Do the factors that led to Trump presidency 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 BS, they’re tired of the politicians BS-ing them and spinning them and they want an operator,” O’Leary said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.
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 Trump’s victory
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.
What happened in the U.S., argues Clark Banack, a political-science professor at Brock University, is that Trump was able to speak to different constituencies at the same time and rally them enough that they were willing to overlook qualities they may have found offensive.
Broadly, the consensus among political scientists and economists seems to be that factors underlying fear and anger do exist in Canada — but nowhere near U.S. levels.
Take intergenerational income mobility, the extent to which differences in income are transmitted from one generation to the next. A study by the Conference Board of Canada found this country’s record is far better than the U.S.: if a family here earns $10,000 less income than the average, the children, when they become adults, will earn $1,900 less than average. In the U.S., children would earn $4,700 less.
In the U.S., Trump harnessed fears about border security and terrorism to capture votes. A July 2016 poll by the Associated Press found 53 per cent of Americans thought the U.S. should allow fewer Syrian refugees to enter the country, at a time when the level was set at 10,000. In Canada, a January 2016 poll by the federal Immigration Department found 53 per cent of Canadians agreed with the Liberal government resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees.