Academic Reviewers

• Sylvia Bashevkin, PhD. • Emily Gilbert, PhD.

Thank you to the reviewers

Principal of University College, University of Toronto. Professor of Political Sciences Former President of the Canadian Political Science Association (2003-2004)

Director of Canadian Studies Program. University of Toronto. Professor of Geography and Canadian Studies

• Nelson Wiseman, PhD.

Associate Professor of Political Science. University of Toronto. CBC Constitutional Expert

Publication Reviewers
• Alex Greco, • Sam Presvelos, • Dan Seljak,
Executive Editor, LPE Media Group.

Editor, University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College “The Mike” Student Newspaper.

Executive Editor, University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College “The Mike” Student Newspaper.

Table of Contents
• Introduction • The 1990 Campaign and the 1995 Victory • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Healthcare Reform and Restructuring Education Reform Partisan Government Ads Government Consultants and Untendered Contracts Labour Relations Welfare and Tennant Reform Tax Cuts and Fees Special Interest Groups and Lobbying Transportation Highway 407 City of Toronto Amalgamation The Hydro Legacy Bypassing the Legislative Process They are proposing what? The Ministerial Sequel and Radical Caucus Choosing Leaders Concluding Statements

01 02 03 07 11 12 14 16 17 18 21 22 23 24 26 27 29 30 30

Part II: The Effects of a Downsized Public Service and More Deregulation: The Harris Government in Ontario
• • • • • Introduction Plastimet & USE Hickson Fire Walkerton Safety Inspection Privatization (TSSA - Technical Standards and Safety Authority) Concluding Statements 31 32 34 36 37

It has been nearly 15 years since the self-proclaimed small “c” Neo-Conservatives first strolled the halls of Queen’s Park under one of Canada’s most right wing platforms, the “Common Sense Revolution”. As you must be aware, a recent Ipsos-Reid poll shows that over 41% 1 of Ontarians are displeased with the current Liberal government and want change. Changing voter attitudes suggest that, the possibility of a non-Liberal government coming into power on Oct. 6, 2011 is something worth considering. Realistically, the New Democrats (NDP) simply do not have the same influence they once did under the direction of Bob Rae. Currently the Ontario NDP is just teetering on the cusp of the “third party” title as they hold 10 seats in the legislature, only two over the 8 seat threshold. The likely alternative is Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives. To fully understand the implication of another Conservative government in Ontario we have to take a long hard look back through the Government of Ontario yearbook focusing especially on the rule of Premier Mike Harris, and to a lesser extent that of Premier Ernie Eves between 1995 and 2003.

Harris, Eves and Hudak Conservatives in Ontario
By: Neville Britto

Mismanaging During Storms: The Mike

The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), Eco Fees and the rising Hydro rates have definitely hurt the current government’s popularity with the voting electorate. However, the teeter-totter game of politics that the Progressive Conservatives (PC) and the New Democrats (NDP) are playing with the voting populous is also very interesting. The current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Tim Hudak, vigorously supported the HST before the Liberals implemented it. On April 23, 2009 before the Economic Club of Canada he proudly exclaimed, “now I know that some business leaders support the Harmonized Sales Tax and to be clear, I believe that there’s little sense in allowing two separate governments to apply two separate sets of taxes and policies and collect two separate groups of sales taxes.” 2 Could the HST campaign have asked for a better endorsement? However, when the Liberals actually adopted the policy and implemented it on July 1, 2010, Hudak “changed” his position. All of a sudden he came out swinging against the HST, and coined his new mantras against the “Dalton McGuinty Tax Grab,” the DST - Dalton Sales Tax,” and proclaimed that the government had gone “Off the Rails.” In the official joint Federal-Provincial HST agreement, the Premier has to notify the federal government six months in advance before it chooses to revert to its previous sales tax collection system. The McGuinty Liberals are an easy target, Hudak has never mentioned his Conservative cousins and former
1 2

Nguyen, Linda. "Ontario Voters Would Turf McGuinty: Poll." The Globe and Mail [Toronto] 21 Nov. 2010. Print. Hudak, Tim. Economic Club of Canada, Toronto. 23 Apr. 2009. Address.


