For the People? Right-Wing Populism and Employment Standards in Ontario, Canada

Doug Ford’s right-wing populism emerged in relation to the material conditions of precariousness that had escalated in the years following the 2008 financial crisis. It tapped into the insecurities of working-class and middle-class voters generated through years of growing inequality, stagnant wages, declining unionization, and the deterioration of public services and institutions. Invoking an old neoliberal trope, its solution to the crisis included measures that would make Ontario “open for business,” including employment standards reforms that undermined basic employment protections for workers in the province. While proclaiming intentions to protect “the people” from “the elite,” Ford’s populism served to sustain and enhance capitalist interests by legitimating legislation that undermines the security of an already precarious workforce.