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

How Canadian populism is playing out in the Burnaby South byelection

Good coverage on the emerging role and tactics of the PPC along with Ekos pollster Frank Graves’ analysis of greater polarization among Canadians.

Ethic media is also picking up on the apparent attraction of some Chinese Canadians to the PPC (see the latest Diversity Votes — February By-elections: Matching Census Data with Ethnic Media Coverage (17-23 February 2019, last pre-election report):

Twenty minutes before the first Burnaby South byelection debate, a sudden influx of People’s Party of Canada supporters with shiny signs and newly minted pins filled all the remaining chairs in the room.

And they were ready to be heard, not just seen.

The following two debates — attended by roughly 100 people, on average — were dominated by this group’s grievances. They were louder and rowdier and far outnumbered the supporters of any other national party in the House of Commons.

The third debate descended into chaos when the topic of immigration arose, leading to finger-pointing and shrieking in the audience.

“Canadians first,” yelled several in the crowd, donning PPC pins. Roars from the crowd drowned out the candidates as others shouted “racist” and “fascist” in response.

This is one face of an increasingly visible populist movement in Canada. And experts say it’s not going anywhere any time soon. More and more, there is less common ground in what we consider to be Canadian values, and experts say the nation’s shift toward populism heralds a new chapter in Canada’s life. Political discourse is only expected to become more entrenched and vitriolic ahead of October’s general election.

Frank Graves is the president of Ottawa-based EKOS Research Associates. He’s been tracking what he calls “ordered populism” or what economists refer to as drawbridge-up thinking.

While populism can operate either on the left, right or even centre of the political spectrum, Graves said that is not what is emerging in Canada. Instead, it’s ordered populism which is bubbling up in the values of the right and far-right.

Its members are largely religious, have reservations about diversity, are deeply pessimistic about their economic future, are disdainful of media and government and are convinced that climate change matters far less than their own survival.

“What unifies populism is a dispute between the so-called pure people and the corrupt elite. And that is definitely what Trump, Brexit, Ford and the PPC is going after,” he told Star Vancouver.

Maxime Bernier, the leader of the PPC, is speaking a “far more authentic” version of what those in the ordered populist camp want to hear, Graves added.

“One of the big question marks for me (is) will that actually convert into impact in the next election?”

After a messy split with the Conservative Party last year following his loss in the leadership race, Bernier — an MP from Beauce, Que. and a former cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper era — announced the launch of the People’s Party of Canada, made official with Elections Canada this January. He’s since been touring the country.

Burnaby South’s Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson — a former Christian radio host, anti-abortion activist and vocal opponent to British Columbia’s student education plan on sexual orientation and gender fluidity — was one of his first picks to run as a candidate. Her support could be an early indicator of the PPC’s chances in the upcoming general election.

Tyler Thompson 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., a seat previously held by former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Van Loan, and in Outremont, Que. The latter riding was home to former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

Each time Tyler Thompson said “Canadians first,” — which occurred multiple times at every debate — the crowd would swell into visceral cheers. Thompson directly appealed to prevalent anxieties in the riding about public safety as she repeatedly brought up the case of Marissa Shen, a 13-year-old Burnaby South girl who was murdered in the region. A Syrian refugee, who was employed in Canada and had family here, is the accused. Allegations are still being tested in court.

Despite common assumptions that the populist movement camp is dominated by disaffected white males, Thompson’s supporters in Burnaby South are composed of a majority of Chinese-Canadians. She told the Star that’s because of her strong roots in some of the community’s churches.

In an interview with the Star on Thursday, Bernier said his party is indeed populist — but a “smart populist party.”

“Usually when you are a populist politician, you appeal to the emotion of people. I’m not playing with their emotion. I’m playing with their intelligence,” he explained, claiming the PPC is the only party with solid policy platforms. “We are the People’s Party working for the people … and I am proud of that.”

People are finding less and less common ground when it comes to Canadian values — and that is certainly going to matter in the upcoming election, Graves said.

While politics are often fickle and ever-changing, values change at a glacially slow pace. For instance, at the turn of the century Canadians were more “open” when it came to ideological orientation — which Graves said is a terrific predictor of values — 50 per cent of Canadians agreed that they were neither to the right or the left.

But now, Graves said that number has dwindled down to 10 per cent.

