A previous post made the argument that the core appeal of Doug Ford populism (much like Trump populism) is a cultural resentment against the professional class as opposed to an economic populism in which working and middle class resentment is directed against the wealthy and large corporations. In other words, the “elites” that Ford rants against are professionals such as bureaucrats, academics, lawyers, journalists and teachers who Ford portrays as “looking down” on average Ontarians. The article goes on to point out that while there is considerable truth to the fact that the professional class has a limited interest and little empathy for the everyday, pocketbook concerns of average Ontarians, this isn’t exactly news and while unfortunate, there really isn’t a public policy response to this indifference. Moreover Ford, a rich man’s son like Trump, has no interest in improving the lives of everyday Ontarians and his PC program (such as it is), is evidence of this.
The article went on to contrast Ford populism with an economic populism in which the “elites” are large corporations whose business practices have directly resulted in an increase in part-time, low wage jobs and the loss of good quality, full-time jobs (especially in the manufacturing and resource sectors). These economic trends have hurt many Ford supporters and economic populism embraces a set of policies that would actually improve the lives of Ford voters.
That article also argued that these two kinds of populism have considerable appeal to Ontario voters without university degrees with broadly similar social values. However, when it comes to voting intentions, those not affiliated with a union (or not living in a community with a labour tradition), lean towards a Ford-style cultural populism in which the elite “villains” are essentially “know-it-all” professional types who “think they are better than me”. In contrast, those with a union affiliation (or who live in a community with a labour tradition), lean towards an anti-corporate, economic populism most associated with the NDP.
The article further argued that Andrea Horwath’s NDP are in a good position to tap into those who hold to this anti-corporate, economic populism. Recent polls suggest that this is exactly what is happening in the Ontario election with a surge in support for Horwath’s NDP – especially in the economically hard hit regions of the Southwest and North which have seen a massive loss of well paying manufacturing and resource jobs in the past decade.
While the NDP may be pulling even with the PC’s in terms of the popular vote, as of this writing (May 25th), the most recent polls still suggest that the Ford PC’s have a very good chance of winning a plurality of seats with at least some chance of forming a majority government. Therefore, the question of what a Doug Ford government would actually do during its time in office needs to be examined closely. Continue reading