Surviving the era of ‘tantrum style’ politics

John Geddes draws on Northrop Frye in this interesting column:

Anyone clinging to sanity deserves a mechanism for coping with the latest Donald Trump outrage. The socially sanctioned default response—I couldn’t imagine him going any lower, but he’s done it again—is too benumbed to feel nearly adequate. My own defensive twitch is to mutter the words “tantrum style” at the iPhone screen when news appears of the inevitable worst-yet presidential utterance, which draws some looks on the bus, but at least I’m not left entirely speechless.

I lifted the phrase from a lecture series Northrop Frye delivered in 1961, which was preserved in a slim book called The Well-Tempered Critic. Midway through a virtuosic explication of the sort of language deployed by the Trumps of this world, the late Canadian literary theorist described the basic transaction: “A mob always implies some object of resentment, and political leaders who speak for the mob aspect of their society develop a special kind of tantrum style, a style constructed almost entirely out of unexamined clichés.”

Frye was at his best in precisely cataloguing the topics covered in the clichés spouted by the tantrum-throwing ego. “It can express,” he said, “only the generic: food, sex, possessions, gossip, aggressiveness and resentments.” Doesn’t that satisfyingly sum up Trump’s constricted range? He’s aggressive and resentful, of course, and a vicious gossip, and obsessed with possessions. But don’t pass over the seemingly quotidian first item on Frye’s list: food. Trump was never more Trumpian than when—in recounting how he told Xi Jinping over dinner at Mar-a-Lago about a U.S. missile strike on Syria—he gloated that they were, at that moment, eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake, and President Xi was enjoying it.”

It’s not the usual line of attack to parse Trump closely enough to grasp how his fixation on the menu fits with all the rest. His racism, his nativism, his populism—these are all aspects of the era’s dominant figure that lend themselves to analysis by writers who come at him through political conviction or even political philosophy. The spate of books and essays that might be gathered under the heading Trump vs. the Enlightenment are almost touching in the earnestness of the authors as they extol values handed down from the 18th-century, like respect for democratic institutions and regard for science, now banished from the White House.

But these approaches can only remind us of what Trump and the rest of the right-wing populists are undermining, not how they’re doing it. In other words, the political thinkers who can help us get clear on what’s worth defending aren’t much help in figuring out what’s put us on the defensive. For that, we don’t need philosophy, but we might be able to make use of a literary critic’s insights in order to fathom how Trump’s crude rhetoric can possibly be working.

He’s a voice, after all, not a mind. If stray scraps of ideology cling to his blather, they don’t add up to much—certainly nothing coherent enough to make any clear-headed listener doubt the basic tenets of democratic liberalism. But he sure knows how to string together clichés—or, as they say on Twitter, make a thread of them—and the world evidently can’t or won’t block him. Frye left us a guide to understanding his tantrum style, and, even better, a way to start thinking again about fostering a culture that hears how empty it really is.

Born in 1912, Frye’s concerns were rooted in his reaction to the totalitarianism that was on the march as he came of age in the 1930s, when he was studying at University of Toronto and Oxford. Hitler’s raving never quite stopped echoing for him, right through to his last big book, 1990’s Words With Power, published the year before he died, in which he describes how the most debased political rhetoric comes down to a “shrieking head” ranting until the “steady battering of consciousness becomes hypnotic, as the metaphor of ‘swaying’ an audience suggests.”

Frye was never swayed by the pull fascism exerted on, to stick to his literary field, Eliot and Pound. As for any tug from the left, well, he once reportedly dismissed rival critic Terry Eagleton as a “Marxist goof.” Frye proposed arming citizens against ideological assaults with educated imaginations, so they would know a verbal bludgeoning when they heard one. “Literary education should lead not merely to the admiration of great literature, but to some possession of its power of utterance,” he wrote in The Well-Tempered Critic. “The ultimate aim is an ethical and participating aim, not an aesthetic or contemplative one, even though the latter may be the means of achieving the former.”

The notion of literary appreciation underpinning participatory citizenship might well land as naïvely bookish. Yet it would be a mistake to assume Frye was out of touch. Despite his tweeds and rimless spectacles—not to mention the intimidating reputation draped over him after his daunting masterpiece, Anatomy of Criticism, appeared in 1957—he never really retreated into his Blake, his Shakespeare, and his King James Bible.

For instance, he dutifully watched countless hours of miscellaneous TV for the Canadian Radio-television Commission in the early 1970s. From the notes he jotted down, which were published much later, we know he was astute enough about popular culture to see football was the medium’s ideal sport (its “discontinuous and intensely localized rhythm seems to me the rhythm of television”) and to greatly enjoy a segment of a CBC comedy special co-created by Lorne Michaels (soon to break big with “Saturday Night Live”).

He grappled more systematically with his times in a 1967 lecture series published as The Modern Century. Frye spoke of how the liberal ideal of social progress had devolved, at the individual level, to the progress of time ticking toward death. When life feels so pointless, so alienating, many individuals shield themselves by adopting a  “deliberately frivolous” attitude, he observed, ignoring news other than tabloid “human interest” pieces. (Imagine if Frye had lived to witness the rise of reality TV.)

At the same time, he detected in advertising and propaganda—and especially their new hybrid progeny, PR—the ascendant forms of language. Decades before the Internet emerged as an all-encompassing digital counter-reality—ushering in a presidency that’s only fully itself only on Twitter—Frye sensed something like it coming. “The triumph of communication is the death of communication: where communication forms a total environment, there is nothing to be communicated,” he wrote.

He was never easy to label. Frye insisted that literary criticism must not be an adjunct of any ideology, whether feminism or Marxism or, back in his day, Freudianism. His resistance to isms in his core work was known to sow confusion about where to peg him on the left-right spectrum. On one hand, the RCMP kept a secret file on him, their interest reportedly prompted by his involvement with a “teach-in” on China at University of Toronto in 1966; he also opposed the Vietnam war and apartheid in South Africa. On the other hand, he scoffed at the student radicals of the ’60s, who sounded to him, as a former student of the ‘30s, to be repeating the “formulas of the ignorant and stupid of a generation ago.”

In other words, he was more or less a centrist liberal, which frustrated his detractors during his lifetime. How could such a formidable genius be so politically bland? I think this largely explains why he’s fallen so far out of intellectual fashion. Yet today—with the best parts of the postwar status quo we used to take for granted under siege by the forces of raw stupidity—Frye’s critical preoccupation with cultivating what he called democracy’s “shaping and controlling vision” takes on an unforeseen urgency.

In the roiling spring of 1969, when he was accepting an honorary degree at Acadia University, Frye pleaded for a return to a “revolutionary belief in democracy and equality,” arguing that, at least for Americans and Canadians, “the dynamic of democracy is an inclusive one, and it moves toward dissolving the barriers against excluded or depressed groups.” He acknowledged where North American society was falling short, but believed the solutions had to be found in its own myths. “The old middle-class and white-ascendancy stereotypes are no longer strong enough to hold society together, and of course they were never good enough,” he said that day. “But the recovery of its own democratic tradition is the key to the present identity crisis on this continent.”

What might be impeding the recovery of that tradition? More than 50 years ago, Frye warned that the comfortably prosperous democracies are vulnerable to an insidious internal blight more dangerous than any overt ideological challenge. “The most permanent kind of mob rule,” he wrote in The Modern Century, “is not anarchy, nor is it the dictatorship that regularizes anarchy, nor even the imposed police state depicted by Orwell. It is rather the self-policing state incapable of formulating an articulate criticism of itself and developing a will to act in its light.”

