Could a right wing, populist movement sweep to power in Canada? Is there a threat to progressive, social legislation supported by parties and leaders across our political spectrum?
The answers, as evidenced by United States president-elect Donald Trump, are yes on all counts. We don’t have far to look.
The Conservative leadership campaign of Kellie Leitch has seized upon elements that propelled Trump to power. She favours screening immigrants to ensure they subscribe to so-called Canadian values. Other leadership candidates have criticized her for that, but it’s worth remembering that many prominent Republican candidates and officials distanced themselves from Trump’s public utterances as well.
Before we disregard Leitch’s suggestion, one poll found that 67 per cent of Canadians agree with her. Another poll found that 70 per cent of Canadians disapproved of Trump’s victory, yet the same survey found that 77 per cent of Canadians would consider voting for a candidate who supports tighter immigration, restricts free trade and backs tough-on-crime measures.
It makes you stop and think that, perhaps not far below the surface of our gentler, more rational Canada, there may lurk elements of anger and distrust. Just look are the emergence of Ford Nation in recent years, which propelled Rob Ford to the mayor’s seat in Toronto.
Of course, polls might be taken with an added grain of salt now after some were well off base in forecasting the U.S. election outcome.
The truth is, Trump played upon basic fears and prejudices in a way that made him popular. He didn’t scare off voters — he attracted them. And he won.
So, yes, there is a warning here for Canada. We like to pat ourselves on the back for being inclusive, caring, welcoming to immigrants, respectful of women’s right to choose, generous to the less fortunate and boasting a secure medicare plan.
But we should be looking for signs of discontent and discord. We should be ensuring that no one is left behind or excluded from the national debate. Instead of taking things for granted, Canadians have to work harder at being more inclusive, to listen to those who feel left out and to address the ills in our society.
We have always considered ourselves a compassionate and caring nation. We have largely been able to live peacefully and not allow our differences to divide us.
We have differed with the U.S. over the years on many issues — Vietnam, Cuba, Iraq, pipelines, social issues and trade. We can disagree with Trump, too, but we can’t dismiss him. We certainly can’t afford to ignore the issues he raises.