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Todd Whitcombe: Populism only works if people buy the snake oil

The Conservatory Party of Canada elected a Trump-lite in Pierre Poilievre.
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Pierre Poilievre

Populism is a political movement in which leaders and elected officials try to drive a wedge between the common folk and the elites. It is a broad-based appeal to the masses by the very elites it rails against.

A populist leader takes the approach that they are just “one of us trying to find a way in the world” but fail to mention they are living off of taxpayer’s money with a healthy expense account and benefit package. They like to say they will make things better but golly gee willikers, the timing isn’t right or the opposition won’t let them or some other excuse.

A classic example is Trump who promised to fix the United States’ health care system for four years and did nothing. With him, it was always “I can fix this in two weeks” but, sure enough, he never mentioned when those two weeks would be.

The Conservatory Party of Canada elected a Trump-lite in Pierre Poilievre. He doesn’t have quite the same clout as Trump because we have a Parliamentary system of government in which he is just one member. But it won’t be from lack of trying.

He has promised to fight increases in taxes. His argument goes something like: “Why should you have to pay for the debt you have accumulated? After all, it was the government that spent the money.” But, at the same time, he is telling us that we are the government. The politicians work for us. That would make us the boss and responsible for the actions of our employees, wouldn’t it? It is our debt.

The governing Liberal Party made the choice with the full knowledge and assistance of the opposition parties to keep the economy going during the pandemic by injecting a massive amount of money into the system. Unlike Mr. Poilievre’s Conservative Party during the 2008 financial meltdown which handed money to corporations hand-over-fist and massively increased our debt, the Liberals were supporting individuals – the common folk.

Populism only works if voters swallow the Kool-Aid and believe the rhetoric. Mr. Poilievre is going to spend the next couple of years spinning tall tales in the hopes that enough of the electorate believes the snake oil he is selling. Hopefully they won’t.

Todd Whitcombe is a chemistry professor at UNBC.