-19.
"If I had been in Ottawa this week, I would have gladly met with those who are peacefully protesting," the MP wrote in his statement.
Vidal went on to say that he has been supporting "the Conservative Party of Canada's stance against mandatory vaccinations for federally regulated industries (including cross border trucking). I believe these ultimatums have contributed to the hesitancy, fear, and anger felt by millions of Canadians."
In an interview with CBC on Monday, Vidal said he believes the recent protests are also a result of an elevated level of frustration, with people having lost jobs and livelihoods during the pandemic.
In his statement on social media, Vidal wrote that he is thankful to be vaccinated and encourages others to consider getting a shot.
"I personally believe they're safe and effective at preventing severe illness," he said during Monday's interview.
"But I'm going to have that dialogue and respect for people that have reasons not to, and I think that's the only way we get past this."
The Conservative MP called the division created by the pandemic "heartbreaking."
He said people have to be able to listen to and respect each other, even if they don't share the same views.
"We don't always have to agree, but we can disagree in a respectful manner," said Vidal on Monday.
"Sometimes you have to be able to agree to disagree and you have to do that respectfully."
Vidal, Scheer say they condemn negative behaviours of some
When asked about some of the negative images from the weekend's events, such as protesters jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Vidal said when people cross lines like in that situation, they need to be called out.
"I've made it very clear that I will always talk with people," he said.
"I will meet with people as long as they want to be respectful and have what I call an adult conversation."
While Vidal said he was unable to meet with protesters last week, his Saskatchewan MP colleague Andrew Scheer attended rallies in Balgonie and Regina.
The MP for the Regina—Qu'Appelle constituency said in an email to CBC that he is proud to support the people who have come out to back "the movement."
"I support the calls to protect personal freedom."
Scheer said he denounces anyone expressing racist and anti-Semitic views.
"Those individuals should be held individually accountable," he said.
"Similarly, I also condemn any act of disrespect to our War Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or any statues."
Scheer sad he was encouraged to see people involved posting messages calling for peaceful protests. He also criticized the media, saying the protesters shouldn't all be painted with the same brush.
Thank you Truckers! Trudeau is attacking personal liberty and threatening everyone's ability to get groceries because of his overreach on vaccine mandates. He is the biggest threat to freedom in Canada.<a href="https://t.co/5b5k5ZjuY3">https://t.co/5b5k5ZjuY3</a>—@AndrewScheer
Sask MP shaking hands with controversial protester
Jeremy Patzer was another Saskatchewan MP mingling with protesters.
The Cypress Hills—Grasslands MP was filmed last week in Swift Current shaking hands with Patrick King, one of the people involved in the convoy.
King can be found in several videos on social media spreading racist conspiracy theories, for example about "an endgame … called the depopulation of the Caucasian race, or the Anglo-Saxon."
In a statement, Patzer said he has no association with King and is not aware of what he stands for.
According to the MP, he was introduced to King by a constituent in Swift Current during the truck convoy.
"While I support Canadians' right to peacefully protest, I fully condemn any violent rhetoric on the part of Mr. King or any other participant of the Convoy," said Patzer in his statement last week.
In an email to CBC, the Patzer's office wrote that the MP did not ask for a photo with King.
God keep our land glorious and free! 🇨🇦<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreedomConvoy2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FreedomConvoy2022</a> <a href="https://t.co/m2IFn65f4Y">pic.twitter.com/m2IFn65f4Y</a>—@JeremyPatzerMP