“Everybody has picked a side,” Graves said. “You live in two incommensurable Canadas, just as there’s two incommensurable Americas. And U.K. And Ontario. And that’s a daunting challenge.”

Values exist in the cultural realm and provide “moral goalposts” on what people prefer society to look like. Unlike discussions of policy issues, debates on values are emotionally engaging which is why Graves estimates the “narrative” of the right is beginning to dominate.

And on the left, the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, there has yet to emerge a populist movement with an equally emotive narrative. While the right begins to have its own conversations about values, Graves said the “open values” of the centre and left remain consistent between Liberals, NDP, and Greens.

Members of this “open society” outlook favour diversity, immigration, trade and globalization, are optimistic about the future, guided by evidence-based policy and believe that climate change is of high priority.

And the gaps between the two groups could not be larger, Graves said.

Source: How Canadian populism is playing out in the Burnaby South byelection

Sex abuse cases color immigration debate before Finnish election

Likely impact on upcoming April election:

The parliamentary heads of two of Finland’s largest parties have called for action after investigations against 19 foreign-born men on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.

The issue has boosted the support of the anti-immigration, populist The Finns Party, whose popularity jumped two points to over 10 percent in the latest poll published by the national broadcaster YLE ahead of a parliamentary election on April 14.

Police have said there were foreign-born men among the 16 investigated for rape or other sexual abuses of adolescent girls in the town of Oulu over the last two months. On Sunday, police in Helsinki said they had arrested three foreign-born men on similar charges.

Antti Kaikkonen, parliamentary head of the coalition-leading Centre Party, called for a meeting of all the parliamentary party heads, tweeting: “Everyone who comes to Finland has to follow the local laws.”

Antti Lindtman, parliamentary head of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, said: “The question is, are there measures we could take now – even during this term – to prevent cowardly crimes like these? Yes, there are.”

Prime Minister Juha Sipila tweeted that the government would discuss the “inhuman and reprehensible events” twice next week.

The topic is shocking for many in Finland, which sees itself as one of the safest and happiest countries on earth.

A citizens’ initiative to withdraw asylum from people convicted of a sex crime has doubled its signatures in just a few days and reached 25,000 on Sunday – half the total needed to force parliament to consider the issue.

The country of 5.5 million people has historically had very few immigrants. But the issue has become more fraught since the European refugee crisis of 2015, which caused the number of asylum seekers to almost quadruple to 28,208 in 2016.

Statistics Finland says around 1,200 cases of sexual abuse of minors are reported to the police each year, and that foreigners were involved in 18 percent of the cases that came to trial last year.

Lindtman proposed toughening the penalties for sex crimes against minors and withdrawing asylum from people convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes.

Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy focus on the shifting views of millennial men, visible minorities as well as not visible minority, towards populism and the right. The 2019 election will provide a test of their thesis but certainly the Conservatives seem to mining this resentment in much of their messaging:

As Canadians, we sit atop the continent, watching as our neighbours slide into cultural civil war. It has become easy to just be appalled as America becomes riven, with social media and antagonistic rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum erasing the middle ground. There are two Americas, incommensurably separated on the fundamental issues of the day: climate change, the economy, social issues like health and education, employment, the media, immigration in particular, and globalization and free trade.

We’ve learned more and more about the populism that has fuelled this complicated moment as the fracture in America races like wildfire throughout Western democracies. It is the biggest force reshaping democracy, our economies and public institutions. It is the product of economic despair, inequality, and yes, racism and xenophobia. It is an institutional blind spot, largely denied or ridiculed by the media, and by the more comfortable and educated portions of society.

It is very much alive in Canada. In fact, our populist explosion has already had its first bangs and is likely to have a major impact on next year’s federal election.

The shifts in the democratic world order over the last decade have increasingly prompted social scientists to discard the left-right political spectrum in favour of an “open-ordered axis,” or what The Economist calls drawbridge-down vs drawbridge-up thinking. The former are cosmopolitan-minded people, in favour of diversity, immigration, trade, and globalization, and who are optimistic about the future; they’re guided by reason and evidence-based policy, and believe that climate change is a dominant priority. Drawbridge-up people, with an “ordered” worldview, are largely parochial, and they have reservations about diversity, are deeply pessimistic about the economic future, believe more in moral certainty than reason and evidence, are disdainful of media, government and of scientific expertise, and are convinced that climate change is trumped by the economy and their own survival. It’s ordered thinking that is metastasizing in Western societies, including Canada’s, especially among the political right. EKOS research from 2017 suggests about 30 to 40 per cent of adult Canadians are drawn to it.

Meanwhile, research over the last 10 years has found that Canada, like the United States, is turning into a society fissured along fault lines of education, class and gender. These are social chasms defined by the concentration of wealth at the top of society and, for everyone else, by economic pessimism and stagnation; by a comfortable feeling on one end of the societal teeter-totter, and a fear on the other end that a subscription to the middle-class dream might no longer be available.

Although there has been a recent uptick for the first time in 15 years, the portion of Canadians who self-identify as middle class since the turn of the century has declined from 70 per cent to 45 per cent, a stark number that mirrors America’s—signalling that Canadians have a deeply pessimistic view of their personal economic outlook. Only one in eight Canadians thinks they’re better off than a year ago. Only one in eight thinks the next generation will enjoy a better life. And EKOS finds that, by a margin of two to one, Canadians believe that if present trends with inequality continue, the country — this country! — will see violent class conflicts.

Ordered populism has already become an illusive, misunderstood theme in provincial elections in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario. Indeed, Doug Ford and his Ontario Progressive Conservatives won thanks to a preponderance of working-class, male electoral support—but a closer examination of the vote shows that male millennials, against expectation, supported Ford in significant numbers and had a high turnout. Millennial women, meanwhile, preferred the New Democratic Party by a margin of 25 points, and the millennial women who didn’t vote NDP largely stayed home. Millennial men split their votes between the NDP and Progressive Conservatives, and they led females millennials by 10 points in turning out to cast ballots.

Survey evidence strongly suggests that these are young men angered by the economic realities they face, and they are hit the hardest by what is happening in Ontario’s economy. A joint study by United Way Toronto and York Region and Hamilton’s McMaster University on poverty and employment precarity in southern Ontario reports that only 44 per cent of millennials in the region — the heartbeat of Canada’s economy — have full-time, permanent jobs, that the majority have not found work that provides extended health benefits, pension plans, or employer-funded training, and that formerly high-paying blue-collar jobs there are rapidly vanishing. The lack of good jobs, coupled with the social catastrophe of affordable housing and the resulting need to delay family formation, is resulting in anxiety and depression that disproportionately affects millennial men—making them ideal targets for the appeals of ordered populism.

What is happening challenges the conventional view that the youngest adults of Canadian society—the millennials, now Canada’s largest electoral demographic—operate with roughly similar, progressive views and values.

Another assumption in need of challenging is the idea that Canada’s ordered populism, like its American counterpart, is a besieged white citadel. In fact, our northern brand is as much the choice of multicultural new Canadians as of white native-born Canada. A significant chunk of new Canadians, many of them non-white, indicate they will vote Conservative in next year’s federal election — even though 65 per cent of Conservative supporters told EKOS this year that Canada admits too many non-white immigrants. And while a majority of Canadians are open to immigration, the intensity of the opposition is red-hot, including in other parties: 20 per cent of New Democratic Party supporters and 13 per cent of Liberal supporters also believe too many non-white immigrants are entering the country..

There are two possible explanations for this: First, new Canadians may bring with them into the country strains of social conservatism that make them hostile to issues like same-sex marriage and what they see as immoral, too-liberal sex education, an inflammatory issue in Ontario over the past couple of years. Thus, what they see as an assault on their values may be more important than a party trying to appeal to voters who want fewer of them in the country.

Second, where neighbourhoods are ethnically homogeneous as many are around the core of Canadian cities—white, brown or otherwise—populism holds appeal. Where there’s more diversity, it doesn’t. As social scientists have discovered, communities which have the least contact with with minority groups are the most hostile to them.