Sensing that their state is paralyzed in this way, citizens grow susceptible to the empty calls to action bellowed by Trump, or the Brexiters, or any number of subsidiary blowhards. When well-intentioned politicians can’t come to grips with climate change or shrink income inequality, reform immigration or fix health care, why keep voting them in? Supposedly enlightened leaders who haven’t been able to muster plausible critiques, or summon the will to act on them, won’t put populism back in its place until they regain their mobility.

Along with recovering the capacity to move on what matters, they’ll need to find the language to regain the respect of distracted voters. Frye wasn’t against healthy rhetoric. In Words With Power, he cited the most redoubtable of classics—Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and Churchill’s 1940 speeches—as examples of “how an ideology maintains itself in a historical crisis.”

Lincoln and Churchill, he wrote, didn’t appeal so much to reason, as to a shared understanding that respect for the rational is integral to an even deeper social bond. “The principle invoked is that we belong to something before we are anything, that our loyalties and sense of solidarity are prior to intelligence,” Frye said. “The sense of solidarity is not simply emotional any more than it is simply intellectual: it might better be called existential.”

And that solidarity was, for Frye, reliant on the vision that makes a society more than a mob. By vision, he meant everything we lump together, in a post-religious era, as culture. He placed the utmost importance on schools and universities doing the work of keeping genuine culture alive in students’ imaginations. That job, however, cannot be reduced to some sort of ideological indoctrination. At its heart, it must be about instilling a familiarity with and a taste for great stories—the sensibility most likely to carry with it a strong distaste for insults and lies.

What goes on in the classroom takes on real urgency where liberty is most threatened, and thus most valued. In Hong Kong, the high-school level liberal studies curriculum is being blamed by the Beijing regime and its apologists for creating a generation of pro-democracy activists. Frye would have been fascinated, and even more intrigued by reports that link recent efforts to enhance liberal-arts education at Hong Kong’s universities to the cause of bolstering liberal-democratic values there.

But that’s in a city under severe duress. In complacent North America, skeptics will doubt public education is up to a task as existential as reinvigorating democracy through the teaching of the humanities. Think about it this way, though. Let’s say the question is, “What is needed to keep liberal democracy healthy?” and your answer does not include, “The schools will have to do more heavy lifting.” In that case, the alternative answer escapes me. We need to teach the basic mechanisms of democracy (what we call “civics”) and the literature and art that bind us together as a democratic society (what Frye called “culture”).

Near the end of The Well-Tempered Critic, he described what culture accomplishes at its best, on the broadest, most democratic level. “It does not amuse,” Frye wrote, “it educates, hence it acts as an informing principle in ordinary life, dissolving the inequalities or class structure and the dismal and illiberal ways of life that arise when society as a whole does not have enough vision.” If that sounds utopian, will anything less suffice when dystopia commands a beachhead in the most powerful office in the world?

Source: Surviving the era of ‘tantrum style’ politics

Unpacking the People’s Party’s Fear of ‘Radical Multiculturalism’

Will see how this turns-out post the debates. And while I haven’t compiled candidate data (working with Samara and others to do so), anecdotally there so seem to be a fair number of visible minorities, some immigrants, some subsequent generations, among their candidates:

The People’s Party of Canada says it is “inclusive,” but how does that square with its calls to scrap the country’s Multiculturalism Act, tighten our borders, promote “Western civilization values” and cut immigration by more than half?

More diversity will “destroy what has made us a great country,” leader Maxime Bernier tweeted last year in a long, Trumpian thread.

Bernier, who narrowly lost the Conservative leadership to Andrew Scheer in 2017, founded the People’s Party in September 2018.

Since then, it has alarmed critics across the political spectrum, including some former supporters who are worried that xenophobic, and even racist, members of the radical right, as seen in the U.S. and Europe, now have a political home in Canada.

“What the PPC is doing risks normalizing far-right ideology,” said Brian Budd, a PhD student in political science at the University of Guelph who researches right-wing politics and populism in Canada.

The party uses the language of inclusion to communicate its ideas, noted Budd.

Those studying far-right parties in Western democracies have found that the most successful ones in Europe use the language of liberalism, civic values, and the national interest as a Trojan horse to normalize discrimination in the mainstream.

The strategy allows such parties to say they’re pursuing national unity when they’re actually promoting exclusion. It allows them to posit that hate speech is actually the free speech of a democratic society.

“It’s a built-in defence against accusations of racism,” said Budd.

It’s the kind of strategy that Conservative Kellie Leitch used in her bid for re-election in 2015. Leitch said she wanted to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line to “defend Canadian values.”

Bernier used a similar approach in his Twitter rant against diversity, warning that “people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness.”

While populist right-wing parties, including the People’s Party, have attracted supporters who are white supremacists, Budd doesn’t view the party as all-in advocating for a “homogenous, white European society.”

The party has been quick to point out that it has candidates who are immigrants and people of colour — proof, it has said, that it is not anti-immigrant or racist.

And it is willing to accept newcomers if they “share fundamental Canadian values, learn about our history and culture and integrate in our society,” Bernier has said.

That can be understood as “conditional multiculturalism,” said political scientist Erin Tolley of the University of Toronto.

The party’s immigrant candidates have said that they don’t see a problem with limiting immigration or with Bernier’s view that immigrants must assimilate and take on the party’s definition of “Canadianness.”

Rocky Dong, the party’s candidate in Burnaby North–Seymour, used a metaphor to explain his support for the policies.

“If you have one chopstick, it breaks easily,” he said. “If you have many chopsticks, they’re hard to break.”

Integration is crucial to national unity, said Dong, 48, who arrived in Canada from China in 2001. He helps international students integrate on a daily basis at work, connecting them with housing and education.

Another party candidate, Baljit Singh Bawa of Brampton Centre, who immigrated to Canada from India in 2000, said he was able to integrate thanks to his own drive to improve his English and a three-year stint working in Dubai “to get that international exposure, to get myself out of my comfort zone.” He wants others moving to Canada to integrate in similar ways.

Budd said that immigrant candidates allow the party to showcase its idea of the model minority — “the immigrants who have come in and successfully assimilated without support from the state.”

“A lot of Canadians like to think that Bernier is simply importing something successful from elsewhere,” he said. “But what he’s really doing is trying to adapt ideas and discourses to the Canadian context.”

Having these model immigrant candidates adds a made-in-Canada flavour to the kind of populism Bernier is building; it’s more visibly colourful than whiter movements in other Western democracies.

“It’s about population management,” said Budd, “while ensuring the privilege and supremacy of European culture.”

According to the party’s platform, it seeks to manage newcomer populations by:

  • Cutting immigration to between 100,000 and 150,000 people a year (Last year about 321,000 people immigrated; in the peak year under Stephen Harper, 280,700 arrived in 2010);
  • Focusing on economic immigration to fill labour gaps, while stopping the intake of temporary workers and people entering through family reunification programs;
  • Interviewing newcomers to ensure they subscribe to “Canadian values and societal norms;”
  • Eliminating the Multiculturalism Act and spending on multiculturalism;
  • Stopping “illegal migrants” and “false migrants” entering via the U.S. border;
  • Move to a reliance on private sponsorships to pay for refugee settlement, ending government support.

Bernier describes his vision in the liberal language of “harmony and the maintenance of our Canadian national identity.”

He has also attempted to justify his plans economically for his libertarian supporters, saying the party aims to cut down on state-funded “specialist services” for “freeloaders,” said Budd.

