The rise of the Canadian populism


With the Doug Ford’s victory in Ontario, the possibility that François Legault winning the next general election in Quebec, and the very right-wing positions of federal Conservatives leading by Andrew Scheer (a pro-christian and pro-choice advocate), Canada – at every level of governance – seems moving to populism. If the comparison of those political leaders with Donald Trump is tempting, this article postulates this populism is a local adaptation of a new conservatism’s world tendency.

Columnists are often traped by political discourses. In discourses, the French President  Emmanuel Macron pretends to be a liberal, a world citizen. Nevertheless, his recent immigration bill was voted with the far-right support, condamned as the most coercitive immigration law of French Republic history by academics, NGOs and refugees activists. This example tries to explain there is a gap between political discourses and political actions, not because « all politiciens are liars », neither political discourses are related to ideology whereas political actions depended of power experiment. This gap is the consequence of a simple but efficient catch-all communication strategy in which a political leader presents himself/herself with manifold faces. In fact, the French President doesn’t pretend be something, but – depending of few buzz words and a little bit of marketing – ideological and sociological biases of columnists rewrite his discourses as liberal ones, while other people listen it differently.

Thus, Politics is a question of interpretation : every part of population find in a single discourse its own moto.

Populism is not an ideology, but a political practice which constits to grow the gap between range of interpretations. Populists don’t speak to the people as whole or to a specific group of individuals, but speak about the people as whole for the exclusive benefit of a specific group of individuals. In other words, populism tries to monopolize the concept of « people » by reducing it in very few aspects depending of the specific group of individuals. Among them, some are parts of the system or elites. However, not sure that critique of the system and elites of Donald Trump, Doug Ford or François Legault targets capitalism or social hierarchies, but social-democracy and intellectual elites.  That’s the reason why every anti-system or anti-elite discourses are not populist, but populism is necessarly anti-system or anti-elite.

There are many common characteristics between Donald Trump, Doug Ford and François Legault : same profile, same style, same discourses about economics, political institutions, immigration, etc. Nevertheless, Canadian populist leaders adapt their political perspectives in a Canadian context of equal society, a society less violent than US, a society without racial conflicts. Immigration, identity of the majoritarian group and the Canadian social modele are serious and controversial stakes, but – once again – they are not so conflictual. Even Canadian populists are agreed of a minimum social protection or the necessity of immigrants for Canada economy. Obviously, their vision of society is rooted to conservative tradition, with sometimes a certain indulgence for far-right orientations.

In brief, Canadian populism is an evolution of Canadian conservatism. In my opinion, it reflects a new elective strategy rather than an ideological change. That’s the reason why not Doug Ford nor François Legault are outsiders like Trump, but insiders.


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