The looming federal election could be a spark for all the populist tinder largely being ignored in Canada. In the 2015 federal election, voting differences by gender for all age groups were flat. Now the federal Conservatives hold a 17-point advantage among men from all age groups other than seniors —a huge change in three years. Federal Conservatives also hold an advantage over Liberals and New Democrats with voters who self-identify as working class, and the party has overwhelming support from non-university-educated Canadians, the group most likely to feel left behind by the disappearance of blue-collar industries.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a party supported by the economically comfortable. His successor, Andrew Scheer, leads a party of the economically unhappy, of the new economy’s losers, a base increasingly comfortable with raising the drawbridge even as the Liberal government announces Canada will admit an additional 40,000 immigrants by 2021, bringing the annual number of new, mostly non-white arrivals to 350,000. Any campaign rhetoric that confuses this new support with its old party will only exacerbate the anger—and for the angry to find comfort in populism’s temptations.

What we do know is that Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government, with its populist strains and its vague campaign promises, is what many angry young men voted for. Maybe they didn’t vote for its policies; maybe, in their anger, they just voted to burn the house down, even if the history of populist movements show they’ve rarely worked out.

We can try to understand why it’s happening. We can insist that governments tackle inequality and affordable housing. We can build a future that preserves progress for all of us but addresses the real injuries of those who have embraced populism, while also refusing to bend to their fear, anger and ignorance. But letting populism burn the house down benefits nobody—and we can’t just ignore the smell of gasoline in the air.

Source: Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

The Rise of the Resentniks: And the populist war on excellence.

Interesting take by Brooks. Always felt there was an element of resentment in Canadian conservative attacks on elites, and the exaggerated distinctions between the “anywheres” and “somewheres”:

There’s a powerful moment at the start of Anne Applebaum’s recent essay in The Atlantic. She’s recalling a party she threw on Dec. 31, 1999, at her home in Poland. Many of the hundred-odd guests were Polish, but others flew in from around the world for a weekend together, to greet the new millennium.

Most of the guests were conservatives — which in those days meant being anti-Communist and pro-market, but also believing in international alliances like NATO. The party was a great success, lasted all night and continued into brunch the following day. Everybody felt a part of the same team.

“Nearly two decades later,” Applebaum writes, “I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party.” She estimates that half the people at that party are no longer on speaking terms with the other half.

For example, in recent years Applebaum has not had a single conversation with a woman who was once one of her closest friends and is godmother to one of her children. She tried to reach out to this woman and suggested they get together, but the woman refused. “What would we talk about?” she texted.

Those of us who came of age in conservative circles know exactly what Applebaum is talking about. The same kinds of rifts have opened up among conservatives around the world, in Britain, Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Some conservatives stayed on the political trajectory they were on in 1999. Others embraced populist nativism. They wandered into territory that is xenophobic, anti-Semitic, authoritarian. Still others were driven leftward by the reactionary revival.

What happened? This is the story I would tell.

During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny — aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa. But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.

Then with the election of Reagan and Thatcher and in the years afterward, conservatives built their own counter-establishment — think tanks, publications, broadcasting outlets. As conservatism professionalized, it despiritualized. After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform. Compassionate conservatism and the dream of spreading global democracy were efforts to anchor conservatism around a moral ideal, but they did not work out.

Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment. In any meritocracy, there are going to be a lot of people who lose out and do not get the glittering career they think they are due. Sooner or later those people are going to rise up to challenge the competition itself and to question its idea of excellence. “Resentment, envy, and above all the belief that the ‘system’ is unfair — these are important sentiments among the intellectuals of the Polish right,” Applebaum writes.

At the same time, they resent how spiritually flat conservatism has become. “The principles of competition, even when they encourage talent and create upward mobility, don’t necessarily answer deeper questions about national identity, or satisfy the human desire to belong to a moral community,” Applebaum continues.

In such a situation, you’re almost bound to get a return of blood-and-soil nationalism. The losers in the meritocratic competition, the permanent outsiders, seize on ethnic nationalism to give themselves a sense of belonging, to explain their failures, to rally the masses and to upend the meritocracy.

In office, what the populist nationalists do is this: They replace the idea of excellence with the idea of “patriotism.” Loyalty to the tribe is more important than professional competence. In fact, a person’s very lack of creativity and talent becomes proof of his continued reliability to the cause, as we’ve seen in the continued fealty to King Trump.

While there is a sprinkling of good professionals in the Trump administration, they are there by accident, not by intent. Many of those staffing the White House could not get a job in any normal Republican administration, which selected people according to any traditional criteria of excellence.

