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.

Sweeper: Mirror Mirror

Our discussion this week was not very fruitful as our group went off the rails due to a lack of reading. Our discussion became a heated debate regarding race and white privilege, a topic that has modern relevance but was not the focus of Lewis’ novel. From my own reading of It Can’t Happen Here, what I found interesting was the relevance the novel has to tactics used by politicians today. President Windrip in his novel seems fictional upon first glance. As you read, however, and ‘hear’ him speak you can almost believe the promises he makes. Like Trump, Hitler, and other politicians (not necessarily just the ‘evil’ ones too) there always seems to be an appeal to ‘traditional’ values. American, German, even Canadian nationalism is a tactic often exploited. Lewis’ understanding of the use of national pride was his key point to make on how dictatorships can arise.

It was discussed how this novel appealed to academics and uses language that is borderline satirical. While I agree that it was designed for a more high-brow audience, I believe that Lewis wrote it with the intention of anybody being able to pick it up and put yourself in Jessup’s position. Like the novel/TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that these sort of things could emerge. While academics dissect novels, the everyday reader digests them and will ultimately make comparisons between the book and their own lives. I believe that Lewis knew the different ways his book could be read and designed it to have multiple purposes.

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