What future for populism in Canada?

The growth in votes received by Maxime Bernier’s Canadian People’s Party in the recent federal election surprised many. But how do we explain that? And what does it portend? duty I spoke with Catherine Villeneuve Ciconelli, a doctoral student in political science at Laval University, whose research focuses on populism in the country. Interview by Isabel Porter.

The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) received 5% of the vote in the last election, compared to 1.6% in the previous election. Will this growth continue?

It is still necessary to have several elections to see if this is a flash in general or if this trend is permanent. It must be said that this is not the first time a populist party has entered Canadian politics. There have been other examples in the past, such as Social Credit, the Commonwealth Co-operative (FCC) and the Reform Party. On the other hand, it is rare for parties of this kind to last long: either they are replaced by other parties, or they collapse.

In addition, we can certainly be surprised by the percentage of votes collected by the PPC in Canada, but the fact remains that Maxime Bernier was not elected in his constituency: this shows that there is still hesitation towards the most extreme place. Concerts.

What did the recent federal campaign tell us about populism in Canada?

We are used to seeing the form it has taken anywhere else in the world. But here, we can see how it can be expressed in our context.

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Maxime Bernier’s speech, for example, was very revealing and contained many characteristics of populism. He was addressing “real people,” people who don’t feel represented. He often oversimplified topics, targeting scapegoats (such as economic elites), and talking about unsustainable migration. He describes himself as the only real alternative in Canada and thus claims a monopoly on representation of the “real world”.

Could this be considered a prelude to what happened with Donald Trump in the United States?

I wouldn’t be prepared to say this because, again, while PPC has found a niche for an epidemic, most people don’t take it seriously. In the context of the far right, it is very rare for the winner in Canada or Quebec to be on the electoral plan.

You talk about the “alt-right”, but can we really Calling PPC an extreme party straight?

It is always difficult to compare the far right from one country to another, because the right in Quebec and Canada is not at all the same in France or the United States. From another country’s point of view, the right here might look near the center. So it’s hard to say PPC is on the far right, but it’s clearly on the right more than the others. This can be seen in relation to institutions in general, but also in relation to health measures in particular.

How do we explain that the party is more successful in the countryside?

Rural areas are generally more conservative than urban areas. People often feel isolated and underrepresented.

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Does this movement need a pandemic to progress?

These movements have been around for a long time, but they have always needed a share to strengthen themselves, whether it is immigration or globalization…

Can we draw parallels between PPC and Eric Duhaime’s Conservative Party of Quebec?

As part of the pandemic, both have tended to attack institutions, elites, checks and balances (such as the media) and intellectuals. But here, there is a paradox because, like many populists, they reject the elites, but they come from this world: Bernier’s political elite; Dhimi’s media elite.

In addition, they both oversimplify the risks to rally as many people as possible. Finally, both have a rapidly growing membership base at a time when the membership base of the major parties is declining. Both say they represent the “real world”.

What does this send as a signal to other political parties?

Ironically, this testifies to the vitality of democracy, because we question so many things, and it makes it possible to mobilize people who would not otherwise be mobilized. On the other hand, there are a lot of drifting risks.

What do you expect in This context for the Quebec elections 2022?

We will have to watch how the other parties behave with Eric Dohemy’s conservative party. They will still have to listen to it, because if the party and its members are discriminated against by the political class and lose their credibility, it risks strengthening their sense of legitimacy and their raison d’être.

Even if we do not agree with them, we should still listen to them and not humiliate them. Because doing otherwise can give more resonance to an option like this.

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