Bernier has said that some cultures, like First Nations, Cape Breton and Quebec’s Eastern Townships “deserve to be nurtured” because they were “developed in Canada” and “don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Political scientist Tolley said regional cultures are true of any country. “It is interesting that they’re trying to suggest that these regional cultures can’t exist alongside immigration and multiculturalism,” she said.

The party’s desire to clamp down on immigration and promote “Western civilization values” has led critics, including some former supporters, to accuse it of attracting and harbouring racists, white supremacists, anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists.

People’s Party events have been attended by such far-right individuals as Faith Goldy, an advocate of the conspiracy theory of white genocide who has verbally attacked immigrants and Islamic culture; Paul Fromm, a self-described “white nationalist” based in Hamilton who directs several far-right groups in Canada; and members of the Northern Guard, a militant anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim group that is an offshoot of the Soldiers of Odin.

This has caused trouble with some party supporters.

In July, the entire board of a Winnipeg riding association resigned, saying “racists, bigots, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists” had a large presence in the public conversation around the party.

The board members also said they were “appalled” to see “disinformation and distrust… encouraged with wink and a nod now.”

Last week, People’s Party candidate Brian Misera of Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam called on Bernier to “do more to help us disassociate from far-right groups that really have no place in our society.” The party has since revoked Misera’s candidacy, saying that he broke Elections Canada rules by acting as his own financial agent.

Bernier has responded by saying he doesn’t know everyone who attends his rallies and that “people who are racist and [don’t] believe in the Canadian values aren’t welcome in our party.”

Sanjay Jeram, a senior lecturer in political science at Simon Fraser University, believes Bernier’s failure to condemn these far-right elements more strongly is linked to efforts to build the new party.

“My feeling is he’s trying to cobble together a party that’s having trouble with organization,” said Jeram. As an upstart party trying to compete with the Conservatives, Bernier “can’t afford alienating people who he might not want part of the bigger message.”

Jeram said that debate about immigration levels shouldn’t be taboo but cautions against empowering more dangerous anti-immigration constituents. “The party should be more careful to screen candidates who have views that might actually incite violence,” he said.

“In a liberal democratic society, we shouldn’t be limiting debate. But that debate can go into the realm of targeting people for their race, gender, ethnicity or religion and making them vulnerable. It’s possible for people to take those messages and turn them into the legitimization of violence or discrimination.”

Stewart Prest, who also lectures in political science at SFU, said the party’s language is worth scrutiny. For example, it often decries what it calls “radical multiculturalism.”

That “could translate into disliking a particular group, Muslims being singled out,” he said.

Bernier’s attempt to redefine immigration and multiculturalism is a “grand project,” said Prest, as Canada’s mainline parties have agreed for a generation that immigration and multiculturalism are a part of the country’s foundations.

“But these messages can get picked up a number of ways and open the door to even more radical conversations.”

Tolley said that why the potential impact of the People’s Party should not be dismissed despite the party’s low support, currently at three per cent, according to the latest CBC aggregate of available polling data.

Tolley gives the example of the Reform Party, also an opponent of multiculturalism, which in the 1990s was able to change the conversation around immigration, making it an economic issue rather than a social one.

Last week the Leaders’ Debates Commission invited Bernier to participate in leadership debates.

Many experts wonder how the People’s Party’s narratives on immigration, refugees and multiculturalism might shift how other parties and the Canadian public talk about these topics.

People’s Party candidate Rocky Dong says they are only preaching “common sense.”

“We don’t hate the people outside. We just love the people inside the fence.”  [Tyee]

Source: Unpacking the People’s Party’s Fear of ‘Radical Multiculturalism’

Forgotten working class could trigger populist backlash in Canada, says report by ex-Harper advisor

One difference between the US and Canada is that Canada has a stronger  social safety net (e.g., healthcare, more equitable public education etc) but then, of course, so did the UK). Populism in Canada tends to be more economic (e.g., Doug Ford, Jason Kenney) than immigration-based as it is in the US and elsewhere:

Canada risks a populist backlash if politicians fail to focus on the most economically vulnerable people, a new report says, as rosy economic data continues to overshadow the plight of many rural and non-educated workers.

A report by Sean Speer of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, released Tuesday, argues that politicians across the political spectrum have broadly ignored pockets of working class Canadians who have failed to thrive in an increasingly globalized and technological economy. Resentments among those people, if left unchecked, could feed the same sort of reprisal that led to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, Speer says.

“Over the long term, an economy that has nothing to offer people is going to create not just economic consequences, but political ones that can possibly cut much deeper,” he said in an interview with the National Post.

Speer, who previously served as senior economic advisor to Stephen Harper, stopped short of suggesting Canada was at immediate risk of encountering a towering, populist wave. But the report nonetheless emphasizes some of the current and deepening divides that are set to define the upcoming federal election: resentments in the oil-rich West toward eastern “elites”, anxieties among less educated working men who have been increasingly displaced by university-educated women, and a widening divide between urban and rural political values.

Both the Conservatives and Liberals have looked to tap into economic anxieties ahead of the looming federal election.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has centred his campaign around worries over the rising cost of living, criticizing the Liberals for their carbon tax and promising to help Canadians “get ahead,” according to the party’s official slogan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has been touting policies like a promised boost to a tax credit that will support “those hoping to join” the middle class.

Speer is among a number of conservative-minded analysts who decided, after the election of Trump, to adjust their long-held beliefs about the specific role governments should play in the economy, and the degree to which they need to consider the least advantaged voters.

Trump won the U.S. election by a narrow margin, carried in part by working class voters who felt threatened by shifts in the global economy that have led to a deterioration in classic American jobs, like automotive manufacturing and coal mining. Maxime Bernier, head of the People’s Party of Canada, has taken on policy positions that partly resemble Trump’s, blaming political insiders for creating an inherently unfair economic system.

Much of the failure by the media, economists and policymakers to predict the Trumpian shift, Speer argues, was an obsessive focus on the so-called “headline” economic data. Strong GDP growth and falling unemployment in recent years has given the appearance of economic strength while failing to account for those “left behind” amid a shift toward a more globalized and technological economy.

Political turmoil in the U.S. and U.K. is “partly a consequence of this economic myopia,” Speer writes.

“The so-called ‘forgotten men and women’ grew tired of neglect and have since been the political backbones of these new, disruptive populist movements.”

Anxieties over job security and changing economic norms are mostly felt among workers from natural resource sectors like oil and gas, or in the manufacturing sector, many observers have said. It’s also widely visible in women’s growing share in the workforce.

Employment rates among working-age Canadian men has grown by an average 0.9 per cent between 1990 and 2018, according to public data, while female employment has increased 1.4 per cent over the same period. The trend is especially pronounced in struggling natural resource economies: male employment in Alberta shrunk by 0.5 per cent between 2014 and 2019, while female employment in the province has increased nearly one per cent.

Meanwhile, labour participation rates have fallen among men; where non-educated men outperformed women in the workforce by 5.7 per cent in 1990, they now underperform them by 5.8 per cent today. And the fallout applies to a wide swathe of people: Canada currently boasts 6.7 million working-age non-educated workers .

“If we just look at the headline numbers, we miss that there’s a lot more going on there, that there is a bifurcation occurring between women with post-secondary educations and men without them,” Speer said.

In a separate report released earlier this year, Speer teamed up with Robert Asselin, a former top advisor to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, to address Canada’s failure to boost its competitiveness compared with other countries amid an increasingly technology-driven economy.

