Slumming it at the Rodeo is a scathing work of social and cultural criticism. It portrays Canada’s 90’s wave of right-wing populists (Mike Harris, Preston Manning and Ralph Klein) as thriving in an era marked by insecurity, fear and even “revenge” and “retribution.”
Free market populism is set alongside 90’s cultural trends like New Country (remember Garth Brooks?) and the rise in fast food franchising opportunities as well as the whole canon of modern Western film. In common according to the author: ready made, homogenized, nostalgic and inauthentic consumer experiences.
This book clarifies Canadian politics. Populism is actually quite normal for Canada and it rose to a backwards peak in the 90’s, eventually culminating in Stephen Harper being prime minister. This seems to put Canada on a different timeline as compared to other more coherent (less regional and more solidly nationalistic) Western democracies.
If there’s a problem with the book, it’s the premising of idealism and liberal nicety as an adequate response to right-wing cowboys. Whatever else can be said about them, tax cuts and franchising opportunities are material responses to insecurity. An eloquent response would have to address the material as well.