Editorial: Centre-left blind to populism’s true cause

Share Adjust Comment Print

The political left is having trouble digesting the rise of populism around the world.

They still can’t fathom how or why Donald Trump won office in 2016 and continue to discount and reject the concerns of fellow Americans and Trump supporters.

And now Europe is giving them more reason for panic.

This week’s election results in Italy saw voters put the boot to traditional and centre-left parties in favour of anti-­establishment and populist ones — leaving politically-left politicians and media hysterically attributing the results to a rampant rise in fascist, racist, authoritarian and anti-­migrant sentiment.

But hysteria fails to address the cause or motivation for dramatic political change.

Italy’s swing to the populist and the centre-right was a consequence of years of high unemployment (it’s hovered above 30 per cent for years), a stagnant economy that’s just beginning to show signs of life, a flood of male economic migrants posing as refugees and perceptions Italy is getting a raw deal from the European Union.

The murder of an 18-year-old Italian woman and arrest of a Nigerian migrant accused of stuffing her dismembered body into two suitcases did fuel anti-migrant sentiments, but broad discontent was a consequence of ordinary Italians growing sick and tired of centre-left governments mired in corruption, incompetence and ideological agendas.

The electoral success for centre-right and populist parties in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and elsewhere is similarly rooted in the failed programs and policies of centre-left ideology, and the high debt, punishing taxes and elitist indifference to average people that characterize left-wing parties.

Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government and Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberal government both share a debt-­addicted penchant for social justice and progressive policies that claim benefits they rarely deliver.

Trudeau’s national carbon tax for example, pretty much does zilch for the environment. It effectively, however, kills jobs, raises the cost of living and lowers the standard of living, especially for poor and middle-class Canadians.

Wynne’s government, in power far longer, is attempting to make a virtue of waste, scandal, political corruption and living beyond its means by claiming it is making the province more “fair.” Canadians, like voters elsewhere, increasingly are seeing through that lie.