- (1995-2002) Premier Michael Harris “[His] achievements included welfare reform, health care restructuring, major reductions in public spending and more efficient government.”
I think this needs a bit of clarification.
Welfare reform meant a 22% reduction in welfare, and a downloading of costs onto municipal governments. In 1995 “Then-Minister David Tsubouchi issued a welfare diet for a single person that came out to $90 dollars month for food, or $3 dollars a day, a level of funding that would be considered a crime under the Geneva Convention if it represented rations for a prisoner of war.” page 107 It also meant a $2.7 million dollar cut to the budget of the Ontario shelters that helped, homed and council abused women. The over 10,000 grants to social services programs was cut by 5% (roughly $44 million dollars), thus damaging programs that helped youth and other groups.(1)
It also meant workfare, which forced people (including single mothers) to work. To make matters worse, in 1998 a law was passed that made it illegal for Workfare workers to form unions.(1)
If you consider social housing part of welfare (I do), the cost of 275,000 units of social houses was downloaded onto the city governments.Page 95 His government also cancelled 390 already-approved co-op/non-profit housing projects, which resulted in a loss of more than 17,000 united of affordable housing. (2)
Health Care Restructuring meant billions of dollars in cuts, shut down hospitals and tens of thousands of fired health workers. 28 hospitals were closed down, and some of this happened when Tim Hudak was the parliamentary assistant to the health Minister at the time. $700 million was cut from 1996 to 1998, and millions more was planned for the subsequent years, tipping it over to the billions. Over 6,200 nurses were fired and over 10,000 hospital beds were eliminated.
Major reductions in public spending doesn’t need to be unspinned, because it’s accurate. It included the above, as well as billions of dollars in reductions to education, millions from post-secondary, cutting of regulations, inspectors, grants, etc.
More efficient government was somewhat accurate, depending on how you look at it. The government completely bungled the privatization of Hydro-Ontario, thus creating a bizarre and inefficient system that we have today (this is why hydro rates are so high, in contrast to Quebec which has the lowest rates in Canada… and a nationalized energy company).
If you look at it in terms of centralizing power to the Premier, ministers and to the province – away from individual members of the provincial parliament and city governments, then yes, government got more efficient. Under Mike Harris, the city of Toronto was amalgamated against the direct wishes of the residents in a referendum. As well, Harris had many similarities to the way Stephen Harper governs now, which I’ve documented here.
Now, to the candidates that contradict. These are quotes directly from the Party History page.
- (1943 – 1948) Premier George Drew “passed some of the most progressive labour and social legislation in Canadian History, including a new labour code and the first anti-discrimination legislation in Canada”
- (1949 – 1961) Premier Leslie Frost “Among Frost’s achievements were the Ontario Hospital Insurance Program, the provision of equal pay for women, and vast expansion of hospitals, schools and highways”
Both here, if I’m not mistaken, are praising Big Government, Expanding Government and Social Services – gasp! This comes into direct contradiction with the praising of Mike Harris, who did the exact opposite of these two Premiers. Perhaps most importantly, these past ‘achievements’ come into direct conflict with the current rhetoric and policy of the now-leader Tim Hudak. This comes as no surprise, as Hudak is an unapologetic fan of the Mike Harris surrounded ‘Common Sense Revolution’.
Some of these contradictions include:
Premier George Drew: “passed some of the most progressive labour and social legislation in Canadian History” really is gravely ironic considering Harris has passed some of the most regressive changes of recent, and Hudak wishes to continue it. The Harris Tories cut 46% of the Ministry of Labour’s budget, leading to over 400 loss in staff. The same year, the Workplace Health and Safety Agency is abolished – an agency which investigated deaths and injuries in the workplace.(3)
Throughout the Harris tenure, many anti-union and anti-labour bills were introduced, definitively marking that government as one of the most actively regressive.
Tim Hudak is just like his former-master Michael Harris, as made obvious by his continuous comments against unions, and his master plan to dis-empower and abolish all unions in Ontario. He agrees with Conservatve MP Pierre Poilievre on this: mandatory union dues should be abolished – thus effectively killing a unions power.
Premier Leslie Frost: “Ontario Hospital Insurance Program, the provision of equal pay for women, and vast expansion of hospitals, schools and highways” obviously is the exact opposite of what Premier Harris did on every level. Womens services were slashed, healthcare funding was slashed, hospitals that Leslie helped open were shut down, schools had billions of dollars removed and infrastructure was obviously neglected.
PC leader Tim Hudak shows no sign of changing.
This contrast is depressing considering the current leadership, but amusing from a consistency perspective. They’re trying to take credit for two things that directly but-heads. Expanding government, increased spending, investment in people as we see with their earlier Premiers – then shrinking government, decreased spending, and de-investing in people with Mike Harris and potentially Hudak. Which one is it? What should you be proud of? You can’t be proud of both.
Fans of the Progressive Conservative party and its history must have to deal with this existential conflict. Are the Progressive Conservatives really ‘progressive conservatives’? Or are they relentless neoconservatives like Hudak and Harris?
And why would any respectful Red Tory stick with the PCs considering they’re two prongs off the deep end now.
(2)Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. 96
(3)Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. 100-101