How to Write About Populism in Canada

Greetings Canadian journalists!

As you know, there’s currently a thing called “populism” happening all around the world. This is a fad in which poor people elect little Hitlers to power. I mean, it’s so far only actually happened in the context of Donald Trump (boo!) getting elected in the U.S., but there’s also that Brexit vote thing in the U.K., and that counts too for some reason. I know the iron rule of journalism is that you need three examples before you can claim a trend, so in a pinch just refer vaguely to “recent events in Europe” and that should cover it.

So anyway, having established that the world is in the midst of a populist tidal wave, the important question to ask is why it hasn’t hit Canada. The obvious answer, of course, is that Canada is just better than everywhere else, but you’re not allowed to say that openly if you’re a serious journalist. That’s for columnists like Doug Saunders or John Ibbitson or John Ivision (those are two different guys, right?).

Writing a good populism story in Canada is thus all about reaching the Canada Is Just Better conclusion without making it overtly obvious that’s where you’re heading. Or at least not obvious in the first paragraph. The way you do this is by noting that while Canada has some populist-like things happening, they are all really stupid and dumb and unpopular and meaningless and should be ignored. Because Canada Is Just Better.

What follows is a checklist of points you’ll want to hit:

☐ Find some polling data that suggests Canadians are racist, with “racist” defined as “expressing any reservations about immigration in any way.” Since no one you know has opinions like these, be sure to describe the polls as “surprising.” This will have the added benefit of informing common people that their very common opinions shock people better than them (i.e., journalists), which might help shame them into not thinking that way anymore.

☐ Mention Kellie Leitch. This is absolutely vital. She should be framed as the villain of the piece, which you can do by liberally sprinkling the adjective “Trump-like” around any mention of her name. DO mention how her immigrant “values test” has introduced a “populist element” to the Tory leadership race, but DO NOT mention how her lukewarm reception as a candidate could possibly have anything to do with her perceived inauthenticity on the issue or general dislikability. Kellie Leitch is the beginning and end of populism’s political manifestation in Canada. It will sink or swim on her and her alone.

☐ Mention Kevin O’Leary only to note how despite his own “Trump-like” shtick, he actually loves immigration and is thus not worth cramming into this narrative.

☐ Note that Jason Kenney caused the Conservatives to win the 2011 election with his non-racist magic. Everyone knows that in 2011 all the ethnics voted Conservative. Don’t worry about citing any hard evidence to support this, this is just one of those things everyone knows.

☐ Follow up by noting that in 2015, the Conservatives lost because racism. Again, everyone knows this happened, so don’t kill yourself trying to scrape up an exit poll or something. Just talk airily about “niqabs” and insert a line like “alienated their former base” somewhere.

☐ Find some non-threatening Conservative elder statesman to go on the record agreeing with you. Tom Flanagan always answers his phone, so he’s a good bet. So is Preston Manning. Conservative people hang on his every word, right? How the hell should I know? I don’t have conservative friends. Get off my case!

With all that rock-solid evidence out of the way, feel free to spend the rest of your word count making various freeform assertions about what a great multicultural utopia Canada is, and how much Justin Trudeau warmed the heart of the world with all his Syrian refugees. Take it for granted that because Canada has been getting more diverse in recent decades this means Canadians explicitly wanted that to happen. This is called “circular reasoning” and is considered a very strong style of argument.

Close with a line that sounds kinda cautious, but also kinda not. Maybe like, “and though it would be naive to think Canada is immune to the global populist wave, never forget that Canada is also just way better than other places.”

Bon appétit! It should taste familiar.


  1. Guest

    Hey JJ – was it a particular article that triggered this, or just the tenor in the media generally?
    If it was a particular one (or more) – care to post the link?
    Thanks for the entertainment

  2. Bruce Waynes Hat

    You will have to update this next year when Wilders and Le Pen are in power….. and Merkel isnt.

  3. klockor kopior

    You will have to update this next year when Wilders and Le Pen are in power….. and Merkel isnt.

  4. Ofay Cat

    Canada has become a ship of fools. Under the liberals we are on our way down. Suckers is only the beginning.

  5. Ofay Cat

    One more thing .. people inherently love to be free whether they realize it or not. They also like own stuff. They also like prosperity. None of that is part of liberalism. Populism is here for a reason. We have had enough of YOU!

  6. Vuil Uil

    As they used to say years ago: Right On!

  7. PD Stevenson

    To me Ford was a product of exactly the same forces as Brexit and Trump: people who are sick and tired of being told what they think and astounded that the modern media is a full-blown supporter of government control of everything.

  8. Run 2

    Thanks for publishing such useful information.

  9. Tom

    So, you begin your post for shaming him for his concerns? Wow, you really get it.

  10. bharat matrimony

    The Edelman report calls attention to 52% of Canadians are worried about movement. Different reviews yield comparative outcomes.

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