Digital behemoths like Apple, Amazon and Google have created a concentration of wealth that has hurt smaller firms or companies in weaker industries, leaving Canada with a challenge that “transcends partisanship and political ideology,” the pair wrote. “Whichever political party wins the next federal election will be faced with these questions and challenges,” they said.

Even so, Speer himself is the first to admit that there are few obvious answers when it comes to stemming the tide of populism in Canada. But he said a failure to better understand the issue will only deepen resentments.

“I think it’s going to create a higher and higher level of inequality of opportunity.”

Source: Forgotten working class could trigger populist backlash in Canada, says report by ex-Harper advisor

Immigration likely to emerge as major wedge issue in fall vote

Not so convinced (see my Q&A: Policy Expert Analyzes Role of Immigration in Canada’s Upcoming Election):

While few are willing to predict the outcome of the upcoming federal election, it’s a safe prediction that the issue of immigration will feature prominently in the federal election. It’s a complicated and divisive debate that will encompass everything from unemployment and the economy to social diversity and national security.

As the official campaign period grows closer, the rhetoric around immigration has intensified as the political left, centre, right and, now, far right converge on the question of people migrating to Canada. Immigration has often been a tough issue for political parties in the West to navigate the fine line between embracing diversity and cautious nationalism – and Canada isn’t immune.

An April 2019 Ekos Research study suggested that 39 per cent of Canadians believe that there are too many immigrants coming to Canada. The same poll showed that 40 per cent believed there were too many visible minority immigrants entering the country. Self-identified Conservatives were more likely to hold that view, at 69 per cent, as compared to only 15 per cent of self-identified Liberals. Interestingly, in 2015 only 53 per cent of Conservatives felt that way while 36 per cent of Liberals did.

Given this stark difference of opinion, it’s no surprise the Liberals are doubling down on immigration as a key pillar to economic and social prosperity as an election-winning strategy.  Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservatives, is forced into a delicate balancing act to appease his base who are uncomfortable or unhappy with the number of immigrants in Canada, while trying to appeal to new Canadians and supporters of immigration in key urban ridings which can determine who wins and who loses.

It is in this internal struggle for conservative votes that we see Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party pose a legitimate threat. Absent from the 2015 election, Bernier has adopted a xenophobic immigration policy along with racial undertones in much of his policies. Depending on how Scheer handles the issue, it could cost his party votes in swing ridings they might otherwise win over the governing Liberals.

The global debate around migration has provided fertile ground for demonizing immigrants as threats to jobs, security and people’s way of life rather than characterizing them accurately as contributors to a country’s prosperity.  It’s this global debate that will force immigration to be a key focus for many Canadians as the rhetoric shifts towards the threat of immigrants regardless of the empirical data suggesting the true threat lies in denying migrants to live and work in Canada.

Goldy Hyder (formerly with H+K Strategies), the head of the lobby group representing CEOs of Canada’s largest companies, the Business Council of Canada, believes Canada is 10 years away from a demographic pressure point as the baby boomer population retires in great numbers. Carolyn Wilkins, the Bank of Canada’s senior deputy governor, said without immigration, Canada’s labour force would cease adding workers within five years.

The business community applauded this government’s adoption of faster short-term visas for skilled labour to allow for tech workers to move more easily to lessen the strain on Canadian business operations, as well as a strategy to bring 1 million immigrants over three years to help fill labour shortages.

Here, again, Canada is not alone. The global pursuit to filling labour shortages with skilled and unskilled migrants continues to intensify as statistics continue to support the narrative that industries face a daunting labour shortage that could derail growth prospects in champion sectors like tech, finance, agriculture and tourism. Yet there remains a healthy appetite to demonize immigrants as stealing jobs from Canadians or, worse, as a threat to national security or Canadian culture.

Having a debate about immigration as part of the federal election may be unavoidable, but it need not be divisive. An informed debate that is both reasonable and rational can help us bring Canadians together around the importance of immigration to our past, our present, and our future.

Muhammad Ali is a Senior Consultant with Hill+Knowlton Strategies (Canada). The views expressed in this pieces are his alone. 

Source: Immigration likely to emerge as major wedge issue in fall vote

Kelly McParland: Why reactionary populism will fizzle in Canada

Tend to agree:

Populism is getting a bad rap in Canada, unjustifiably so.

According to my unaffiliated and wholly non-partisan online dictionary, populism is defined as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.” That’s pretty much the whole world, outside a few billionaires, right?

Appealing to ordinary people is what most major political parties claim to do. The least populist parties are the ones on the extreme left or right that seek to spread blinkered minority views that are too often rooted in bitterness, envy, anger, ignorance or ideology run wild. The only people who think this is ordinary are the extremists themselves.

Donald Trump is not a populist, he’s an appallingly shallow, ignorant and narcissistic loudmouth who has struck a chord with Americans who are, for the most part, decent people, but feel they’ve been forgotten by Washington’s craven and self-serving establishment. They have good reason for feeling that way, though supporting Trump is not the solution.

There is little chance of Canada’s federal government being seized by the same sort of ugliness. There are several reasons for this, chief among them that Canadians are vastly different from Americans, less fixated on the outer reaches of individualism, less prone to absolutism and more inclined to compromise and a culture of reformative fudging.

Nonetheless, someone in Ottawa evidently felt the need to invite a perceived expert on the issue to address a task force of senior bureaucrats on “diversity and inclusivity,” which under the Trudeau government has become an obsession all its own. The expert, Tim Dixon, is a “a social movement builder” who co-founded More in Common, a non-profit with operations in a number of European countries that seeks to “build communities and societies that are stronger, more united and more resilient to the increasing threats of polarization and social division.” He is also co-founder of Purpose Europe, “a home for building movements that harness technology to engage large numbers of people and help make progress on major global problems.” Before setting out to remake the world he was a speechwriter for Australian politicians.

If you survey the faces of the various Purpose teams on their websites, you’d have a hard time finding a better-scrubbed, diverse group of young, motivated, good-intentioners anywhere. More in Common has only existed since 2017 but has already printed numerous publications, mostly focused on the U.S. and Europe, dealing with the strains linked to immigration and refugees.

There is no question such strains exist. The Brexit mess in the U.K. is tied directly to hostility towards immigration rules. Over the weekend The New York Times published a lengthy examination of how Sweden’s legacy of tolerance has been undermined by a cross-border digital web of dark impulses exploited by a local party founded on Nazi principles. Italy’s latest government crisis could see the prime ministership go to Matteo Salvini, a party leader with very Trumpian views who has been linked in a series of recent reports to illicit funding from Russia. In the U.S., the political divide has grown so wide and deep there is serious doubt the Democratic party can find a nominee free enough from plans for radical social and economic upheaval to stand a chance against Trump.

Such developments offer good reason for Canadians to look beyond their borders and wonder what perverse political virus has seized the world. But there still is not much cause for serious concern that it might take hold here. For all the Trudeau Liberals’ attempts to portray Conservative leader Andrew Scheer as a bigot-in-training, the man’s biggest flaw may be that he’s just too much an everyday Canadian to inspire excitement among a population that takes its politics in small doses, and only when necessary. The closest Canada comes to a party of intolerance is the People’s Party of Maxime Bernier, who broke away from Scheer’s Tories out of pique at having been rejected as leader and precisely because necks among the Scheer Conservatives aren’t nearly red enough for his liking. Bernier is pledging to significantly reduce immigration to Canada, but fears he might steal votes on the right have proved unfounded: the party barely registers in polls and Bernier has been reduced to recruiting from among disaffected candidates who were either rejected by the Tories or couldn’t drum up much interest anywhere else.

