From award-winning author Michael Adams, Could It Happen Here? draws on groundbreaking new social research to show whether Canadian society is at risk of the populist forces afflicting other parts of the world.
Americans elected Donald Trump. Britons opted to leave the European Union. Far-right, populist politicians channeling anger at out-of-touch “elites” are gaining ground across Europe. In vote after shocking vote, citizens of Western democracies have pushed their anger to the top of their governments’ political agendas. The votes have varied in their particulars, but their unifying feature has been rejection of moderation, incrementalism, and the status quo.
Amid this roiling international scene, Canada appears placid, at least on the surface. As other societies retrench, the international media have taken notice of Canada’s welcome of Syrian refugees, its half-female federal cabinet, and its acceptance of climate science and mixed efforts to limit its emissions. After a year in power, the centrist federal government continues to enjoy majority approval, suggesting an electorate not as bitterly split as the ones to the south or in Europe.
As sceptics point out, however, Brexit and a Trump presidency were unthinkable until they happened. Could it be that Canada is not immune to the same forces of populism, social fracture, and backlash that have afflicted other parts of the world? Our largest and most cosmopolitan city elected Rob Ford. Conservative Party leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch proposes a Canadian values test for immigrants and has called the Trump victory “exciting.” Anti-tax demonstrators in Alberta chanted “lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, an elected leader accused of no wrongdoing, only policy positions the protesters disliked.
Pollster and social values researcher Michael Adams takes Canadians into the examining room to see whether we are at risk of coming down with the malaise affecting other Western democracies. Drawing on major social values surveys of Canadians and Americans in 2016—as well as decades of tracking data in both countries—Adams examines our economy, institutions, and demographics to answer the question: could it happen here?
Michael Adams is the founding president of the Environics group of research and communications consulting companies, and the author of six books on public attitudes and social values in Canada and the United States. He is a respected commentator on public affairs and the founder of the Environics Institute, a nonprofit organization that works collaboratively to conduct relevant and original research on issues of public importance in Canada. His most popular book to date, Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, won the Donner Prize for best book on Canadian public policy in 2004 and was named by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 100 most important books ever published in Canada.
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