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Could It Happen Here? Could It Happen Here Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit by Michael Adams is a book examining the rising trend of populist nationalism globally and applying it to Canada with the uestion is this possible in our country Adams examines statistical data mostly he works for a statistical polling firm in Canada to answer the uestion ultimately concluding possibly but it seems unlikely He comes to this conclusion by comparing data and trends in Canada to corresponding countries most especially the United States and Europe Adams takes a look at a number of factors in Canada from income ineuality to opinions on immigration levels patriarchal attitudes and so on in comparison to similar factors in other nations and comes to the conclusion that Canadians are often politically progressive on these factors than other nations Canada has visible minorities in Parliament than most other nations and Canadians are favourable to extending immigration uotas Canadian's are open to euality of the sexes and so on and so forth This contrasts to data from the US and Europe which has seen a decline in such progressive views as these nations grapple with issues of immigration economic stagnation terrorism and so forth Canada is certainly not immune to these issues racism exists here we have had recent terrorist attacks and mass shootings and our economy is always a concern but it seems something has happened that separates us politically and culturally from other Western nations The above seems exceptionalist and I agree largely that it is Adams is certainly offering a pat on the back for Canada I believe caution is in order when reading this book Although Canada is certainly doing uite well for itself currently and enjoys popularity globally this has not always been the case and will not always be the case Canada's special status so to speak may exist in some form but not fully in the way Adams is espousing here However I do largely agree with the statement Adams makes that Canada is moving in another direction from its historical partners the US and the UK Canadians are much progressive in their politics urbanized and our large landmass and low demographic growth rate ensures that immigration is popularly seen in a positive light An ageing population needs to be supported somehow and bringing in skilled and educated immigrants is certainly an economic consideration first with positive social and cultural externalities If this situation reverses would this progressiveness decline Probably but I hate playing guessing games Canada is as it is now and this has been a huge boon to the nation as a whole Adams also discusses the differences between US political culture and Canadian political culture something that is fairly obvious to even a cursory observer Canada shares similar ideological divides with the US right and left characterized by flag ship parties Canada differs however due to its inclusion of a centrist Liberal party and its political tradition of bringing politics and rhetoric to the centre The US is characterized by much partisan political traditions that date back hundreds of years and ensure certain issues like gun control immigration race and so on remain hot button topics to be exploited by politicians seeking to fire up support from their partisan supporters Canada is characterized by big tent politics our own form of populism in some respects where political parties often step outside of their perceived ideological zones due to popular pressure Many examples exist including the Conservative PM Joe Clark extending immigration rules to allow tens of thousands of refugees into the country during the Vietnam War in the 1970's to Tom Mulcair of the NDP party our left wing Socialist party running on a platform of fiscal restraint and budget balancing in 2015 to Rachel Notley's provincial NDP party both winning in the Conservative's bastion province of Alberta and supporting the growth of the pipeline sector in a dispute with neighbouring British Colombia This is Canadian populism at work and it means political parties often throw out ideological considerations in exchange for nuanced and centrist policy decisions to capture the most positive reception Adams has written an interesting book with some flaws both from its execution and its message The biggest glaring hole in the book is its over reliance on statistical date Although Canadians have a historic and politically charged love for Statistics Canada our government run statistical agency the over use of statistics is one of the major failings of recent political polling in both the Trump victory in the US and Brexit in the UK Stats are important but they are certainly not all encompassing and threaten to leave a resentful and silent group unheeded The second issue was the message and is opinionated I personally believe greater vigilance is necessary in Canada to ensure Nationalistic forces do not gain a greater foothold in our country The lessons learned in our close allies in the UK and the US need to be examined to ensure we can protect ourselves from any bleed over Canada can do this by being methodical in its politics we do this well by allowing talk and debate to take place in a safe and healthy environment free from poisonous rhetoric and hate We can do this by continuing to build a system welcoming to all comers and reducing ineuality in our economic system Canada has many simmering controversies that could boil over into increased Nationalistic support Some of these include Bilingualism uebec sovereignty Aboriginal