Could Trump Happen Here?

A KPU professor thinks that it’s possible, and so do other Canadians

KPU Criminology instructor Jeffrey Shantz. (Braden Klassen)

KPU criminology instructor Dr. Jeff Shantz recently published an article on Rabble, an online progressive magazine, concerning the possibility of a Trump-like figure ascending to power in Canada.

In the article, Shantz describes the presence of two Canadas: the superficial Canada which celebrates its multiculturalism, and the “other” Canada, which has had a long history of racism towards Indigenous people and non-white immigrants. It is the presence of this darker Canada that may lead to Trumpism here, Shantz suggests.

A recent study conducted by the Canadian Press and EKOS Research appears to support Shantz’s views. The study was conducted in cities throughout Canada and covered more than 12,000 Canadians, plotting them on a political spectrum from open to ordered.

Those classified as open were “more likely to feel positive about their economic future and class mobility, and also have a better sense of Canada’s ethnic and cultural makeup.” In contrast, those classified as ordered were “more likely to say they’re falling backwards in social class and don’t think things are getting better. They also tended to believe too many immigrants to Canada aren’t white.”

In general, the poll found that half of respondents had ordered or middling views, proving that worldviews similar to those held by Trump supporters exist here.

The occurrence of widespread Trumpism or a Trump-style nationalism in Canada is indeed a possibility, and some might argue that it has already occurred. The rise of neo-fascist groups such as the “Soldiers of Odin” serve as visible examples of Canadian xenophobia which have most likely become emboldened by Trump’s rise to power.

Some critics have compared the now-deceased Toronto mayor Rob Ford with Donald Trump, as the two share several similar traits. Like Trump, Ford was also known to deflect his political failures onto the media and was caught in several instances telling half-truths or outright lies to the public. What fuelled both Trump and Ford was their populist approach to politics; they both had the ability to tap into the feelings of the common people and turn them against the ruling elite.

Ford, however, was only a mayor and did not wield the same level of power or national influence as Trump does. Shantz surmises that the possibility of a Trump-like Canadian Prime Minister coming to power, while possible, is unlikely for several reasons.

For one, the Canadian population is more diverse—in Vancouver, 75 per cent of people are foreign-born or first generation. In Toronto, that number is about 80 per cent. As well, more Canadians than Americans attend public education, which allows for greater social mobility. Shantz describes the bottom forty or sixty per cent of the population in the U.S. as living in a “Darwinistic universe.” They are locked into their class with no real opportunity to move up, and so they voted for Trump as a way of changing or rebelling against the current system.

Shantz acknowledges that many Canadians are rightfully worried about the possibility of a far-right, populist leader being swept into government. Fortunately, though nationalism has risen in the last few years, both at home and abroad, Prime Minister Trump is still, for now, a bad dream.


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