Can it Happen in Ontario?


As of late populist leaders have been making waves across the world, from the election of Donald Trump to the electoral success of the Five Star Movement in Italy.  With the recent catastrophe of a party leadership race, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives elected Doug Ford as party leader.  The new leader now has around three months to convince voters in Ontario that he is the replacement for Kathleen Wynne.

Upon Doug Fords winning of the party leadership one cannot help to think that this a new Donald Trump north of the American border.  Pundits were quick to classify the election as a Hillary-Donald situation or that Donald and Doug are one in the same.  Upon watching an interview with the Globe and Mail the resemblances can be seen, Doug had switched up his blue tie for a red one harkening a resemblance to the President.  However, Doug Ford should not be confused with Donald Trump as their brands of populism are quite different.

Donald Trump’s populism came from a nationalist and anti-immigration stand point.  The restriction of illegal immigrants and the construction of a border wall between the United States.  Doug Ford on the other hand needs the immigrant vote to win.  About 48% of Ontario’s population resides in the GTA and almost half of those people are immigrants.  There are also many immigrants in Whitby and Ajax.  Ford cannot use the rhetoric of other populist politicians that are against immigration, instead he will take on the plight of the everyman.

Doug Ford’s populism will take shape in his anti-political and anti-bureaucratic stances and in doing so will distinguish him from Wynne and Horwath as an everyday guy just trying to do his best.  In the slew of interviews that have taken place since his new PC leadership role these ideas come forth clearly.

His anti-establishment messages come through clearly in these interviews.  He has pledged to “clean out the rot” in the Ontario government.  In the interview with the Globe and Mail he classified politicians as phony and that the ways they act in public and behind closed doors is different.  Another one of his policy proposals is the shrinking of government, by simply not rehiring people who quit or retire, he says there are too many “supervisors”.  His call to be a regular man in the eyes of the voters he says, “I’m going to be Doug, I can’t change.  I’m just going to be the average person”.  Now this is a direct attempt to position himself as the regular person I believe it will come out in further talks.  His work at his label company will be used to assure voters that he is just like them, a taxpayer.

This is not the first time that Ontario has will have had a populist Premier.  Former liberal Premier from the 1930’s Mitch Hepburn is known for his outlandish populist acts.  Hepburn shared similar anti-government mentalities seen through the cutting of MPP’s salaries, the firing of 1500 civil service workers and the selling of the provinces limousines.  The firing of the civil service employee’s mirrors Ford’s comments on not hiring new people after civil service agents retire.

I believe that Doug Ford will be able to win a majority government come June.  Long-time Liberal voters are going have trouble deciding whether to vote for Kathleen Wynne again or the NDP.  Voters are tired of the spending of the Liberal party and Ford will take advantage of these sentiments to bring them over to the conservative vote.  Others who do not approve of Ford will be forced to choose the NDP.

Ontarians that are against Doug need to take a lesson from south of the border.  Many thought that Trump had no chance of winning, here in Ontario the polls suggest that there is a very strong possibility of seeing Ford in the Premier’s position.  Do not be fooled to think that “it can’t happen here”, because evidence would show that it is.

First Responder: Multicultural Europe?

The article “An expert on the European far right explains the growing influence of anti-immigrant politics” is a transcript from an interview with Cas Mudde an expert on the far right.  Cas describes the recent far right parties to be nativists, authoritarian and populist.  He uses the example of a Dutch migrant to France as being acceptable because they have a more European culture.  The far right parties are not to be confused with fascists.  He outlines the perfect storm, the refugee crisis, the terrorist attacks and the European crisis go together to fuel these movements.

The question the comes from reading this interview is can these parties be stopped.  Looking at the recent Italian election populism is roaring forward with the Five Star Movement party winning over 30% of the vote.  The parties will be in an issue until the public that votes for them becomes distrustful of them.

