Doing the math
Do the factors that led to Trump add up in Canada?
Kevin O’Leary is a businessman, reality TV star, photography buff and self-professed airplane geek.
He is not, however, an Ottawa politician.
And he’s banking on that to get him elected as leader of the federal Conservative party, and then prime minister of Canada.
“I think the body politic in Canada is like the rest of the world. They’re tired of the B.S., they’re tired of the politicians B.S.-ing them and spinning them and they want an operator,” O’Leary said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. Do we? A claim of being an outsider, an operator, was partly what propelled Donald Trump to victory in the U.S. presidential election. Ever since, Canadians have been consumed with the question of whether what happened there could happen here.
Over the coming weeks, The Canadian Press will dive into that question in stories that seek to explore the extent to which conditions exist in Canada for what happened in the U.S., and how Canada’s political system is evolving as a result.
The starting point is figuring out exactly what happened.
“We tend to have this desire to be able to express it in this grand way, that something shifted,” said Clark Banack, a political science professor at Brock University who has extensively researched populist movements. “But I resist the temptation to define it in any one way.”
The word most commonly applied to Trump’s victory is “populist” — a political term for people rising up for change when an elite class is seen to be oppressing the majority.
“People who have fallen behind badly, who see no prospects for a better future, so they are fearful and angry and resentful; and that triggers and engages receptivity to certain types of political approaches that normally wouldn’t be that resonant,” is how Canadian pollster Frank Graves described what happened in both Trump’s victory and the stunning upset in a British referendum last summer to leave the European Union.
What people are receptive to, Graves said, is a leader who proposes a decisive set of answers to the questions plaguing them.
For people who feel left out by globalization, it’s a promise to end free trade. For people concerned about illegal immigration, it’s thicker borders.