Northern Populism: Causes and Consequences of the New Ordered Outlook

October 27, 2020

In Brief

Canada has not been left untouched by a new authoritarian, or ordered, populism that has seen the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union.

Based on measurements of public opinion and other means developed to assess the phenomenon, this paper finds that populism in Canada is a significant political force, replacing the traditional left-right political spectrum. Not only has northern populism created a heightened partisan polarization in Canada, but it also proved to be a strong predictor of the outcome of the 2019 federal election.

The authors’ research shows that 34 per cent of Canadians maintain a populist outlook. Older, less-educated, working-class Canadians are the most likely to sympathize with ordered populism, and it is more prevalent in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is also more closely aligned with Canadians whose political sympathies lie with conservative political parties.

A number of factors have contributed to the rise of ordered populism. These include economic stagnation, the growing disparity between the wealthy and the middle and working classes, a sense that society is headed in the wrong direction and a backlash against the loss of traditional core values.

Ordered populism rests on the belief in a corrupt elite, and the idea that power needs to be wrested from this elite and returned to the people. Oriented toward authoritarianism, ordered populism emphasizes obedience, hostility toward outgroups, a desire to turn back the clock to a time of greater order in society, and a search for a strongman type to lead the return to a better time.

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