In contrast to Bernier’s pledge to cap immigration at minimal levels, the other parties all remain gangbusters for increased numbers, mainly because Canada needs bright, educated and hard-working people to feed the workforce and the gaps that remain in important industries. The biggest difference between Tory thinking and Liberal thinking relates to the qualifications of would-be migrants, how much time they spend in Canada and how many family members should be allowed in without much prospect they’ll be able to contribute to the benefits they’ll consume.

The “immigration crisis” most often referred to in headlines refers to the sudden flood of arrivals across an illegal crossing in Quebec, which upset Canadians because they thought it was unfair, and because many felt Trudeau brought it on himself via a typically vainglorious tweet offering open arms at a time the world was beset by crises involving millions of people displaced by war and poverty. Conservatives saw arrivals as largely opportunistic and illegal, Liberals wanted to deny there was a crisis. Since the numbers have eased, the “crisis” talk has faded.

The bottom line is that there’s not much evidence Canada is in danger of producing the sort of deep-seated antipathy that feeds the forces of rancour on the left and right. If anything, it seems more likely the abhorrence with which Trump is widely viewed will act as a barrier to any serious spread of the virus that has troubled Europe and the U.S. It’s nice that bureaucrats would feel the need to familiarize themselves with the challenges confronting their colleagues in other countries, but it’s unlikely More in Common will need to mobilize its forces to establish a branch plant in Canada just yet.

Source: Kelly McParland: Why reactionary populism will fizzle in Canada

Could populism take root in Canada? Too late – it already has

Two slightly different takes on populism in Canada, starting with Andrew Potter who notes that the Canadian variant as seen in the provinces is largely not anti-immigration (save for Quebec with its Bill 21):

Ever since Donald Trump won the American presidency in 2016 with a toxic combination of sexism, vulgarity and the brazen courting of white nationalists, Canadian academics, pundits and pollsters have been obsessed with the question: “Could it happen here?”

By “it,” they mean the rumblings of discontent that have propelled right-wing populists to power across the West. Mr. Trump and Brexit are the most widely cited examples of the phenomenon, but almost every country has been implicated to some extent. Except, apparently, Canada, where the answer to the question of whether it could happen here is typically “yes, but.…”

That is, what we get is some dire reading of the tea leaves (it could happen here!) countered by a renewed faith in Canada’s continuing exceptionalism, thanks in large part to our healthier institutions and superior values.

But the truth is, not only can populism happen here – it already has. The reason most observers miss this is that they are working with a conception of populism that doesn’t really apply to the Canadian context.

The standard academic take is that populism is an ideological empty vessel, capable of taking left-wing or right-wing forms depending on the particular national context. But regardless of its shape, at the core of the populist instinct is the idea of a pure or authentic people being exploited or humiliated by a corrupt elite. As a consequence, populists typically deny the legitimacy of mainstream political and legal institutions, reject the value of experts such as academics and scientists, and demonize immigrants and refugees.

This last characteristic is the one most people have in mind when they worry about populism. And there are good reasons to be worried, especially in an immigrant-heavy country such as Canada. But while it is worth keeping an eye on changes in our usual welcoming approach, when it comes to populism, it’s not clear how relevant it is to the Canadian context.

That’s because populism in Canada isn’t, and probably never will be, about an authentic original people being diluted by an immigrant tide or debased by a class of globalist elites. Yes, there’s some of that to be found here, but it will never go anywhere, precisely because there never has been a single overriding dominant settler culture. From Canada’s earliest days there were always two or three distinct cultures striving for control. There simply is no “authentic” Canadian identity to serve as the focus for resentful nostalgists.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no populism here. There’s plenty of it – in many ways, Canada is the most populist-ridden country going. It just takes a form where we don’t recognize it as populism. Instead, we call it regionalism.

We usually talk about Canada’s regional identities as a point of pride, the sort of thing that spurs singalong tunes by Stompin’ Tom Connors or the Tragically Hip. But there is a dark side to it, part of which was brought to light earlier this year in a major survey done by Angus Reid on Western alienation and the state of the federation.

The striking thing the survey revealed is how much Canadians don’t particularly like one another, with British Columbia and Quebec particularly isolated. To the extent that there is any interprovincial amity, it’s completely local. Saskatchewan and Alberta currently have a little bromance going, and the people in the Maritimes all seem to like one another well enough. But after that, it’s pretty much either resentment or indifference across the board, and a sharp reminder of how weak Canadian nationalism is. Forget the two solitudes – we’ve got like seven of them.

What motivates this regionalism is a complicated mix of history, demographic shifts and economic fortunes. What is remarkable, though, is how often it manifests as a hatred of elites, especially the “Laurentian elite” in the Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal triangle and the institutions they control. On this view, the “authentic” Canadians are the regional peoples – the Québécois or the Maritimers or the Albertans or the Cascadians, all of whom are lorded over in their own way by the cosmopolitan elites in Ottawa.

This is populism of a highly regionalist sort. But whereas the current Quebec version, as practised by François Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec, is strongly anti-immigrant, in general regionalist populism is highly congenial to being on good terms with newcomers. This is something that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have proven more than willing to exploit, with a considerable amount of success.

The upshot is that all the worrying over whether the right-wing populists will take power in Canada misses the fact that they already have. They’ve merely taken to the provincial level of politics to air their grievances and accomplish their goals.

Source: Could populism take root in Canada? Too late – it already has: Andrew Potter

Canada has so far managed to avoid the populist disruptions seen in other Western democracies, but the social fabric tying the country together may be starting to fray, a leading expert on the issue said.

In his book Whiteshift, political scientist Eric Kaufmann described Canada as a possible exception to the populist wave in the West, but in a recent interview with economist Tyler Cowen, Kaufmann said the precarious status quo is now under threat.

“The idea that English Canada is immune to this is actually wrong and I do think we’re going to see more of it going forward,” Kaufmann said. “The electorate is now more polarized on cultural issues than it’s ever been in Canada. We’ll have to see where that goes, but I don’t think Canada will be the great exception that it has been for much longer.”

As evidence of this, Kaufmann pointed to the newly founded People’s Party of Canada, which advocates for reduced immigration levels; and Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, which he said “has elements of this populism.” Ford’s government, though, has mainly steered clear of the immigration issue, except for a brief spat with the federal government over funding for resettling asylum seekers who had crossed the border illegally.

Neither the federal Conservatives or Ford’s PC government have called for a reduction in the amount of legal immigrants that Canada accepts each year. Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has called for a reduction in the number of immigrants allowed into Canada from 310,000 to 250,000. The current Liberal government hopes to boost the number to 350,000 by 2021.

On Cowen’s podcast, Kaufmann said he’d also noticed recent polling that shows support for immigration isn’t changing much in Canada, but that it is hardening along partisan lines.

“Immigration attitudes are now very different depending if you’re a Conservative or Liberal voter. That didn’t used to be the case even five years ago, so there’s more of a politicization of that issue now,” he said.

A recent poll by EKOS found that nearly 70 per cent of Conservatives surveyed believed that there are too many visible minorities among immigrants, while only 15 per cent of Liberals agreed with that sentiment. Just five years ago, the same poll showed 47 per cent of Conservatives in agreement, alongside 34 per cent of Liberals.

In his book, which grapples with the end of white majorities in Western societies, Kaufmann devotes a chapter to “Canadian exceptionalism,” trying to explain why the country has managed to avoid a populist backlash despite high levels of immigration.