cabinet colleagues (Baird, Clement and Flaherty) even though they had an equal share of the HST negotiations. Could it also be because as treasured Canadian comedian Rick Mercer describes, John Baird (former colleague of Hudak) incessantly “barks like a rabid dog” at the mild suggestion that God forbid his party of government actually did something wrong! Hudak is highly “critical” of the HST but has left out one key piece of information, his “removal” strategy! The unpopular ECO fees campaign was another golden gear-switching moment for Hudak’s party. At the starting line, the PC caucus came out swinging. However, when Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller released his report stating it was a good idea, they popped it into reverse and floored the gas. The Official Opposition PCs and NDP routinely accuse the Liberal government of being “wishy washy.” But, are the opposition parties not displaying the same behaviour? In the recent election of Rob Ford (son of Harris MPP Doug Ford Sr.) as mayor in Toronto may be indicative of a shift to conservatism. His election was based on a “fiscal restraint” platform. Ford claimed that “Respect for Taxpayers” was his driving force. However, on Ford’s first day in office he cancelled Transit City, a joint provincial-municipal funded surface Light Rapid Transit (LRT) plan. Taxpayers had already coughed up over $130 million to the plan when it was slashed. Is that what one would deem “respect” for taxpayers? What troubles me most though is how short a memory Torontonians and Ontarians have. It just seems like supercharged partisan “tax cut” lip service and spin doctoring untruths and the public falls for it hook, line and sinker every single time. It is almost like it was taken verbatim from a political science textbook and applied to just about every election scenario. To understand this we need to look at the hard text and facts, the writing has been on the wall for years. The Harris government provides excellent insight into the implications of a shift t to the right in Ontario. The problem however was no one really stopped to take notice when the alarms sounded. Will history follow its time honoured tradition and repeat itself yet again in 2011? Only the people of Ontario will tell. The 1990 Campaign and the 1995 Victory: Even today, more that fifteen years since the Harris government was elected, it is still regarded as one of the most controversial governments in Ontario’s history. Although the Harris government campaigned under the banner of the Progressive Conservative party in the elections of 1990, 1995 and again in 1999 many experts argue the values of the so-called “Common Sense Revolution” agenda were more in line with the more radical Reform Party of Canada (popular in Western Canada) as opposed to the more socially minded Federal Progressive Conservatives. 3 The Reform Party of Canada (later the Canadian Alliance, and now the Conservative Party of Canada) was a neo-liberalist right wing radical party that focused primarily on ideals of populism (“average citizen’s needs”). Party leader Preston Manning had long advocated for a socially conservative (anti-abortion, etc.) smaller government agenda. Manning’s Reform manifesto, The New Canada, promoted ideals such as service elimination and the privatization of services. 4 Mike Harris would prove to be one of his closest ideological disciples, sacrificing the people of Ontario in the process. While the Harris government campaigned on the philosophy of smaller
3 4

Brooks, Stephen. Canadian Democracy. 6th ed. Toronto: Oxford, 2009. Print. Manning, Preston. The New Canada. Toronto, Ont., Canada: Macmillan Canada, 1992. Print.


government and less intervention, their “reforms” stretched government intervention into just about every realm possible from healthcare to landlords. In his piece, With a Good Deficit You Can See Forever, author Adrian Adamson beautifully summarizes this agenda: “With a good budget crisis running we can do almost anything we want. We can savagely cut spending and roll wages back to the 1978 level— or lower. Spending too much on schools? Slash. Don't you know we have a budget crisis? Doctors making too many people well? Cut their salaries. Close half the hospitals. Don't you know we have a budget crisis? Any public service workers still working? Lay them off. Don't you know we've got a serious budget crisis? Cut! Slash! Downsize! Start with the public service. Everybody knows those teachers and hospital workers don't work. Make it easy. Start with a really vicious campaign against them and everyone will cheer. Don't forget. We've got a really serious budget crisis!” 5 The recession of 1995 was The Conservative Party’s long awaited moment. While the recession was significant no doubt, the Harris government’s approach and strategy was highly problematic, as can be seen in their response to the significantly reduced transfer payments instituted by the Liberal federal government. In Alberta, a similar right-wing Conservative government under the direction of Ralph Klein, cut government spending and programs accordingly but left taxes alone as they were stable streams of government revenue. When the Chrétien Liberals balanced the books and started increasing provincial transfers, Alberta and the other provinces slowly restored their programs and services. The Harris government, however voluntarily chose to be the “village fools” of Canada when they not only hacked away significant chunks of Ontario’s programs and resources but significantly reduced their tax revenue in the midst of a recession and mounting debt. The recession balanced out in a few years, but the cuts in Ontario still continued at breakneck speed. Every Ontarian would soon be diagnosed with either mild or severe whiplash from at least one if not more of the catastrophic cuts to follow. Healthcare Reform and Restructuring: Shortly after taking office, the Harris government launched their crippling healthcare “restructuring” objectives. The current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Tim Hudak, played a key role. An aspiring rookie MPP first elected in 1995, he was appointed Parliamentary Assistant (1997-1999) to then Minister of Health Elizabeth Witmer (1997-1999). It was while Hudak was Parliamentary Assistant that the second wave of health restructuring was implemented. This agenda oversaw the closure of 28 hospitals including the University of Toronto’s affiliate Wellesley Hospital and St. Bernard’s Rehab in Metro Toronto. This is despite election promises in 1995 when the PCs reassured Ontario that healthcare