rights increasing refugee incursions from over the US border terrorism in Canada and so on Many of these issues are similar to those in other Western nations but many of them are uniuely Canadian or have a Canadian geopolitical flavour What I am saying is we have our own problems and these problems will lead to discourse that needs to be managed respectfully by all parties involved to ensure the conclusions reached will be euitable respectful and peaceful This book has flaws but its does allow us to look around at other nations and see what we do not want in Canada and those lessons are important to learn Rants and raves aside I can certainly recommend this book to any reader interested in current Canadian political discourse It does have flaws but it also offers important and interesting discourse Adams has written a well researched sourced and authored book that is interesting timely and should be read by those interested in Canada's internal political process at a basic level The rhetorical uestion posed in the title has pretty much been answered in the two years since the book was published The election of Doug Ford who's not mentioned and Jason Kenney who is briefly along with the rejection of Justin Trudeau and his 'sunny ways' show Canada's just as susceptible to right wing populism as anywhere else It's not surprising the book has dated rapidly it's basically a collection of polls the author is a founder of the Environics polling company with accompanying analysis But to be fair Adam's has used the polls and analyses to usefully chart the rise of authoritarianism and intolerance globallyWhile noting that the backlash against globalization and rapid social change resonate with some Canadians he seems to argue that our inherent 'niceness' will save us He contrasts the growing intolerance of immigrants and immigration in the US and Europe with Canada's continued acceptance thus far History shows us however that for much of Canada's existence intolerance and xenophobia were the norm But Adam's convinced that Canadians will always find their way back to the centre that we've had our flings with polarizing populists but when the buzz wears off we always seem to muddle our way back to the middle It's a comforting thought but as noted recent and current events argue otherwise Anyway it's a uick read Mr Adams is a pollster This book demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of his chosen profession There is a lot of data provided here but I think it lacks a certain depth of analysisHaving said that there is something there I was particularly interested in his comments on patriarchal inclinations I will have a full review of this one in the very near future Michael Adams’ book Could It Happen Here focuses on the results of public opinion research and a variety of social and economic metrics in the attempt to determine whether a populist movement of the kind that swept Donald Trump into power could take root in Canada Ironically I started reading it during the Ontario election and found that I had to take a break as despite all of Adams’ citations of public opinion suggesting that Canadians are supportive of immigration government intervention social safety nets gender euality lower levels of income ineuity and all sorts of other nice sounding things the popularists under Doug Ford smirked and dog whistled their way to an electoral victory So even before I’d read to the end and knew Adams’ final assessment I had an answer to his uestion Yes it can and it did Writing in 2017 Adams was hopeful “Could Canadians suddenly find themselves seized by the rage fueled politics of exclusion and enthralled by a tough guy autocrat I suppose anything is possible But if we go beyond the fleeting politics of the day and look closely at those underlying values the answer becomes clear we’ve had our flings with polarizing populists but when the buzz wears off we always seem to muddle our way back to the middle”So the uestion for both Michael Adams and myself now is why if Canadians hold such eualiarian values comparatively speaking did it happen anywayI have to state here for those who don’t know this about me that not only do I know the author I used to work for him at the public opinion research company he founded Environics In fact I worked as a research analyst in the public opinion division and I’m very familiar with the kinds of research data he drew on how it’s collected analysed tracked interpreted While I’ve been retired for a while and haven’t had access to the most recent data I know where it comes from and the methods involved in conducting the research he draws on So my thoughts here are the thoughts of a former insider so to speak Of course one thing that both Adams and I would say and in fact he addresses this in the book is that the outcome of this election is very much a conseuence of the first past the post electoral system that is still used in most of Canada at the provincial level and in federal elections and our parliamentary system The truth is that only about a uarter of eligible voters favoured the Conservative platform and among those who actually voted 60 percent voted for candidates of other parties Which really gives us the answer as to how it happened conservative supporters were likely to vote than supporters of other parties and the anti populist vote was split between centre and left leaving the unified right to coast to a majority victory with minority support So in some ways the electoral results doesn’t completely invalidate the conclusions Adams draws from the research On most of the factors cited as differences between