Kaufmann argues that there is an elite consensus in Canada about multiculturalism and anti-racism that makes many populist ideas taboo. For example, when Kellie Leitch ran for leader of the Conservative Party on a plan to screen immigrants for “Canadian values,” she was overtly branded a racist by pundits and rivals.

People will start to resent this suppression “only when there is a breach of etiquette by a successful populist politician, which pulls the centre-right across a norm boundary,” wrote Kaufmann.

In English Canada, the poll by EKOS found about 40 per cent of people think there are too many visible minorities in their communities but “the difference is there are no political vehicles channeling this at the federal level,” Kaufmann wrote.

Taboos are particularly effective at enforcing moral norms because “people act not only on their own beliefs, but from perceptions of what others think is correct,” he wrote. That helps explain why anonymous polling on immigration tends to show more negative results and why norm-breaking politicians like Donald Trump can sometimes inspire what seems like a spontaneous wave of support.

Kaufmann takes care to differentiate between Quebec and English Canada and argues that François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec, which was elected on an immigration reduction platform, fits the profile of a populist-right party. The difference, Kaufmann argues, is that English Canada’s historical lack of identity has been replaced with multiculturalism, while Quebec has always maintained a distinct culture.

“Where Quebec identity is territorial, historical and cultural, the contemporary Anglo-defined Canadian identity is futuristic: a missionary nationalism centred on the left-modernist ideology of multiculturalism,” wrote Kaufmann.

Although English-speaking Canadians and Quebecers share similar sentiments on issues that have traditionally been embraced by populist parties — for example, on banning the burka — Kaufmann argued that “the distinct elite norms of English Canada” account for the difference in mainstream support.

“As long as there is no system breach, English Canada may be able to repress criticism of multiculturalism and mass immigration indefinitely,” Kaufmann wrote in his book, published in late 2018. Since then, he fears the system may already have been breached.

Source: ‘I don’t think Canada will be the great exception’ to populist disruption, expert says

The authoritarian reflex: Will it manifest in Canada? Adams

More insights on populism and authoritarianism, comparing USA and Canada, from Michael Adams and his collaborators:

A wave of authoritarian populism has been evident in Europe, Britain and the United States over the past few decades. Many Canadians are wondering how these energies might manifest in their own country’s upcoming federal election.

Social scientists have observed that some people, when made insecure by extreme complexity and uncertainty, respond with an insistence on order and conformity. Researchers call this the “authoritarian reflex,” a reaction characterized by increased rejection of and hostility toward “the other,” be they “deviants” from within or foreigners from without. Different societies manifest the authoritarian reflex to different degrees.

Canada is not immune to the forces at work in other societies. But our history, institutions and public policies are distinct – and it would be a mistake to assume any authoritarian reflex here will be the same as in the United States or elsewhere. Our survey conducted recently in the U.S. and Canada shows remarkable differences between the two countries – not so much in the prevalence of authoritarian sentiments as in the presence of countervailing anti-authoritarian beliefs and values.

In both Canada and the U.S., for example, about a third of the population expresses conformist sentiments such as the belief that obedience and discipline are keys to the good life. But more Canadians embrace open, flexible sensibilities that may serve as a check on the political expression of authoritarian impulses.

For example, Canadians are considerably more likely to agree that atheists can be just as virtuous as those who attend church regularly, and that gays and lesbians are just as healthy and moral as others. In other words, Canadians are more inclined to believe that people outside of traditionally normative groups (religious believers, heterosexuals) are truly equal – that “they” are really part of “us,” or that “those people” count as “the people,” too.

People in democratic countries used to be divided politically based on religious and ethnic identity (in Canada, Catholic/Protestant and French/English), and subsequently by economic class (as urban/industrial interests contended with rural/agrarian interests). Big-tent liberal, conservative and socialist parties represented these groups in legislatures.

But in recent decades, values and identity have become more salient, with issues such as same-sex marriage and environmentalism joining economic interests as key factors shaping voters’ allegiances. Status anxiety is also a growing presence. Those who feel stripped of privilege by social change are gravitating to parties that channel their resentments against groups such as women, immigrants and sexual minorities that are, from their perspective, taking over.

Some of these new drivers of political affiliation are fed by authoritarian tendencies. For example, while some who object to gay rights have specific and deeply considered theological objections, others simply long for a return to “normal” or a “simpler” social order. Where are order-seeking voters with such sentiments concentrating in Canada? Our data indicate they’re migrating to the Conservative Party.

While seven in 10 NDP and Liberal supporters think homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy traditional family values, only a quarter of Conservative supporters agree. Similarly, while around six in 10 NDP and Liberal backers think it is wonderful that young people have the freedom to protest against things they don’t like, only a quarter of Conservatives relish this youthful defiance.

Conservative supporters are more likely to agree with statements strongly hostile to immigration. For example, 50 per cent of Conservatives strongly or somewhat agree that “Overall, there is too much immigration. It threatens the purity of the country.” Fewer than a third of New Democrats (31 per cent) and Liberal supporters (24 per cent) share this belief. This relative concentration of xenophobic sentiment in one party is a new phenomenon in Canada. Twenty years ago, more anti-immigrant sentiment existed in society over all, but it was evenly divided across all three major parties.

Today, a minority of Canadians are wary of social change in general and immigration in particular. Currently, most of these voters are parked with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. To be clear: Conservatives are not necessarily xenophobic, but Canadians who are xenophobic have been gravitating to the Conservative Party.

In a recent speech, Mr. Scheer forcefully denounced bigotry, saying to voters seeking channels for such sentiments, “There’s the door.” Mr. Scheer seems to calculate that his prospects are better if he opens the door to right-ish Liberals and immigrants disappointed with Justin Trudeau than if he tries to coax back hard-right, anti-immigration Conservatives who have decamped to the People’s Party, whose leader, Maxime Bernier, has claimed to be a defender of “Western civilization values.”

Will moderate Conservatives and disappointed Liberals be attracted to Mr. Scheer’s vision of a right-of-centre party that eschews xenophobia? How many protest votes will coalesce around Mr. Bernier? In this October’s federal election, Canadians will find out whether the authoritarian reflex will manifest in national politics here as it has in other countries and, if it does, whether it will be a passing spasm or a more significant seizure.

Source: The authoritarian reflex: Will it manifest in Canada? Michael Adams, Ron Inglehart and David Jamieson

Glavin: Some say anti-elitist populism is sweeping Canada. Don’t believe them.

Glavin’s provides perspective on populism and on the latest from Samara (2019 Democracy 360 seriesDon’t Blame “The People”: The Rise of Elite-led Populism in Canada). Great closing line:

It’s a question that has perplexed political scientists, the punditry and quite a few politicians. What is it about Canada that has allowed this country to dodge the populist waves engulfing the United States, the United Kingdom and no small swathe of the European continent? The question commonly arises in tandem with warnings, or threats, that the spectre of populist mobilization is on the near horizon, or that it’s already upon us.

Well, hold on a minute.

For starters, it’s helpful to recall that we’ve already been there and done that. A populist wave swept Canada back in the early 1990s, and it crashed on the rocks of a broken Progressive Conservative Party, failed to breach Ontario and Quebec, and spent its power in schism, factionalism and failed image makeovers. Eventually the movement dribbled back into the reconstructed Conservative Party of Canada, in 2003, and it had withered enough by 2006 to clear the way for Stephen Harper to win his first minority Conservative government.

As for a rejuvenated Canadian populism arising as an echo of Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again histrionics, or as a replication of the English nativism that reduced Britain to the shambles of Brexit, or as a copycat craze inspired by the gilets jaunes upheavals in France or the oddball populist poll victories in Italy, Hungary and most recently in Spain—don’t count on it. At least don’t count on it arising organically from an alienated and fed-up populace.

