Vital Signs

Canadian Populism: Alive and Well

"October Revolution" is probably an apt description of Canada's 1993 parliamentary elections, as the month marked the enthronement of a left-oriented political establishment and the ejection of the ruling Conservatives. The Liberal Party's sweep to an absolute majority meant the relegation of the Tory Progressive Conservative Party to virtual extinction (it now holds only two parliamentary seats). Also noteworthy was the emergence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, although its overall vote total was only 12 percent. While given scant attention in the American media, the remarkable second-place finish of the Reform Party, with an impressive 19 percent slice of the electorate, calls for a closer look at what is brewing in our continental backyard.

Founded a mere five years ago, the Reform Party (in this—its second—national election) has grown from one to 52 seats, coming within a hair's breadth of being named the formal opposition, a position now occupied by the Bloc Québécois with its 53 scats. The winds of middle-class anger that swept from Canada's western provinces embody a rejection of establishment political elites on both the right and the left. Specifically, the Reform Party is heir to a lost sense of Canadian radical conservativism, more accurately described as an anti-big government populism seeking to restore a cultural identity to Canada's middle class. Based...

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