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Why Canada Has Resisted Populism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

PARIS -- In the run-up to the recent U.S. presidential election, a lot of conservatives began using the term "cuck" to describe "cuckolded" males beholden to leftist policies. Lately, some conservatives have been applying that rather unflattering term to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of the few Western leaders staying the globalist course while other countries opt for a greater degree of national security.

When U.S. President Donald Trump imposed a 90-day immigration ban on refugees and visa holders from certain Muslim-majority nations, Trudeau responded on Twitter: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."

The tweet was celebrated by open-borders activists worldwide.

What was much less reported than Trudeau's welcome to refugees was the fact that Canada has actually capped private sponsorship of Syrian and Iraqi refugees for this year at 1,000.

So that's good news for Canadians worried about national security, right? Don't worry about Trudeau's tweet, because the government is putting a tight cap on refugee sponsorship.

Except that it's the much greater number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees that isn't being capped so strictly.

Canada has taken in 39,671 Syrian refugees since November 2015. According to the government's own data, most of them are unskilled, lack higher education and don't speak either English or French. A recent survey by the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia noted that only about 17 percent of B.C.'s government-sponsored refugees are actually working. Most of those who have found jobs are working in retail, hospitality, manufacturing and construction -- relatively unskilled sectors that pit them against locals for employment. Many of those among the first wave of refugees are now complaining about their one-year resettlement assistance money running out.

Trudeau consistently leverages discrepancies between image and reality -- illusions that can be used to appease both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

Take Trudeau's repeated declarations about the importance of climate change, which have helped him win over environmental activists. Trudeau nonetheless applauded Trump's recent revival of the Keystone XL pipeline despite the project being at the top of environmentalists' hit list in both Canada and the U.S.

It's not a foolish strategy that Trudeau is employing. It's difficult to convince people to rebel against a leader who appeases potential opponents by saying all the things they want to hear. Voters tend to pay attention to sound bites and proclamations, which are a lot more compelling than parliamentary votes.

To illustrate yet another blurring of image and reality: Canada is now the second-largest arms exporter to the Middle East (behind the United States), according to IHS Jane's, which tracks military spending. In 2014, under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada landed a $15 billion deal to provide combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia -- the foremost sponsor of the Islamic State, which is responsible for flooding Western nations with migrants. The "humanitarian" Trudeau government approved the export permits for those vehicles.

A recent Ipsos survey suggests that Canadians are less concerned about external threats than Americans, with only 39 percent of Canadian respondents agreeing that the country needs to "take more steps to protect itself from today's world" (versus 47 percent of the Americans surveyed). Canadians generally like their government to leave them alone and not to muck around too much, lest the politicians screw something up.

The manner in which a country's citizens react to the adverse effects of globalization can be significantly attributed to that country's history. Canada doesn't have the revolutionary history of the United States or France, and Canadians tend to pride themselves on diplomatic thoughtfulness over brute force in response to challenges. Canadians usually just "vote the buggers out" long before protests spill into the streets.

Trudeau benefits from the fact that Canada never fully bought into globalism. The country has had the good sense to avoid donning the economic straightjacket that Europe got itself into, favoring the sort of balanced trade agreements that the United Kingdom is now seeking in the wake of the Brexit vote. Canada also benefits from having a lot of space and an ocean separating it from the cultural tsunami that Europe is currently experiencing.

Canada doesn't have the same sense of urgency that other Western nations have in this era of anti-globalist backlash. The two-faced approach currently being taken by Trudeau and the Canadian government mostly has citizens blissfully ignorant or confused. Fog of war isn't a bad strategy as long as people don't notice a negative change in their daily lives -- and the Canadian government has yet to see what happens when people do.

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