Populism in Canada

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Populism in Canada involves the phenomenon of populist political ideology in Canada. Populism has been a particularly strong phenomenon in Western Canada and in Quebec as promoted by the provincial Social Credit parties in the West and in Quebec and by the Social Credit Party of Canada and by the Reform Party of Canada. John Richards (1981) sees elements of populism in the following political movements:[1]

According to Panizza, Quebecois populism is largely intertwined in Quebec nationalism and thus has to be examined with its own ideological and linguistic dynamics taken into consideration.[2]

19th century[edit]

Anti-establishment populist politics became an important political force in 19th century Ontario amongst rural and working class political activists who were influenced by American populist radicals.[3] Populism also became an important political force in Western Canada by the 1880s and 1890s.[3] Populism was particularly strong in the form of farmer-labour coalition politics in the late 19th century.[4]

20th century[edit]

Multiple important populist political movements were formed throughout Canada in the 20th century. Western Canada and the Canadian Prairies in particular were the source of origin of a number of Canada's populist movements in the 20th century.

The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) and United Farmers of Saskatchewan (UFS) were formed by Prairie farmers that rejected party-dominated parliamentary representation advocated a quasi-syndicalist system of functional representation in a delegate democracy.[5] The UFA governed the province of Alberta from 1921 to 1935.[5]

The Social Credit Party of Alberta led by William Aberhart promoted the principles of social credit economics alongside a right-wing populist agenda and the party governed Alberta from 1935 to 1971.[6] By the late 1930s with social credit financial reforms being unable to be carried out at the provincial level, Aberhart refocused the Alberta Social Credit party to attacking social welfare programs and state socialism.[7] Ernest Manning took over the Alberta Social Credit party and office of Premier of Alberta from Aberhart and led the Alberta Social Credit party along a right-wing populist agenda that criticized both the social welfare programs and centralizing tendencies of the federal government of Canada.[7]

The Reform Party of Canada was a right-wing populist party that existed from 1987 to 2000.[8] It was formed and led by Preston Manning, the son of former Social Credit Alberta Premier Ernest Manning.[8] It was originally a Western Canadian protest party that captured the support of right-wing Western Canadians who were disillusioned with the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and in particular its preference for resolving the grievances of Quebec over the West.[8] It also drew support of right-wing conservative Canadians who were dismayed by the Progressive Conservatives' inability to deliver their promised tax cuts and spending cuts.[8] In 1993, the Reform Party made a political breakthrough in electing large numbers of members of parliament.[8]

21st Century[edit]

The federal political party, People's Party of Canada has been described as populist. Its leader Maxime Bernier refers to it as "smart populism" which is advocating for based on principles of freedom, responsibility, fairness, and respect, that speak for "all Canadians" and which do not appease special interest groups. [9]



  1. ^ Conway, John F. "The Nature of Populism: A Clarification". Review. Sage publications. VI. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  2. ^ Panizza p. 174]
  3. ^ a b Panizza, p. 174
  4. ^ Panizza, p. 175
  5. ^ a b Panizza, p. 176
  6. ^ Panizza, pp. 176–177
  7. ^ a b Panizza, p. 177
  8. ^ a b c d e Panizza, p. 178
  9. ^ The Canadian Press, Maxime Bernier says his new party offers ‘smart populism’, retrieved 2018-12-06