And now, as Trump reshuffles his administration yet again, we see the remnants of the B and C teams replaced by members of the D team. Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

In Search of a New Equilibrium: Immigration Policymaking in the Newest Era of Nativist Populism: MPI

Relevant MPI report. Worth reflecting upon, even if the Canadian situation is quite different from Europe:

When faced with the growth of radical-right populism, mainstream political actors face a dilemma: respecting the democratic mandate of populists and treating them like any other political actor, or drawing a line in the sand by ostracizing and refusing to cooperate with them. Regardless, mainstream politicians need to reckon with how to respond to the forces driving support for nativist populism in the first place— deep concerns about cultural identity, rising inequality, pressure on limited public resources, deepening political polarization, and the politics of fear and resentment. In doing so, they will also need to grapple with how to build a new consensus on immigration. Points of reflection include:

  • ƒThe many benefits of running a tight ship on immigration policies. Governments need to rebuild public trust in the integrity and fairness of their migration-management system. Doing so will require minimizing immigration disorder and ensuring effective and orderly return procedures, while tipping the balance towards a more selective system that is better aligned with national economic and labor-market needs.
  • ƒThe challenges and crucial importance of communicating complexity. Policymakers need to think carefully about how to communicate their policy priorities and decisions, and the evidence that underpins them, to a concerned public. This includes speaking candidly about what the evidence does—and does not or cannot—say about hot-button issues such as immigration. This must be done in terms that can be readily understood by a wide audience of nonexperts and, when it comes to immigration, include an honest discussion of the benefits of a well-managed immigration system and the tradeoffs such a system can entail. These communications must also include concrete actions to address these emotive issues, especially in times of crisis.
  • ƒThe need to redress inequality by investing in communities. The rise of populism and nativism should serve as a wake-up call for mainstream policymakers on the importance of acknowledging and targeting disadvantage by adopting policies to redress the uneven costs of immigration, globalization, and economic crises. In striving to revitalize neglected regions, governments face tough decisions about whether to invest in costly social and economic development policies to help people stay—and attract new residents, especially immigrants— or to help people relocate to areas with more economic opportunities (at the risk of further shrinking the fiscal base of struggling regions).
  • ƒThe promise of employing a whole-of-society approach to immigration and integration issues. In an era of growing “welfare chauvinism,” with populists calling to limit access to welfare benefits to citizens, policymakers should confront head on the perception that immigrants benefit disproportionately from government programs and services. Research has also demonstrated the advantages of moving away from programs that target certain groups, such as immigrants, and towards robust services available to and flexible enough to meet the needs of all who qualify.

Ultimately, the rise of nativist populism should be understood both as a symptom and driver of political turmoil in Europe and the United States. Its rise is rooted in longstanding social and economic grievances and divisions that have been overlooked by mainstream politicians for far too long. Governments need to learn from their mistakes and respond much more proactively to manage these divisions—or risk seeing societies drift further apart and create a breeding ground for nativism and populism.

Source: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-policymaking-nativist-populism

Andrew Coyne: Conservative war on media fizzles in Canada, but war on truth remains

Another good column by Coyne:

So is the war on the media off? Late last week, the national press were ablaze with stories about how the Conservatives were planning to target the media in the coming federal election.

“The Conservative party appears to be gearing up for a fight with news outlets as part of its 2019 electoral strategy,” reported the Toronto Star.

“The Conservatives are making it clear,” the Globe and Mail reported the same day, “that taking on the media is now a key part of their political message.”

The evidence for this grand strategy is a little thin. MP Pierre Poilievre called a Bloomberg reporter a Liberal. A Conservative senator accused Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells of being a “liberal.” Andrew Scheer gave a speech complaining “the media” were taking the Liberal side in the carbon tax fight and promised, in an open letter in the Toronto Sun, to stand up to “this government, the media and the privileged elite.”

Still, with what’s been happening lately south of the border, the president calling the media the “enemy of the people” and whatnot, nerves in our business are understandably a little jangly. Were there parallels here? Had the war already begun?

And then, just as suddenly, the whole thing appeared to have been called off. Monday, Scheer’s director of media relations, Jacqui Delaney, a brash populist last seen bragging of her taste for the media “jugular,” left after just five weeks on the job. The next day, Scheer himself was mildly avowing his belief that it was the media’s role in a democracy to “hold politicians of all parties to account” and to “hold us responsible for what we say.”

