How Populism Took Hold in Toronto

America’s current image of populism tends to graft on to the urban-rural divide. In that image, a movement fuelled by the anger of the white working class - comprising the base of support that Donald Trump sent to the White House - looked like an outgrowth of left-behind places. But populist movements can indeed take hold in diverse, progressive urban areas. For proof, just look to Toronto.

A new study revisits the tenure of former mayor Rob Ford, digging in to the ways he turned key social issues - particularly toward feminism and the LGBTQ community - into a divide that pitted the city’s outlying areas against the “downtown elites.” It shows that the politics of fear and perceived economic and cultural threats can carry the day in an urban setting, too. In Trump’s case, it is immigration, but in Toronto, it was fears of gentrification and the erosion of “traditional values” that gave Ford a target as he campaigned for office.

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