Canada and the US acceptance of immigrants trust in social and political institutions rejection of authoritarianism support for social euality the differences aren’t absolute While a majority of Canadians hold all these beliefs there’s a minority of 20 to 30 percent that don’t and these are likely to be older Canadians and older Canadians are also likely to vote And in this election it’s that minority that’s taken the rest of us hostage I’m 63 myself and I hope that this election was in part the last gasp of an older generation that is less likely to be comfortable with the social changes taking place the increasing diversity the movements that are bringing immigrants people of colour Indigenous people ueer and trans people all kinds of marginalised people to the table But the other uestion I have for Michael Adams and the research he draws on is this what is the relative importance placed on these values by those who espouse them and how did that play into the Ontario electionWhen it comes to a choice do Canadians put multiculturalism gender euality support for immigration ahead of promises of personal financial comfort lower taxes cheaper goods and services Are privileged Canadians willing to give up some of their privilege to see the values they claim to hold put into practice or are they just paying lip service to social euity I think it’s the answers to those uestions that will tell us if this can happen here again This is not a review but is based on an interview I had with the author It was originally published in the Georgia Straight newspaperOn November 9 2016 Michael Adams went to bed before a winner was declared in the US election for president At 10 pm the cable news networks were reporting the count was still too close to call But the Democrats' candidate Hillary Clinton was widely expected to win Her opponent was a reality television star with no experience in government and a public record of racism and crude misogyny So Adams the founder of the polling firm Environics Research Group Ltd called it a night and headed to bedWhen he awoke the next morning just before 7 am Donald Trump was president elect of the United States of America“And at 9 am I sat down at my computer and I began banging out a proposal for a book” Adams told the Straight “We were all wondering could it happen here”A year later the book is out and that’s its title Could It Happen Here Canada in the Age of Trump and BrexitIn a telephone interview Adams spoke bluntly about what exactly “it” is“Xenophobic nationalism is what I am referring to” he explained “The identification of the ‘other’ as an enemy and arousing popular support for xenophobia Could that happen in Canada at the scale that we’re seeing happen in the United States and Europe”In an easily digestible 178 pages Adams analyzes both historical and contemporary polling data to compare and contrast Canadians’ attitudes with changes in the United States and Britain that he presents as driving those countries toward electing Trump and breaking away from the European Union“I also thought about institutional differences like our parliamentary system structural differences like the demography of Canada and particularly how urban we are and how multicultural we are” he saidBetween Canada and the United States a divergence of social values opened in the 1960s and has widened ever since Adams continued “That’s the divergence that we see continue to today with Donald Trump being the most extreme expression of the divergence and in a funny way Justin Trudeau as a symbol or an icon of the progressive agenda in Canada”This doesn’t mean that Canada is not susceptible to the appeals of populism Adams presents instances where segments of the country have embraced candidates or policies that fit that description But he emphasizes in most instances it wasn’t long before each group returned to a sensible politically centred position“We’ve had populism with the Social Credit movement in Alberta populism on the left with the CCF Co operative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan populism here in British Columbia with the Social Credit party in the '50s and '60s” he saidSuch movements continue to pop up Adams added pointing to former Toronto mayor Rob Ford as the most visible example of a recent manifestation But Adams argued the long term trends in Canada reveal those events as anomalies rather than precedentsHe suggested that much of Trump’s support is rooted in thinly shrouded dog whistle racism—for example when he associates immigration with crime In the US that worked well enough to get Trump elected But north of the border the Conservative Party of Canada deployed similar tactics two years earlier in 2015 Adams observed and Stephen Harper was beaten by TrudeauHow Harper lost is largely explained by voters’ reactions to the Conservative’s proposed “barbaric cultural practices” hotline and a ban on Muslim women wearing the niab during citizenship ceremonies Adams shows“The moment Harper chose to pander aggressively to the Conservatives’ backlash base he lost crucial support in the multicultural suburbs support that cost the Conservatives an election they might have won” Adams writesThe response was the same in 2017 when Kellie Leitch ran to replace Harper as leader of the Conservative party“Throughout the Conservatives leadership campaign polls consistently showed support for Kellie Leitch’s notion of a Canadian values test a signal that there are political dividends to harvest by appealing to the fearful angels of our nature” Adams writes in the book “That she was also ridiculed and ultimately unsuccessful revealed