What’s going on? Scheer’s apparent backtrack may be evidence of a rethink at Conservative HQ, or simply a pause to regroup, a tactical retreat in the face of the previous week’s blowback.

Or there may never have been such a strategy. All parties like to “play the ref” sometimes, hoping to influence the press to call a few their way as proof of their fairness. Conservatives, in particular, have never been averse to complaining about media bias.

Nor is the complaint entirely unfounded: while most reporters are professionals who try to be fair, stories tend to be framed through a crisis-and-response lens that, while more a narrative bias than a partisan one, nevertheless is broadly favourable to parties of the left.

At any rate, let us hope that is all this amounts to. If indeed there are Conservatives who think aping Donald Trump’s approach is a winner, they should think again. They risk doing grave harm not only to public discourse but their own cause.

I don’t mean there aren’t upsides to picking a fight with the media. It’s especially fun if the media take the bait, as arguably I’m doing here. Who could resist being called a “threat to democracy” by a bunch of self-appointed Solons never elected to anything? What gladder sight could there be to a critic than the media rising as one to declaim on their own specialness? What firmer proof of media bias, than the media denying it?

But Canada is not the United States, and Scheer is not Trump. The Harper Tories made some yards with this approach, but eventually the voters they needed to reach, the ones just outside their base, tired of the act. The image Scheer is attempting to project is of that Nice Young Man Who Isn’t At All Like Harper. A darkly paranoid campaign focused on the party’s supposed media enemies would scarcely help in that regard.

Neither does Canada appear to offer rich soil for the kind of nihilistic, post-truth tribalism that has taken root in the United States. It exists here, of course. But a new survey by the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy finds large majorities of Canadians — upwards of 85 per cent — still profess trust in the country’s major media outlets. Moreover, divided as they are on partisan and ideological lines, they appear to believe in broadly the same set of facts about the issues.

That’s good news. But it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We haven’t been scarred by the same traumas the States have that have given rise to such distrust of elites there, but we are exposed to some of the same forces, notably the rise of social media, breaking down our ability to reason collectively.

The issue isn’t whether people trust the press these days, but whether they trust anyone. Healthy skepticism about this or that story or source is too often curdling into a blind rejection of knowledge itself, and of those whose business it is to know stuff: experts, or as they are now dismissed, “elites.” What do economists know about free trade? What do climate scientists know about climate? After all, I read something on the internet …

This is the bitter fruit of today’s class politics, where class is defined, not by income, but by education and culture. There’s fault on both sides of this divide, but the Conservatives’ indulgence of populist egghead-bashing is especially dangerous. It puts the whole institutional apparatus through which knowledge is collected, tested and disseminated — what journalist Jonathan Rauch has called “the constitution of knowledge” — in play: mere experts, to be dismissed not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

When Scheer sneers, for example, that on carbon pricing the Liberals have not only the media on their side, but “the academics and think-tanks” — when he takes a broad consensus of experts as suggestive, not of the weight of the evidence and analysis, but of a near universal partisan bias among the educated classes — he veers close to conspiracy theory.

Expert consensus need not be taken as proof that a position is right, but it should never be offered as proof that it is wrong. That way lies madness.

Here’s how to beat the populists: stop talking about immigration

Not sure whether this approach will be anymore effective but it does have the advantage of addressing the more fundamental and broader threat of populism to the rule of law:

While the British Brexit debate rages on, it continues to ignore entirely a more important European political battle: the search for the best way to defeat populists on the continent within the next eight months – the time left before the EU parliamentary elections. That little of this seems to get factored into internal British discourse is not surprising: for all the headlines about Theresa May’s “Salzburg humiliation” or “EU dirty rats”, Brexit is essentially the British talking to themselves.

Across the Channel, a new line of attack against Europe’s populists is taking shape: it focuses on breaches to democratic rule of law, rather than the issue of immigration. That’s why the most important piece of EU news this month was not the Salzburg situation (entirely predictable) but the 12 September vote in the EU parliament on the rule of law in Hungary (much less so). For the first time, an EU institution which is hard to describe as “anti-democratic” (it is elected directly by its citizens) called for the activation of article 7 procedure against a member state’s government because of the way it has been disemboweling essential democratic institutions and rights.