Adamson, Adamson. "With a Good Deficit You Can See Forever." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print.


would be left as it was. However, a year later over $365 million 6 (1996 -1997) was axed from Ontario’s Healthcare system. Another round of cuts a year later would suck another $435 million 7 out of the system. No doubt these were all essential parts of their plan to “increase” healthcare spending! The Harris government and its appointed Health Services Restructuring Commission (HSRC) had originally planned to close Toronto’s Riverdale Hospital in 1997 (now Bridgepoint Health, overlooking the Don Valley) an isolation and rehab hospital dedicated to caring for the disabled and terminally ill. The HSRC recommend that Riverdale’s patients be transferred out and offered homecare instead. The Harris government had also downloaded services like homecare onto the municipalities as cost cutting measures. In 1997, most of Riverdale’s 447 8 patients suffered from diseases such as AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, severe organ failures, neurological issues and communicable illness such as Tuberculosis. Their needs were so critical that homecare services simply could not provide the same level of service the specialized hospital services could. After countless appeals, and massive research and statistical packages to the HSRC to appeal the decisions, the government stubbornly refused and maintained that the hospital should be closed. The hospital, however, decided not to roll over when dealing with the Harris government and HSRC, the hospital fought back hard. Riverdale Hospital’s then newly appointed Chief executive Marian Walsh proclaimed, "I couldn't let them take this hospital out of the insurance system (OHIP) and leave people who need treatment to fend for themselves." 9 The government was eventually forced to back down in the case of Riverdale, however 28 other hospitals were not so lucky as several Ontario communities would painfully see their local hospitals boarded up or barricaded with chain-link fences and thick brass padlocks. Harris and the HSRC clearly had not learned their lesson. Around the same time they proposed the closure of Riverdale, they had also proposed terminating the services offered at Montfort Hospital, the only French language hospital in Ontario. The first wave of cuts to the hospital occurred on October 31, 1996 when the government pulled out all of the stationed social workers. 10 The HSRC deemed that it was acceptable to close Montford and transfer services over to the larger Ottawa General Hospital in the surrounding area. This prompted a colossal media campaign and snowballed into a national embarrassment not only for Mike Harris’ PC government but for the people of Ontario as well. The massive S.O.S. Montfort campaign of March 1997 was headlined with support from then Liberal Prime


McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Goar, Carol. "Old Hospital Now a `village of Care'" Toronto Star 15 Feb. 2008. Print. Ibid. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print.


