Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are fresh in the memories of Western citizens while much of continental Europe deals with similar surges in populist sentiment. Sitting cozy just north of the land taken by storm in November is Canada, where politics is still dominated by conventional political forces. Prime Minister Trudeau has been rather quick to take credit for the state of peace in which Canada resides, stating that we are “subject to the same tensions and forces” in reference to populist-led events elsewhere in the world. This simply isn’t the case. Key factors responsible for Brexit and the Trump election are absent for reasons that have been beyond the control of our current Prime Minister.
Both Nigel Farage (the key figure responsible for Brexit) and Donald Trump spent much of their campaign focusing on the immigration systems of their respective nations. As a member of the European Union, Britain is unable to restrict the movement of migrants from other EU nations while the southern border of the United States is notoriously porous. In stark contrast, Canada has secure borders by virtue of its geographical position and an immigration system that actively attempts to filter for the skills that our nation desires.
A sense of insecurity can arise in nations when the quantity and quality of immigration is uncontrollable. According to polls by IPSOS MORI, on average, Britons and Americans vastly overestimate the population of immigrants by almost double for the former and close to 150% for the latter. This shows that the average citizen in these nations is rather ignorant of actual immigration statistics. It is however likely that they would know about the porous nature of their immigration systems given how this concept has been consistently emphasized in numerous political speeches during the lead up to Brexit and the American Presidential Elections of 2016. The net result is increased support for populist movements as a consequence of biased information. Canada simply lacks any such problem in regards to uncontrolled immigration, making it less likely that such political forces gain traction.
Another key aspect of the aforementioned political movements was an emphasis on wage growth for the working class. Brexit leader Nigel Farage frequently attributed suppression of wages to the mass open-door immigration caused by EU membership while the Trump campaign frequently promised to bring well-paid manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
Dissatisfaction with income inequality is justified in these two nations. The United Kingdom has seen median wages fall consistently from 2008 to 2014 while Americans are still struggling to reach real median income levels achieved in 1999. Canada on the other hand has never seen such drastic decreases in income during the 21st century with real median wages growing steadily for the most part. The economic system hasn’t been working for Britons and Americans, making them more susceptible to platforms that promise radical change while Canadians have fared much better. The force of stagnating incomes is relatively benign in Canada.
No, Mr. Trudeau, the forces behind Brexit and Donald Trump aren’t at play to any similar degree in Canada. We’re rather cozy here in the North, as odd as that sounds this time of the year.