Tuesday August 18, 2015
By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 18, 2015
Ingredients of a populist rebellion simmer in Canada
Politicians take heed: Populist rebellions are under way in both the United States and Britain. Canada is not immune. If a backlash against political elites who disrespect voters ever reaches our shores, it will not be pretty.
This grey decade has left all developed nations grappling with low growth, high unemployment and way too much debt, personal and governmental.
Populist movements have swept through Canada in the past, usually in times of discontent. The Great Depression spawned both the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation on the left and Social Credit on the right. Western anger at Central Canada’s indifference spawned the Reform Party in the 1980s.
So why has Canada been spared its own Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn? Luck, mostly. The recession in Canada wasn’t as severe as in the U.S. or Britain. The Conservative government was able to bring the budget back into balance without having to impose much in the way of austerity.
More important, while politics in Canada is polarizing between left and right, it does so within a deep consensus on the importance of both horizontal (between regions) and vertical (between classes) redistribution.
But Canada is not immune to populist pressure from either the left or right. The Occupy movement, a populist protest from the left, flared in Canadian cities as well as in the United States and overseas. Doug Ford took 34 per cent of the vote in the 2014 Toronto mayoral election, despite his brother’s outrages.
When any governing political elite ignores or belittles a group of voters, it risks a populist backlash. If the Conservatives win the next election, social activists may take direct action against them.
If the NDP or Liberals win, and the economy suffers because there is no political will to build an oil pipeline anywhere, expect a populist reaction from the right, especially in the West.
With luck, things will never get as extreme as Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn. But don’t be too certain. Remember Rob Ford. (Source: Globe & Mail)