Fanning or dousing the flames of populism

Populism – the scourge of the times. Or so we’re told. Brexit, Donald Trump, Le Pen, Dutch elections, German elections … the list of causes and victims is long and growing exponentially.

Chris Selley of the National Post has written an excellent article on the topic of populism in Canada and how it is being dealt with by the media and the elites.

In it, he cites the example of Kellie Leitch, a contender for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, and her commitment to having all new immigrants tested for “Canadian values”.

Personally, I don’t see the fascination with Leitch. She is a socially and emotionally inept individual who seems to travel with a tremendous baggage of personal and mental issues.

While it is true that Canada and Canadians have specific values, because we are not without a culture and civilization of our own, unlike what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes, it boggles the mind to think how such values could be tested in a reliable manner.

Any newcomer to Canada who has something to hide will likely be able to fool the interviewer. At the same time, someone with nothing to hide may be disqualified because he felt or acted awkward during the interview and therefore has his case dismissed.

No, this cannot be the way forward, no matter how opposed one may be to immigration.

But, as Selley explains, the constant shouting and accusations that Leitch is the Donald Incarnate for voicing the opinions that she does do not help and actually encourage populists. He thinks that the elites and the media are merely tossing ever more kerosene on the flames ignited by Leitch and others like her.

The result we now have, according to Selley, is that a highly representative poll (that is, a poll not done and doctored by Nanos) has just revealed that at least two-thirds of Canadians are now in agreement with Leitch where immigration and Canadian values are concerned.

In other words, the more the elites scream and shriek about Trump, Trumpism and populism, the more people are saying, “Well, just for that, I’ll throw my support behind this issue. Now more than ever!”

Apparently, people who are considered adults can act out of spite just like any regular spoilt brat.

But there is a bit more to this. It is not only spite that drives people towards populists, but, more importantly, the fact (and, yes, it is fact) that the elites and their media have stopped listening to people’s genuine concerns.

Canadians are very open to immigrants, but there are limits – limits that have been sorely tested in recent times. One only needs to look at the niqab debate in Quebec, the intake of Syrian refugees and now the illegal border crossings of people who, by all rights, should not be considered refugees (because most of them have legal status in the U.S.), and it is plain to see why even open-minded Canadians feel that they have a reached a point where “enough is enough”.

Calling them Trumpists or worse won’t defuse the situation, nor will it change their minds. Quite the contrary is true: the more often decent people are accused of harbouring vile opinions, the more people will join them and close ranks.

If you want to make sure that someone like Trump does not win in Canada, or anywhere else, listening to people and taking their concerns and worries seriously is the only way forward. Steamrolling over them, the way the federal Liberal government does on virtually every topic, is wrong and, down the road, will come at a steep price to democracy.

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