Observatory of Populism in Canada

Populism has become one of the most widely used terms in contemporary politics, particularly since 2016, a year that saw Britain vote to leave the EU (“Brexit”) and the election of Donald Trump in the US.

Yet as a concept, populism is subject to many differing uses, as well as significant debate and polarization. 

  • What exactly is populism and how does it differ from other political phenomena (e.g., nativism, fascism, authoritarianism)?
  • What causes populism to emerge and gain strength in particular times and places? 
  • What does populism look like in practice, and how can it be reliably measured?
  • What are the implications of populism for democracy, rights, and other societal outcomes?

Obtaining clear answers to these questions is especially challenging in Canada, where, until recently, a pervasive tale of “exceptionalism” insisted populism had not arisen as a significant political force. Yet the recent ascent of parties, leaders, and movements that use populist rhetoric to mobilize Canadians’ votes and approval suggests an urgent need to rethink that understanding.

This is the motivating objective of the Observatory of Populism in Canada.

Our core mission is to generate, support, and showcase robust empirical and theoretical research that elucidates populism’s role in Canadian society. Rather than promote a singular agenda, the Observatory is a multi-disciplinary hub through which researchers, media, and the interested public can:

The Observatory is connected to, and partially funded by, the York Research Chair in Populism, Rights, and Legality.