November 15-17, 2019, University of Alberta

Populism and Its Discontents

Authoritarian right-wing governments in many countries – Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, and Turkey, not to mention Donald Trump’s America – have claimed the banner of populism. Canada has not been immune to this global populist wave, as evidenced by the election of Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta. Once the hallmark of Canada’s progressive left, populism today is the domain of a resurgent right, appealing to fear and anger, and proclaiming their defense of the common person against assorted elites.

What explains the recent success of right-wing parties in seizing the populist mantle away from the progressive left? Is right-wing populism actually a mask for authoritarian rule? Parkland Institute’s 23rd Annual Conference seeks to answer the riddle of right-wing populism: what it is, how it emerged, where it might be leading, and the possibilities for the return of a progressive form of populism.

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Full Conference

Parkland Supporters: $140 / $100 Low Income
Regular: $190 / $125 Low Income

Keynote and Single Sessions

Tickets: $20 / $15 Low Income


Opening Keynote

Mark Kingwell

Populism and the Interface

with Mark Kingwell

How does technology affect or facilitate the current rise of right-wing populism? Philosopher, critic, and public intellectual Mark Kingwell will outline some features of the technological and social media landscape that make anti-democratic movements and interventions easier, and more effective. He will also investigate ways of countering these developments.

Mark Kingwell is professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author of many books and articles on political and social theory, and lectures widely on cultural topics. His most recent book is Wish I Were Here: Boredom and the Interface (2019).

Closing Keynote

Erika Shaker

Labour Intensive: Putting People Back Into Populism

with Erika Shaker

Widespread public disillusionment resulting from inequality and austerity being inadequately addressed by governments has created a fertile recruiting ground for right-wing populist politicians and movements. But there remains tremendous room for progressives to harness the potential of established community networks—including labour—and social programs in order to organize around a collective, collaborative, future-looking and justice-based vision. While labour intensive, it benefits from what we already have in our favour—the sheer number of people whose families depend on what we have already successfully organized for. And it’s rooted in the recognition that we deserve and can do better, especially for future generations.

Erika Shaker is director of education and outreach for the national office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in Ottawa. She researches, speaks, comments, and writes on a wide range of education-related issues from early childhood education, to K-12, to post-secondary. She also edits the popular education journal Our Schools/Our Selves, which has recently gone digital.


Emily Laxer
Saturday Morning Plenary

Sacred Politics: When Populism Meets Religion

with Emily Laxer

From Europe to Latin America, from the United States to parts of Canada, populist movements, parties, and leaders are transforming "politics-as-usual," redefining policy approaches to the economy, migration, the environment, and national identity. In this talk, I consider a defining—yet under-studied—feature of contemporary populism: its relationship to religion.

Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard
Saturday Afternoon Plenary

Until Our Hearts Are On the Ground: Indigenous Women’s Activism, Now and Forever

with Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard

This presentation will focus on Indigenous rights and resistance to colonialism (old and new), highlight the ways in which Indigenous people in general, and Indigenous women specifically, are building political movements in this era of right-wing extremism, and explore the evolution of Indigenous political movements in response to authoritarian populism.

Kelly Gordon
Saturday Afternoon Plenary

The State of Contemporary Populist Discourse in Canada

with Kelly Gordon

With a string of anti-establishment leaders and parties emerging across the world, most agree that we are living a populist moment. While much of contemporary global populism appeals to a combination of anti-elitist and nativist arguments, this presentation will argue that rather than being centered on ethnonational populism, Canadian populist discourse has been shaped by its own unique national debates and colonial legacy.

Demond Drummer
Sunday Morning Plenary

Mobilizations, Moonshots, and Movements: The Promise of the Green New Deal

with Demond Drummer

Climate change continues unabated. The global economy tumbles into recession. Authoritarianism is on the march. Enter the Green New Deal.