something about the location of the boundaries of acceptable political discourse in Canada and offers of precise answer to the uestion of whether ‘it’ could happen here”Key differences separating Canada from the United States are immigration and urbanization Adams told the Straight“In cities like Toronto and Vancouver we’re talking about over 70 percent of people who are first and second generation immigrants” Adams said “In Canada you can’t get elected and have a majority government without appealing to immigrants and visible minorities They are too many they are citizens and they voteAnd so we’re pretty well guaranteed that our parties are going to appeal to open and tolerant attitudes to visible minorities to religious minorities to foreign born and their children”Adams added that in researching the book he did find Canadian susceptibilities to populist rhetoric that caused him concern But on a smaller scale than what now exists in the United States“There are people who are suffering status anxiety” he said “They suffer the status anxiety of a black person being elected president of the United States and they suffer the status anxiety of a woman becoming president of the United States Who would lose from thatThey’re going to be white and they’re going to be men And a lot of those folks were mobilized to vote for Trump in that election“In Canada we just don’t see those levels of seething resentment” 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 worldAmericans 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 uoAmid 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 EuropeAs 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 dislikedPollster 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 uestion could it happen here Rating 25In the world of politics today there is nothing that is discussed than the Presidency of Donald Trump Not a day goes by without a new scandal or a new inflammatory tweet or a new allegation The United States truly seems like it is run like a reality TV show So the uestion “could it happen here” is a relevant one and will be as long as someone like Trump is in power Michael Adams’ book still has its place in the rapidly changing world of Trump because it does not feel like things have changed much since his election The 45th President still uses the same language still holds onto his most ludicrous campaign promises build a wall and make Mexico pay for it and Americans don’t seem in a hurry to change anything So could it happen here in Canada Adams doesn’t really answer that central uestion His use of statistics is uite impressive and it is done it appears in a unbiased way Unlike many other social writer today he takes the data for what it is not what he wants it to be For that I would give him 5 stars However the data can only go so far and the book becomes a bit dry when the data is well presented but never analysed in a meaningful way The data cannot answer a uestion it is only a tool for the researcher to make sense of a situation At first the statistics claim that Canadians are uite open minded tolerant they value euality and are happy with the direction of the country Great What else Adams then tries to compare the Canadian data with its American counterpart but the comparisons are so narrow that it becomes apparent very uickly that he will never be able to answer his own uestion Could it happen in Canada The way to find out is to analyze the United States deeply And Canada by the way of it Statistics are one thing but it’s not the only thing There are seldom any significant events discussed or anything aboout the role the media exercises in the perceptions of people Because reality is one thing and perception another Are there politicians and media outlets that twist facts or outright lie without conseuences in Canada What about the polarization that the two party system worsens in the United States could that happen here Too many avenues remain unexplored in a tiny book that relies too much on statistics In the end Adams offer the answer to Could it Happen Here with a simplistic “no” The few racist incidents mentioned in the book appear like outliers and are refuted by the statistical data in which people assure themselves and the world that they are tolerant The true answer should be ambiguous Perhaps it is unlikely to happen here because Canadians are not as divided politically and socially as Americans Perhaps because we are not as religious as Americans perhaps because we value gender euality But wasn’t that true in the UK as well Brexit while in the title is almost absent entirely from the discourse To include both the United States and the United Kingdom in comparison to Canada would have needed than about 155 pages of writing Could it Happen Here could be considered a good basis for detailed research and it does give a good overview of the values of both Canada and the United States but it could never properly answer its basic uestion With the way the political winds change so abruptly perhaps no one can truly answer that uestion As an American perusing the stacks at Shelf Life Books in Calgary I couldn't help but pick up Michael Adams' Could It Happen Here Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit Maybe it was the red Trump style hat that triggered my Pavlovian response The Canadians are right to be a little nervous Their mother country has launched headlong and ill advisedly into an effort to abandon their European cocoon – and with it the common market and the freedom of movement the EU affords Their southern neighbors have elected a reality TV show hack as the defacto leader