The article “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam” looks at the changing dynamics in Europe through an increased presence of Islam in the region.  It uses Turkey as an example of how Europeans view Muslims as others.  Discussions on Turkey joining the EU have spurred the debate on Islam and its effect on Europe, and how allowing Turkey to join the EU would cause Muslims to flood into Europe.  Western society views Turkey as a moderately Islamic country which makes the assumption that there is a violent Islam.  Allowing Turkey to join the EU would mean that Europeans would have to rethink their identity which is built around the idea that they are a modern society.  States outside the west and Europe are considered to be lacking in their modernity.

These two articles are linked in that they look at how European identity is being threatened.  The far right parties from the first article would be opposed to Turkey joining the EU because it disrupts their idea of a homogenous Europe.  It seems that these parties are fighting an uphill battle as Muslims are becoming more integrated into Europe even without Turkey’s EU membership.  Will far right parties ever accept the Muslim communities in Europe?  How are minds to be changed about Islam in Europe?

Italian Populism, Two Sides of the Same Coin

The upcoming Italian election features two populist leaders who became famous through the entertainment industry. The Five Star Movement, founded by actor and comedian Beppe Grillo, is poised to make a push in the upcoming Italian election.  The party is an alternative to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. He became a prominent figure in Italian politics by running on principles such as anti-corruption and elitism but has since contradicted them after spending time as Prime Minister.  The five Star movement now carries the message of anti-politics, anti-elites and anti-corruption that the voters want.  The comparisons that can be made about the groups are palpable, although FI and Silvio Berlusconi are now political professionals.

Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi are more similar than they want to believe, Berlusconi has changed but his political rise and populist origins are eerily familiar.  Both leaders had immense fame before entering into politics which helped them build an audience that could be converted into political followers.  Berlusconi got his start working on cruise ships telling jokes and singing and now owns Italy’s three largest private T.V. networks that he uses to spread his message.  Grillo, too, is a product of the entertainment industry – a comedian, satirist and impressionist who was a frequent face on Italian national T.V.  Both men also use video formats to communicate to their constituents, Berlusconi through his T.V. networks and Grillo through his YouTube channel.  The leaders held public spotlight before entering into politics making it easier for them to amass supporters.

Italy has a long history of embracing populist style leaders who used popular media to appeal to the common man.  Inoslav Besker characterizes the two leaders’ approach as ‘populism, anti-party attitudes, demonization of opponents and an approach to the public and to politics focused on the leader.  Silvio Berlusconi started as an anti-politician and has described the politicians in Italy as to have never ‘worked’ a day in their life.  Unlike them Berlusconi has worked for his status and is thus shows himself as a worthy leader.  Grillo also despises the political class and refers to politicians as ‘zombies’ and ‘corpses’.  He would have one believe that he is not a politician and that his FSM isn’t even a political party.  They also share the similar sentiment that the political system in Italy needs to be reformed.  Grillo proposes bans on candidates convicted of crimes and limiting terms in office.  Similarly, Berlusconi, positions himself as a business man who is not at all like the politicians and that proportional representation needs to be replaced with a majoritarian system with more emphasis on the role of the Prime Minister.

Despite these anti-political origins, something changed once Berlusconi took power.  He became the very elite that he campaigned against causing him and his coalition to lose the favour of the public.  Berlusconi used his time in office to create laws that protected his own business interests instead of promoting the small business entrepreneurship of which was his platform.   The once anti-political populist who emphasised how corrupt the politicians and elites were became the embodiment of what he once despised.  By embracing the throngs of political leadership, he contradicted his original message and alienated his followers.  He created a political vacuum that afforded the opportunity for a party to propose the same anti-political message except this time he is the politician.  The upcoming election provides the perfect backdrop for an inquisitive look into the state of Italian politics, with the Five Star Movement polling so high, do they offer something new or is it the similar story of using the populist message for personal gain.

The Five Star Movement winning 25% of the votes in the 2013 election showcases a wider issue in Italy, the public’s distrust of politicians causes them to elect anti-government populists.  A positive feedback loop is created when an anti-government party is elected, they become the government causing the need for more anti-politics parties.  The Five Star Movements success means that they will become serious politicians, contradicting their platform.  After winning the election with not much of a party structure, clear leadership roles have been created and the founder has stepped down being replaced by Luigi di Maio.  Beppe Grillo once said his party was not even a party, but one look at the Five Star Movement, you can see that is changing.

