Donald Trump could happen in Canada. It’s already begun. – Macleans.ca

Some good analysis and questions regarding the resilience of Canadian politics to Trump-style politics, focussing on the ugliness in the Alberta PC leadership campaign and the Leitch/Blaney campaign approaches.

Starting with Charlie Gillis:

The question, say experts, is whether support for such ideas could galvanize into a Trump-style movement. Ice-breakers like Blaney and Leitch are exploiting the same rural-urban cultural divide that Trump did in the U.S., acknowledges Clark Banack, a Brock University political scientist who studies populist movements. But the kind of anti-elitist discontent that moves votes is seldom seen in Canada outside the West, Banack notes, and when it arises elsewhere, it tends to be short-lived. “We have sporadic examples of people emerging for a short time around a specific issue,” he says, citing Rob Ford’s rise to the Toronto mayoralty on the strength of working-class, suburban anger. “But overall, Canadian political culture is less susceptible to populism than American political culture.”

Another mitigating factor: the relative absence in Canada of a dispossessed working class in a mood to punish its leaders. David Green, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, believes Trump’s support base of white men with no college degree would be hard to replicate in this country because the commodities boom sustained Canada’s blue-collar workers, even as the financial crisis crushed the dreams of their counterparts in other countries. Between 2003 and 2015, he notes in a forthcoming paper, mean hourly wages for Americans with a high school education or less fell by six per cent; for the same demographic in Canada, they climbed eight per cent. The effect, he says, was to slow the growth of the economic gap that has fed voter rage in the U.S., the U.K. and parts of Europe. Last year, our top 10 per cent of earners made 8.6 times on average what the bottom 10 per cent pulled in—a ratio that, while high, falls beneath the OECD average and far below the U.S. ratio of 19 to one.

But all that could change, Green warns, if oil prices remain low—especially if the housing market weakens at the same time. The country’s residential construction boom, he notes, has maintained job centres around the country’s large cities, putting more than a few displaced oil patch employees to work. “What do you do with that set of less-than-university-educated guys—the demographic that switched over to Trump?” Green asks. “That’s a potentially worrying connection.”

More so, agrees Banack, if you have a high-minded central government that overlooks their misfortune while pursuing its own pre-occupations. Running against Ottawa, he notes, is a time-tested stratagem for populist movements in Canada, and these days, few national governments are more closely identified with the globalist program of trade, labour mobility and climate-change action than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Something like Trudeau’s promised national carbon tax, which will be felt keenly in the West, could be enough to trigger a populist insurgency in Alberta, he says, though it’s safe to assume the federal Conservative party would do everything it could to stop such a movement, given the outcome of the Reform party experiment: “Another vote split, and you could forget about a Conservative federal government for another 10 or 15 years.”

Maybe, but experienced political players are no longer sure economic logic and conventional political calculus are in force. Carter, the Alberta strategist, notes that the online communities where so-called “alt-right” voters congregate—Facebook groups, or conspiracy-fuelled sites like Infowars—don’t traffic in that sort of information. In its place: a strain of fanaticism typified by the onslaught that ran Jansen off the PC stage, which Carter believes is sure to spread. “I don’t know if it’s Trump or social media or just belief that they’re correct that gives a sense of permission,” he says. “But this is not normal.”

Gary Mason in the Globe picks up similar themes:

The Premier and her party are now sitting at 14 per cent in the polls. The party receiving the most support in recent public opinion surveys is the Progressive Conservatives, the same entity Mr. Kenney plans to destroy if he wins the leadership. He wants to build a new political organization that Wildrose members will feel comfortable joining as part of an overarching bid to unify conservative forces in the province.

Either way, Alberta seems to be preparing to make an ideological course correction.

There’s little doubt the rise of Donald Trump has emboldened many in the province. One of those would appear to be Derek Fildebrandt, a Wildrose MLA and one of the most powerful conservative voices in Alberta.

He has little patience for the likes of Ms. Jansen and others complaining about online trolls and provocateurs. “Hypersensitive, politically correct, victim-as-virtue culture is creating a leadership class of wimps,” he wrote in a tweet that could have been sent out by The Donald himself. “People are sick of it.”

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Fildebrandt tweeted: “The biggest lesson that we should learn from the election of Trump: smug, condescending political correctness will spark a backlash.”

I’m not sure what is happening in Alberta, but on almost any level it’s not good. Trump-style politics could well be making its way north of the border. At the end of the day, however, society gets the politicians it deserves.

Source: Not so progressive: Trump-style politics seep into Alberta

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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