8 9 10


Minister Jean Chrétien 11, Premier of Quebec Lucien Bouchard 12, Quebec’s Liberal leader Daniel Johnson and Federal Progressive Conservative leader Jean Charest. It shocked Ontario’s citizens as Harris had maintained he supported French services and rights as Harris a few years before the recommendation had proudly exclaimed at a PC leadership convention debate on February 13, 1990 (relating to a French Language Services Act question): “I support the view that this province has the obligation, a constitutional duty and in fact a moral right to provide French language services where numbers warrant in a common sense logical way.” 13 ( ) <- You may need to click refresh in your browser. A mere seven years later, however, Harris and rookie MPP John Baird held a different view. Harris had forgotten his promise as both he and Baird claimed that Chrétien was “acting out of jurisdiction.” Considering that language rights and the protection of minority rights are federal issues protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the argument seemed pathetically desperate. On several occasions relating to Montfort Hospital and similar issues, Baird even went so far as to state that Chrétien and the Liberals were “playing politics with language." 14 He declared that Chretien should be spending more time creating jobs than whipping up a language controversy and that job creation would "do a lot more for national unity." 15 Baird clearly did not understand the importance of having a predominantly French hospital in one of Ontario’s most concentrated French pockets of the Nation’s Capital. The Montfort case would be settled in the landmark Lalonde v. Ontario (Health Services Restructuring Commission) court case. The Ontario Court of Appeal voted in favour of the hospital as it felt the government would be violating the Liberal implemented French Language Services Act if it was closed. The bill Harris had defended only a few years prior was now the bill that stood in his way. After years of campaigning, the HSRC and the Harris government were unwillingly forced to back down and agreed in 1997 16 to keep the hospital open.


Tuohy, Carolyn J. Accidental Logics: the Dynamics of Change in the Health Care Arena in the United States, Britain, and Canada. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Print. Ibid. CFTO News. CFTO-TV. CFTO, Toronto (Scarborough), Ontario, 13 Feb. 1990. Television. Taber, Janet. "Ottawa Must Defend French: Federal Government Threatens." Ottawa Citizen 16 Dec. 1999. Print. Ibid Canada: the State of the Federation, 1998. Montreal: McGill-Queens University, 1999. Print.

12 13 14 15 16


The subsequent firing of 6,200 nurses, or “hula hoop workers” as Harris infamously called them, and the elimination of over 10,000 hospital beds 17 was the next piece of the Harris healthcare restructuring puzzle. These short sighted “deficit reduction” schemes lead to horrendous wait times and resulted in the biggest health care provision shortages in Ontario and Canadian history. These massive reforms would cause a brain-drain across Ontario as many doctors moved to the United States as they were offered more money, stability and better working conditions. As a result, 10% 18 of Ontario’s population would be left without a family doctor. The impacts of the Harris healthcare reforms linger even today despite significant government refunding. In spite of such drastic changes, they delusionally maintained they never slashed Ontario’s healthcare, however reality proved otherwise. Fast forwarding to 2010 it seems like current Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s memory is failing him, or he clearly has not done his healthcare homework. Another possibility is Hudak might be trying to detract attention from his disastrous stint at the Ministry of Health by playing into the general public’s memory lapse or indifference. This was further proven on November 21, 2010 when he falsely stated before the assembly at Queen’s Park “... spare Ontario families more McGuinty cuts to healthcare or education!” 19 Interestingly, taking into account it was the McGuinty Liberals that heavily refunded Ontario’s healthcare system, hired over 10,000 new nurses and opened 18 new hospitals across the province. Tim Hudak does not exactly have a pristine leadership résumé or job experience so how does he expect “Ontario families” and the rest of Ontario to take his healthcare plan or current lack of one seriously? The icing on the cake however is Hudak’s criticism of the Liberal implemented Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) for rural communities. Hudak has blasted on several occasions calling the LHINs “large bodies of middle managers” 20 or that they are “populated by unaccountable, unelected and largely anonymous individuals making significant healthcare decisions in communities and they are not in any


Ontario. Health Services Restructuring Commission. Government of Ontario. Looking Back, Looking Forward The Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission (1996-2000): A Legacy Report. Toronto, March 2000. Print. McMuruty, John. "The 'Big Lie' Is the Hallmark of Corporate Totalitarianism." Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Comp. Ruth Cohen. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Legislative Proceedings - Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard (November 21, 2010). Print. "Tim Hudak Interview." Interview by John Laforet. Current on The Wire. 26 June 2009. Podcast.


