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.

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