Trump-like policies could influence federal Conservative leadership race, but not decide it, expert says

Canada is a very different country from the United States, but Peter Woolstencroft, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, says there could be room for Trump-like policies to influence the federal Conservative leadership race.

Canadians want 'inclusive politics,’ professor Peter Woolstencroft says

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch speaks during the Conservative leadership debate in Saskatoon on November 9. She has called Donald Trump's win in the American presidential election an 'exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well.' (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Don't be so sure Trump-like policies won't make it into the federal Conservative leadership race, University of Waterloo political science associate professor Peter Woolstencroft says.

But being divisive is unlikely to win over the majority of voters, he added.

"There may be some room within the Conservative Party for that kind of appeal, though, I would say to [Kellie Leitch], that's not going to win you office, it's not going to lead your party to Ottawa," Woolstencroft said Friday in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition.

His comments come after Leitch told her supporters that Donald Trump's win in the U.S. presidential election is an "exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well."

Leitch, who is in the running to become the next leader of the federal Tories, has campaigned on stricter screening for immigrants, against the legalization of marijuana and a national carbon tax.

'Two very different visions'

"If you look at it historically, we're very different than the Americans," Woolstencroft said.

"From the very beginning in the United States, there's been this paranoid tendency, 'the others' whatever they may be, people get very fearful of certain groups," he added.

"We haven't played 'the other' game as much or as fervently as Americans have, so that's very contrary to our history. Yes, it's there, but on a scale of one to 10, we're two and they're at 10."

Woolstencroft said a candidate like Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong is Leitch's opposite while still being in the same party: He is a visible minority who still represents rural Canada and is more moderate in his policies.

On Wednesday, Chong took Leitch to task over her comments, tweeting a statement that the leadership race is becoming "a stark choice between two very different visions for our party and our country."

His statement also said the "Conservative leadership involves reaching out to all Canadians. It requires building momentum in Canada's big cities by increasing our support among new Canadians. It involves taking principled positions on Canadian identity aimed at fostering a more united Canada."
Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong has said the Conservative leadership race is becoming 'a stark choice between two very different visions for our party and our country.' (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Canadians want inclusive politics

Still, Woolstencroft said no one should discount divisive policies because something similar could happen here in Canada, starting with the leadership vote on May 27, 2017.

"I never dismissed [Trump's] chances because I do see economic anguish in the United States, just like I see in the United Kingdom and the people who voted to get out of Europe," he said, but added Canadians handle their anger with the government differently.

"The anger is palpable and white, working class people, like a lot of Americans, hate their government, the national government. We don't have that kind of hate in Canada," he said. "I think Canadians, by a very large measure, want an inclusive politics."