That’s the takeaway point in the Samara Centre for Democracy’s latest number-crunching from its extensive 2019 Democracy 360 series, a project Samara undertakes every two years to analyze the way Canadians communicate, participate, and lead in politics. As it turns out, populism is not on the rise in Canada—except perhaps as a stalking horse for politicians. Samara’s new report, titled “Don’t Blame ‘the People’: The Rise of Elite-Led Populism in Canada,” finds that the usual indices for populist alienation have been in steady decline since the Reform Party heyday of the 1990s. Politicians and some journalists are speaking the language of populism again, but by and large, the public isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Back in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Election Survey found that roughly 75 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement, “I don’t think the government cares much what people like me think.” Samara’s finding, based on its survey of more than 4,000 Canadians earlier this year, finds that fewer than 60 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement.

It may or may not be disturbing that 63 per cent of the survey respondents agreed that “those elected to Parliament soon lose touch with the people,” and those respondents may or may not be right. But that’s down from the 77 per cent who agreed with the statement in 2004, and way down from the 85 per cent who agreed in 1993.

It should be disturbing to anyone who values the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that four in 10 Canadians agree that “the will of the majority should always prevail, even over the rights of minorities.” But the upside is that fewer Canadians hold to that view than in 2011 (six in 10) or in 2001 (seven in 10).

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has given voice to the concern that public anxieties about “the elites” could rattle the western consensus that the rules-based liberal world order needs to be defended. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has written a book about the growing trend in populism and how to harness it, from a conservative standpoint, for the public good. Former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent warns that “the elites” are standing in the way of necessary economic and political redistribution. Since the 2015 election of the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, “the elites” have come up in Parliament in 13 per cent of its sitting days. That’s up from three per cent during Harper’s term in power.

People who bang on about the elites also tend to whinge a great deal about “the mainstream media,” but in Canada, most people aren’t so inclined. The latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer, an opinion survey of 33,000 people in 26 countries, finds that Canadians are not losing faith in the news media, and Canadians show a higher rate of trust in journalism than respondents in just about every other country surveyed.

The Samara Centre defines populism as a style of doing politics and a set of attitudes and beliefs about politics and society. Populist leaders imagine politics as a conflict between two groups, usually “the elites” wielding largely unaccountable power over “the real people.” This can be fatal to democratic institutions, and populists who win elections quickly develop the habit of using people-power as a mere pretext to use the instruments of the state to go after judges, academics, journalists, political adversaries—anyone who stands in their way. And populism is by no means solely a phenomenon of right-wing politics, Michael Morden, research director at the Samara Centre, told me.

The anti-capitalist “left” mobilized hundreds of thousands of people during the 1990s to huge demonstrations against “the elites” of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other anchors of the liberal world order. But popular antipathy to those institutions ended up being harnessed most successfully in the U.S. by Donald Trump.

“Populism has been used to give licence to different kinds of radicalism. I think blame should be apportioned across the spectrum,” Morden said. “If you want to create more racists, then you generate a narrative that there’s more racists in society than there really are.”

Exaggerating the extent of populism is playing with matches, in other words, while populism is playing with fire.

Source: Some say anti-elitist populism is sweeping Canada. Don’t believe them.

Le spectre du populisme

Good commentary by Manon Cornellier on the genuine motivations behind the convoy and the yellow vests, their exploitation by the far right, and the inability of Conservative politicians to denounce, or at a minimum, dissociate themselves from the anti-immigration rhetoric and other hateful speech:

Jusqu’où peut-on aller pour porter un message politique ? La question se pose de plus en plus devant la montée d’un certain populisme qui fouette les émotions et alimente même parfois la haine, involontairement ou non. Le Canada n’y échappe pas, avec le risque de voir le débat public dériver dans des eaux troubles d’ici les prochaines élections.

En décembre dernier, le symbole des gilets jaunes est apparu dans le paysage politique canadien, inspiré par le mouvement de ras-le-bol français face à la pression fiscale, les privilèges des élites et les difficultés financières des ménages modestes. Récupéré là-bas par diverses forces politiques, comme l’expliquait notre collègue Christian Riouxla semaine dernière, il subit le même sort au Canada.

Cela ne veut pas dire que nombre de Canadiens qui revêtent le fameux gilet ne partagent pas sincèrement les préoccupations initiales de leurs homologues français : coût de la vie élevée, revenus insuffisants, emplois en péril et ainsi de suite. Malheureusement, plusieurs de ceux qui, au Canada, utilisent ce symbole pour mobiliser sur la Toile ne s’arrêtent pas là. Tyler Malenfant, l’instigateur de la populaire page Facebook Yellow Vests Canada (YVC), qui compte plus de 100 000 membres, s’en prend à la taxe sur le carbone, mais aussi aux prétendues politiques tyranniques des Nations unies, en particulier en matière de migration.

Cet amalgame était en vue à Ottawa la semaine dernière lorsqu’un convoi de camions et de camionnettes, parti de l’Alberta, a bloqué une petite partie du centre-ville pour faire entendre l’inquiétude des gens affectés par les difficultés de l’industrie pétrolière. Les pancartes et banderoles pour les pipelines, contre la taxe sur le carbone ou le projet de loi fédéral sur l’évaluation environnementale dominaient. Mais il y avait aussi des placards sur lesquels des manifestants accusaient le premier ministre Justin Trudeau de trahison, dénonçaient une motion contre l’islamophobie ou encore le pacte onusien sur les migrations. Nombre d’entre eux, émules du président américain Donald Trump, portaient des casquettes marquées du slogan « Make Canada Great Again ».

Cela a malheureusement peu surpris, car depuis leurs débuts, plusieurs pages Facebook des gilets jaunes canadiens, en particulier celle de YVC, ont attiré des messages virulents, parfois haineux, contre entre autres les musulmans ou les migrants arrivés de façon irrégulière. On y a même retrouvé des menaces contre le premier ministre Trudeau, effacées après que le réseau de télévision Global en eut fait état.

Les partisans des gilets jaunes ont le droit de manifester et de s’exprimer, mais ce qui est troublant est de voir des politiciens participer à ces ralliements sans exprimer de réserves à l’égard des vues extrêmes. La semaine dernière, le chef conservateur, Andrew Scheer, quelques-uns de ses députés et le chef du nouveau Parti populaire, Maxime Bernier, ont publiquement offert leur soutien au convoi et à son message pour les hydrocarbures. Il n’y aurait aucun problème s’ils n’avaient pas agi comme si le reste n’existait pas, alors que, par leur présence, ils donnaient non seulement de la crédibilité et de la légitimité aux actions allant dans le sens de leurs critiques habituelles, mais aussi à l’ensemble de l’oeuvre. Ils se devaient de prendre leurs distances des propos ou des comportements d’intolérance, et d’affirmer leur désapprobation.

En lieu et place, un des leurs, le sénateur David Tkachuk, a invité les membres du convoi « à écraser jusqu’au dernier libéral qui reste dans ce pays » (« roll over every Liberal left in the country »). Une figure de style renvoyant aux élections, a-t-il dit par la suite sans s’excuser, mais, métaphore ou pas, cette déclaration était irresponsable de la part d’un parlementaire.

Rien n’indique que M. Scheer soit d’accord avec les idées d’extrême droite ou anti-immigration que certains véhiculent à ces occasions, mais il ne peut, par son silence, implicitement exploiter la colère de cette frange pour s’assurer des votes. On a trop vu ailleurs les effets de ce genre de stratégie politique, prisée par M. Trump, le Britannique Nigel Farage ou la Française Marine Le Pen.