For a long time now, Europe’s liberal democrats have been struggling to curtail political forces that threaten core principles. But since the 2015 refugee crisis they have let themselves get dragged into precisely the debate that populists can thrive on: migration. Not only was the EU at a loss over how to deal with the arrival of a million people in 2015, but its liberals have mostly failed to convince large swaths of the population that immigration is needed, that it needn’t upend social services, and that it does not spell the end of a certain sense of European or national identity.

Migration conjures up fears that rational argument struggles to cope with. Hungary’s avowedly “illiberal” Viktor Orbán and Italy’s far-right Matteo Salvini have secured major electoral breakthroughs by relentlessly pounding away at migration, depicted as a “Muslim invasion” (Orbán) or as something that requires “mass cleansing, street by street” (Salvini). With that rhetoric, they are now preparing to launch their bid to take control of the EU parliament, along with like-minded European politicians.

With that rhetoric also, the Swedish far right has won a position that allows it to foster political instability, as shown by this week’s no-confidence vote in Stockholm. Pushing back at these forces with talk of multiculturalism and inclusiveness will go only so far. A better strategy is to nail them on the democratic rule of law. That’s where the populist achilles heel is found; and it’s where the EU has tools to act, such as article 7, which can suspend EU voting rights, or European court rulings.

By this, I certainly don’t mean that the moral and legal argument for saving people fleeing war and persecution should not be made. But it may be too late now, before the May 2019 vote, to shift those parts of public opinion in Europe that have come to believe asylum is shorthand for demographic upheaval or “replacement”. Studies show European citizens overestimate the percentage of migrants in their countries (Italians believe it is three times higher than the real figure). The bare fact that migration flows have dropped steeply since 2015 does not register in perceptions. It is no coincidence that anti-immigration narratives have now spread from Europe’s hard right to its hard left – with Germany’s Sahra Wagenknecht and France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon arguing that the arrival of migrants is a capitalist European plot to suppress workers’ wages.

At this point, to shift the argument against Europe’s extremes away from migration makes much better sense.

Saying that the democratic rule of law is under siege holds more political potential. This is what happened on 12 September, when two-thirds of European lawmakers drew a line marking what is acceptable and what isn’t. Think of it as a case of European checks and balances at last kicking in. The resolution voted through that day is a clear indictment of everything Orbán has done to violate democratic standards, from restricting freedom of the press to undermining the electoral system. It ought to serve as a template for a wider grassroots European campaign to protect the democratic rule of law.

Rather than lambasting Orbán for rejecting the 2015 EU refugee redistribution scheme (compulsory quotas that never translated into reality), cornering him on the dismantling of mechanisms that give citizens a proper say in democracy, and allow them to make informed decisions, is likely to be more rewarding. A better way to counter Orbán and Salvini is to focus on how they threaten what protects citizens. Populists aim to destroy the safety that comes from being able to count on an independent judge if you have been the victim of abuse; the safety that comes with getting pluralistic information, not state propaganda; the safety that comes from being confident your shop or your business won’t be choked by kleptocratic, corrupt power networks.

It helps to picture populists as a bulldozer over which a large banner reading Migrants Out has been slapped to hide the grinding wheels and huge metal shovel that are busy dismantling the democratic rule of law. It’s happened in Hungary and Poland, and it’s threatening to happen in Italy if Salvini gets his way. Ask a European citizen if they want more migrants and they may answer uneasily. Ask them if they want their government to deprive them of the tools that give people a say and the protections that come with democratic rule, and the response will be more forthright.

Rule of law – as a shield against abuse of power and corruption – should be the signature theme of next year’s election.

Choice of vocabulary matters too. Framing the debate as a battle of “progressives versus nationalists” has limits because populists will push back by equating “progressivism” with enforcing “open-border” or “anti-Christian” policies. A shrewder approach would be to cast this existential battle for Europe’s soul as “democrats versus authoritarians”. At the end of the day, our common enemy is autocracy. Arbitrary rule leaves citizens unprotected; Europe’s body of law protects them. Populists want that to come undone, so they can redraw the continent as they like. That’s where the real, immediate danger lies – not in all the fantasising that, from Brexit to Orbán, has surrounded migration.

Source: Here’s how to beat the populists: stop talking about immigration