The poisonous potential of populism.

There is little new about populism in North America. Whether on the left, right or centre of the political spectrum is not the concern but whether society can constrain it is the critical question.

Canada only came into its own after the Second World War and the first major populists from that point were prime minister John G, Diefenbaker and new democratic party leader Tommy Douglas. Both came out of Saskatchewan and both were benign. Douglas, the socialist premier and Diefenbaker, the conservative firebrand from Prince Albert.

Despite their intense rhetoric, both stuck to the truth as they saw it. Both served the people. Neither needed the hyperbole of obvious lies to make their point.

Fast forward to 2015 and another populist caught North America off guard. Donald Trump confounded the pundits and the politicos. This was the television-trained pitchman, a bigot, a bully, a liar and a misogynist who revelled in the reaction to his claims of President Obama not being born in America. He reached his notoriety high by default, becoming the Republican candidate for president. He shared his surprise when the failures of the American Electoral College system won him the presidency. He was leader of a badly divided nation. He had only his rhetoric to blame.

Ill-advised, ill-equipped and confused, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

Canadians looked south of the border and said “Only in America.” They should have looked around.

Canadians had their local populist politicians in the Trump mould. None as dangerous as Ontario’s Doug Ford Junior. Doug Ford saw the soft underbelly of conservative politics in his father—in the Ontario legislature. He saw the impacts of the bombast of his younger brother—the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. He saw the strength of the bumper sticker slogans of Donald Trump in Washington.

It was this mix that he took into the sudden opportunity to tackle the leadership of Ontario’s conservatives. It has been a roller-coaster ride since then as Dougie confused his enemies—as he has no friends. His strengths are in the users who profit from chaos. His future is tenuous.

Like Trump, Dougie yearns for the world stage. He enviously eyes the trappings of a prime minister in Ottawa. He has more wells to poison.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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