La frustration et les préoccupations des citoyens ne doivent pas être ignorées, mais alimenter leur désarroi, au lieu d’y répondre avec des arguments et des solutions fondés, ne fait qu’entretenir la division, le cynisme et le mépris des institutions.

Source: Le spectre du populisme

Immigrants who support People’s Party of Canada reject accusations of xenophobia in Burnaby South

More on populism and more on possible Chinese Canadian support for the PPC. Given the PPC received some 11 percent in Burnaby South, appears that the PPC did siphon some support from the Conservatives among Chinese Canadians:

When Ivan Pak went to Maxime Bernier’s first rally in Vancouver last November, he says he was “inspired” by the new party leader’s clear platform and policy commitments.

That’s the kind of leader Canada needs, he told Star Vancouver.

Bernier announced the “death of political correctness” via a Tweet last fall to his then 65,000 followers and launched the People’s Party of Canada, which has been gaining rapid traction. Widely viewed as aiming further right of the Conservative party, the PPC has been criticized for being anti-immigrant and espousing anti-globalist values and rhetoric.

But Pak, a first-generation immigrant from China, dispels those critiques as myths.

“Some people accuse the PPC of being a white people’s party of Canada, but for myself … I learned to speak English here. I’ve been here 22 years,” he said on Thursday, holding up PPC signs waiting for Bernier to make his first appearance in Burnaby South since Monday’s byelection was called in the riding.

“PPC welcomes people like me to be part of their party as long as we share the same Canadian values.”

But experts say core Canadian values are now divided and there’s very little common ground.

Michael Valpy is a senior fellow in public policy at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and a former Globe and Mail journalist who has been tracking the rise of ordered populism in Canada — or what economists refer to as “drawbridge-up” thinking.

Its proponents are often hostile toward immigration, deeply pessimistic about their economic future, mostly male and mainly white, he said. At Bernier’s event on Thursday in Burnaby South, this demographic was also present.

Nathaniel Allen, 30, told the Star he was a BC Liberal — the provincial party widely known to embrace conservative policies — 12 years ago until he lost interest. It wasn’t until the PPC came along that he found himself civically engaged.

“It just felt like the most pragmatic decision I could make,” he explained.

A Star investigation found that far-right supporters have called on their members to infiltrate the PPC, whether the party is willing or not. As the extreme right has done elsewhere, they hope to move on a new party, bit by bit, to bring the political extreme toward the mainstream.

Meanwhile, the yellow vest faction — which started as a labour movement in France but has expanded in Canada beyond economic concerns, delving into anti-globalism, nationalism, anti-government sentiment and xenophobia — looks like it’s here to stay.

Bernier was there to greet the United We Roll convoy when it arrived in Ottawa last Tuesday. The former federal Conservative cabinet minister, standing beside a man in a yellow vest, told the crowd he was there to promote Canadian unity.

Canadians are increasingly opposed to more immigration — and it remains to be seen how that will play out in October’s federal election, Valpy said.

Anti-immigrant sentiments often depend on the makeup of neighbourhoods, he added, pointing to the suburban area surrounding Toronto, known as the 905 because of its area code, which is “quite strongly” anti-immigrant despite not being a white majority community.

That’s because if communities are homogenous — for instance, predominantly white, brown or Asian — anti-immigrant views can emerge. However, Valpy said, if neighbourhoods are mixed, anti-immigrant views are unlikely.

“Ethnic attachment is declining and has declined quite rapidly,” he explained in an interview, citing data from Ottawa-based pollster EKOS Research Associates. “It’s no longer important to us that all our friends are all white, or we live in a brown community.”

Valpy said unless there is some shift in inequality or people’s sense that progress is lost, ordered populism is here for the long haul.

According to Ivan Pak and the PPC, the principles guiding Canadian values are freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness.

Pak was a vocal opponent of the provincial education inclusion program for sexual identity and gender fluidity. He ran unsuccessfully on that platform for school trustee in Richmond in last fall’s municipal election. As president of the PPC Richmond Centre EDA, he isn’t eligible to vote in Monday’s byelection.

The PPC has promised to lower taxes, abolish corporate welfare and stop supply management. On Thursday, Bernier also said he would privatize Canada Post and abolish the CRTC.

The party has formed electoral district associations in all of Canada’s 338 ridings and Bernier has said he will run a full slate of candidates in October’s general election.

Pak said he was no longer keen on the Conservatives because the party has a “lack of leadership ability” (referring to its leader, Andrew Scheer) and “no clean platform.” He also slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“When you ask a question in the House of Commons, he never answers it. Is the question period just a joke? It looks like drama,” he said. “Our country is in debt and that debt has to be paid somehow. It will be my children and grandchildren suffering.”

Pak was one of many other Chinese-Canadians greeting Bernier when he visited his Burnaby South byelection candidate — and one of his first picks under the new PPC banner — Laura-Lynn Thompson.

She is a former Christian radio host, anti-abortion activist and a vocal opponent of B.C.’s student education plan on sexual orientation and gender fluidity, with ties to several community churches.

Thompson told the Star last week she’s been able to mobilize the socially conservative Chinese-Canadian vote — and those ties may explain why.

During each byelection debate, Thompson directly appealed to prevalent anxieties in the riding about public safety as she repeatedly brought up the case of Marrisa Shen, a 13-year-old girl killed in a Burnaby South park in July 2017. A Syrian refugee has been charged with murder in her death.

Meanwhile, several PPC supporters at the event on Thursday told the Star they were “sick” of identity politics at play in Canada. Sherolinnah Eang said she became a full-fledged PPC supporter after hearing the messaging about “family values and free speech.”

“This is the first time I’ve come out for something like this, and I’ve lived in Canada for 45 years,” she said.

Burnaby has four distinct town “centres,” a long working-class history and a population density triple that of the region. Its demographics are increasingly young and non-white, according to the 2016 census, and the average age is several years below B.C.’s average, while 64 per cent of its population identifies as a visible minority.

On Thursday, Bernier argued diversity is not Canada’s strength — it’s unity. Asked how that message would land in such an ethnically diverse riding, he responded: “Yes, but they are Canadians first.”

The response prompted cheers from PPC supporters, with several shouting: “I’m an immigrant.”

Thompson, who uttered “Canadians first” at every byelection debate, will face off against federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — vying for his first seat in the House of Commons — Liberal Richard Lee, Conservative Jay Shin and independents Valentine Wu and Terry Grimwood on Monday in Burnaby South.

Byelections will also be held that day in York—Simcoe, Ont. and in Outremont, Que.

David Moscrop, author of the new book Too Dumb for Democracy? Why We Make Bad Political Decisions and How We Can Make Better Ones, and a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Ottawa’s communications department, told the Star that while feelings of anti-globalism and xenophobia have always existed, they haven’t always had an electoral home.

Moscrop said this is the perfect time for the PPC to do well because it can focus on locking down a smaller segment of the electorate. And there’s enough disaffection, which could express itself as support for the right-wing party.

“This party didn’t even exist 15 minutes ago, so if (Laura-Lynn Thompson) can nab even 10 per cent, Bernier will be crowing for months,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more likely PPC voters than would self-report … because sometimes people won’t admit something to a pollster. But behind the privacy of the voting screen? Many may mark an X for that candidate.”

Source: Star Vancouver | Immigrants who support People’s Party of Canada reject accusations of xenophobia in Burnaby South