By: Riley Bowman

Improper Use of the Term ‘Populist”

The article’s main argument is centered around the misuse of populist terminology when describing popular grassroots organizing and movements.  Linda Gordon writes that ‘populism’ became a trendy word during the recent US election to describe Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns.  These referrals are damaging to the political landscape and emphasises that historians and media should be stricter when calling a person or group populist.

The argument is expanded upon by outlining the history and practices of the KKK, what she calls a true populist movement.  The KKK is characterized by all of the 13 elements that are displayed by populist groups such as, large size, mass mobilization, extreme nationalism, victimization and conspiracy theories.  For example, the Klan considered all white Anglo-Saxon protestant’s victims who have fallen to the Jews and Catholics.  The Jews, ran Hollywood and attempted to subvert women’s morality through their near naked depiction and the Catholics invaded the police, politics and schools.

Is the ‘alt-right’ filling the void that the KKK once occupied?  I believe they could fit in most of the 13 elements, but they seem less harmful.  They have mass participation which can be seen online and in the event in Charlottesville.  They are anti-immigration and angry and distrustful of elites.  A distrust of experts can also be seen in the ‘fake news’ campaigns.  The alt-right has also expressed disdain for the Jewish community following the fashion of the KKK.  One of the leaders, Richard Spencer is a proponent for a Jewish free white only North America.

Does the alt-right wield the same power as the KKK once did? Does the alt-right lack central leadership that diminishes the cohesion needed to wield such power?  Can they evolve to be as recognisable as the KKK?  How has the Trump era influenced groups like the KKK and the alt-right?

Riley Bowman

The Middle Ages in the 20/21st Century Response

The introduction from the textbook From Populism to fascism in History provides an insight into the history of populism and fascism and where the terms come from.  One of the arguments that intrigued me most was how people from the media to pundits and to politicians misuse the terms when labeling politicians, they do not agree with.  The reading proposes that they do not know the historical context of these words which provides a danger in throwing them around when describing a right-wing politician whose ideological stripe does not align with them.  One can find many blogs and articles that describe former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a fascist.  This hyperbole used to describe a democratically elected politician is damaging because it likens him to real fascists such as Mussolini and Hitler.  When describing moderate politicians as fascist one downplays the actual atrocities that are committed under ultraviolent regimes. Do pundits really believe far-right politicians are fascists or do they use the terminology for shock and awe to improve their audience base?


The reading from Amy Kaufman titled The Birth of a National Disgrace: Medievalism and the KKK discusses how the myth of medieval times that was constructed of a white male patriarchy affirms the roots of the ideology of the KKK and other white nationalist movements.   The myth of medieval chivalry is nothing but a form of blinders similar to those used by race forces to enforce the ideas of weak minded individuals to justify their actions.  If the white-nationalists would take a step back from their narrative of protecting white virtue they would realize how far behind their rationales are.  These people are trying to turn their America into a utopian Camelot by closing their minds to what is going on around them and not realizing that they are on the wrong side of the coin.  The movement of white nationalism reared its head during the Trump campaign but does it have the strength to continue on to 2020?

Riley Bowman



Hello everyone, my name in Riley Bowman and I am a third-year Political Science student with a focus on International Relations.  I chose international relations because as the world moves into the future domestic politics start to take a back seat to the far reaching international treaties, coalitions like the EU and trade agreements.  Current events that spark my interest are Canada’s cross border relations with the United States and the sudden world obsession with cryptocurrencies.

I originally took this course because it was call “selected topic in polisci” so I thought it would cover a wide variety of topics that dominate the current political landscape.  When I learned it would be covering populism in history I was intrigued because of the rise of far-right parties across the globe and the alt-right in America.  I hope to learn how these parties and movements became prominent and the rise of the fascist governments of the first half of the 20th century was facilitated.

I look forward to providing analysis of the readings assigned for the course as well as reading everyone else’s and responding.  As a person, I love to consume content of all kinds whether through books, TV, movies, music, podcasts, and news.