Wannabe political leader Aaron Gunn has had a busy few weeks.
After months of hints, on October 9th Gunn launched his bid to be the leader of the BC Liberal Party.
A few weeks later, the party’s leadership election organizing committee announced they had rejected his candidacy and wouldn’t let him run for leadership. Their stated reasons: “Gunn’s candidacy would be inconsistent with the BC Liberal Party’s commitment to reconciliation, diversity and acceptance of all British Columbians.”
While it is true that Gunn has been labelled a far-right extremist and has used what many consider to be “transphobic, racist and sexist rhetoric,” BC Liberal Party insiders haven’t exactly been consistent, let’s say, in their commitment to diversity and tolerance of difference. Other leadership candidates have uttered extremist views and courted extremist alliances. For example, Kevin Falcon, the front-running candidate, endorsed Maxime Bernier’s Conservative Party of Canada leadership bid.
Perhaps the unstated reason they bounced Gunn from the leadership race is that they are scared of him.
They should be. Gunn’s support is growing. With 80,000 Facebook followers and 500,000 YouTube subscribers Gunn has built a strong following.
And unlike the other less-than-impressive BC Liberal leadership hopefuls, Gunn is a good communicator. He can emotionally hook his followers. While other leadership hopefuls are babbling on about “revitalizing the party” and mushy promises about “affordable housing,” Gunn – however misguided – is stoking division with tough talk much like Max Bernier and the People’s Party (PPC) did in the recent Federal election.
While the PPC didn’t elect any candidates, the math in a leadership race is friendlier for extremist candidates with fierce, loyal followers.
After getting the boot in late October, Gunn responded with comments that strongly hinted that he was launching a new party. The clues lead to it being called something like the “Common Sense.”
It’s not a stretch to think that Gunn may have guessed the BC Liberals wouldn’t let him run. All summer, he speculated about it.
Check the graphic he released when he launched his campaign. Not a mention of the BC Liberals. Hmmmmm. What’s that all about? Was he already hedging when he launched his campaign?
Gunn is a skilled political operative. While he is trying to position himself as a “small ‘c’ conservative,” Gunn’s talking points are from the Cliff Notes of the angry white man playbook. Like Trump and Bernier, he stokes the fires of division by focussing on issues that make people angry—removing statues, taxes, anything to combat climate change, crime and police violence.
One area where Gunn has broken with the Bernier/Trump script is public health measures and COVID. Gunn has been strangely quiet on masks and vaccines. Early during the pandemic, he scolded Trudeau for not closing the borders sooner. This spring, he griped about the new provincial COVID restrictions and condemned Trudeau for “handing out cash to everyone — even those not affected by the virus. Creating a disincentive to those who can and otherwise would go back to work.”
But, overall, Gunn’s been relatively quiet for a guy who has made a career out of stoking populist outrage. Given his track record, it’s surprising Gunn hasn’t copied Bernier’s attempts to harness anti-mask/anti-vaccine mandate extremism.
You can learn a lot about someone by watching what they focus on. Gunn has attacked climate and logging protestors that have blockaded roads, bridges and logging. However, he has been silent on the anti-vax protestors at hospitals that have prevented people from accessing health care.
Gunn used his ouster from the BC Liberal leadership race to promote his Common Sense enterprise. He teased that there would be a big announcement at a rally in Chilliwack on November 6th. There was speculation that he would announce a new party. However, the event was anti-climactic. Nothing happened.
So, questions still floating around – will Gunn launch a new party that disguises itself as common sense yet caters to his extremist views? Or is this just another one of his signature stunts designed to steal your attention?