of the free world His ascent was facilitated largely by conservative Christian voters who readily overlooked his affairs with porn stars his divorces his unapologetic history of sexual assault his vulgarity and his lack of both business acumen and relevant political experience So again Canada has a right to be nervous And with populism surging worldwide the Northerners are wondering if they will be the next country to fall under its spell Michael Adams the Canadian Frank Luntz or Nate Silver has crunched and extrapolated his data and has come to the conclusion that no Canada is not likely to experience a populist uprising any time soon He cites the country's impressive multiculturalism and diversity their enthusiastic embrace of immigration and their commitment to providing a robust social safety netAre these factors enough to keep Canada on the progressive end of the things Maybe Adams is also uick to point out that Canada has had mild flirtations with populism before now and they have always ended poorly So no one is interested in trying it again This coming from a man who lives in Toronto which was recently governed by Rob Forda crack addictOf course before 2016 the idea that Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States was so far fetched that it served a cutaway joke in a old episode of The Simpsons Brexiteers were so nominal a voting bloc in Great Britain that David Cameron felt uber confident putting it to a vote of the people How did that turn out The point is no one sees this stuff coming until it's right on top of you When Barack Obama savaged Donald Trump at that White House Correspondents Dinner who could have possibly imagined he was poking fun at his successor Frankly I'd have confidence in Adams – a professional numbers guy – if his fact checking wasn't so sloppy For instance he gets the year of Justin Trudeau's election wrong it was 2015 not 2016 And let me just say that when an American can identify an error in a Canadian election statistic then the author really missed the mark A few pages later Adams claims that Matthew Desmond's seminal book Evicted was set in Cincinnati Anyone who has read the book – one of the most highly recommended works of the 21st century thus far – knows that it was set in Milwaukee And these are just the things I spotted easily I'm uite certain there are errors I missedCanada is a fine country and I like visiting it very much I sincerely hope that they manage to resist this relentless wave of reckless populism But there's no way of saying whether they will or won't based on a bunch of line graphs and pie charts Ask any Brit or any American if they were surprised by what happened in 2016 and one hundred percent of them will say yes Let's hope there's not a similar post mortem in the North anytime soon The uestion of the title refers to the nativism and populism that lead to Britain’s Brexit vote or the election of Donald Trump as American president The uestion first feels like a threat Maybe it was that picture of Trump's ball cap on the front cover On completing the book I feel reassuredAn interesting difference between Canada and the US is patriarchy Take this interesting polling uestion Fifty per cent of American agree that the father must be the master of his own house For Canadians the number is in the low teens and getting smallerAuthoritarian child rearing approaches value traits like obedience and good behaviour over curiosity and independence Those who preferred authoritarian child rearing approaches were much likely to prefer Trump Patriacrchy indicates the way societies are organized and governed In the US where there is this greater value on patriarchy there is less maternity leave reproductive rights continue to be debated and health care is heavily dependent on employment status Populist authoritarian politicians are unafraid to whip up anti feminist and anti immigrant sentimentThe allure for strong leadership in on the upswing around the world Hungary Poland and Turkey have drifted away from democracy to authoritarian ruleOn a recent trip to Florida everyone that I visited was in a gated community of some sort Gated communities increase social and racial tensions In Canada planning policy tends to discourage the development of gated communities which operate outside municipal jurisdication maintain secure perimeters and are seen by many critics as heightening social or racial tensionsCanada historically is open to immigration Joe Clark's government admitted 60000 refugees from southeast Asia Canadians welcome young newcomers are reuired to fill the vacancies of a retiring work force Thirteen per cent of MPs in the House of Commons were born outside of the countrySurveys conclude racial intolerance not labour markets or economic ineuality was the key driving factors for the Brexit outcome and Trump's victory The 2016 US presidential election was about white resentment gay marriage trans gender rights than the economic dislocation of American workersThe values of a younger generation moves from the consumption of material symbols of status and success to a post material orientation of learning and experience seeking The proportion of Canadians opposed to policies that fight income ineuality dropped from 12% to 6% Toronto is the most diverse urban region in the world with almost half the population being foreign bornIf one needs evidence to be a proud Canadian Michael gives us the data

  • Hardcover
  • 192 pages
  • Could It Happen Here?
  • Michael Adams
  • 09 August 2016
  • 9781501177422

About the Author: Michael Adams

Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name