19 20


way connected to voters.” 21 What on earth was the Harris government’s appointed HSRC then? Hudak went on to fiercely defend the Harris government’s Rural and Northern Health Care Framework solution saying “hospitals were kept open and got additional funding so emergency rooms cold stay open 24 hours a day.” 22 Major hospitals in Toronto couldn’t handle the situation and cuts how did they expect rural hospitals to cope? Were they really that delusional? Not to worry though, if their program’s “scrap style funding” failed the “Hospital Fairy” would magically pick up the pieces and give sparsely distributed rural hospitals the funding they needed! Maybe Hudak should tell the Fleuelling family about their government’s run away healthcare funding success story! Joshua Fleuelling, an 18 year old teenager died on Jan 14, 2000 23 in an ambulance because his local hospital’s emergency room was on critical-care bypass and was on route to Markham-Stouffville instead. 24 Hudak was transferred out of his key Ministry of Health position only eight months before the incident. Education Reform: The Harris government’s education “reform” policies were no doubt some of the worst and most controversial the province had ever seen. Although they claimed healthcare and education were their primary priorities, reality once again proved very different. Through their new funding plan the government reduced education funding by an astonishing $987 million 25 per year not counting the 1995-1997 reduction of $525 million 26 brining it to the grand total of $1.5 billion 27 in education cuts in their first few years in office. The Harris PCs even had some interesting surprises for university students. After a year in office the Harris government began the process of hacking away $400 million 28 per year in post secondary education funding. In addition to this they started charging students $10 29 to apply for each education

21 22 23 24

Ibid. Ibid. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. CBC News - Family Sues Government for Son's Asthma Death." - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. Web. 02 Jan. 2011. <>. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Ibid. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. Ibid.


26 27 28 29


loan and another $2.00 30 per help inquiry in 1997. When the federal government tried alleviating Ontario’s post secondary education crisis with the $3,000 31 Federal Millennium Scholarship Fund in 2000 the Harris government had a different solution. Students would receive only $500 32 of the $3,000 fund, the rest was merrily pocketed by the Harris government for other uses. 33 “How dare you say the government cut post secondary education” they yelled when they announced in 2000 that $68 million 34 was being refunded, a mere 12% 35 of what they had taken out! University and college students painfully saw their tuition fees increase from 20% 36 to over 800%. 37 By the time they were done, Ontario tuition fees for colleges and universities would be the highest in North America! When they were removed from office in 2003 a monstrous $2.8 billion 38 in post secondary funding had been systematically sucked out of the education system. But remember, they didn’t cut education funding! The education cuts had catastrophic, lingering effects on school boards. To make up for the substantial funding reduction, school boards were heavy handed into shutting down over 192 39 schools across the province in order to keep the lights on in others. Ontario’s separate Catholic school boards took the biggest trouncing. With these closures, class sizes increased substantially, individual student/teacher time plummeted, funding for academic resources like computers were virtually nonexistent and students were forced to resort to fundraising (school chocolate/candy drives, walkathons, etc.) for a government provided right! Clearly all part of the Harris government’s definition of “putting kids first!”The plan however was to establish an elaborate crisis. 40 Senior Ministry of Education bureaucrats had released footage to the media of then Minister of Education John Snobelen stating "We need to invent a crisis in order to bring about change in the educational system." 41

30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Brennan, R. "Minister Plotted "to Invent a Crisis"" Toronto Star 13 Sept. 1995. Print. Greaves, Bill. "Of Caterpillars and Butterflies: Reading John Snobelen's Infamous "Caterpillar" Speech." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print.


Snobelen would go on to state on several different occasions during the recording: “... if you don't bankrupt it well, if you don't create a great crisis," "Inventing a crisis is something we're not... intuitively good at," "they couldn't make the thing change, because we were late with the declared crisis," "how to bankrupt it... I like to think of it as 'creating a useful crisis'," "'Creating a useful crisis' is part of what it will be about" and finally, "But, yeah, we need to invent a crisis." 42 The point of creating a crisis was to legitimize policy changes that might otherwise be unpalatable. A breaking point arose with the controversial Bill 160 - Education Quality Improvement Act. It sparked the Teachers Strike of 1997, the largest teachers’ union strike North America had ever seen. Bill 160 significantly reduced the authority of school boards and teachers’ unions, it allowed the government to regulate class sizes, adjust property tax education rates, adjust teachers’ prep time, and allowed noncertified instructors to teach thousands of students across the province. 43 There was even a nifty little provision that proposed to claw back the tenure from university professors across the province. 44 Former Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education and Training Charles Pascal would be one of the bill’s most vocal opponents. He broke down the process and policies of Bill 160 and its aftermath into several crucial segments: • “Create a crisis by maligning and demoralizing teachers, describing them as overpaid and underworked. Use lots of numbers and comparisons regardless of their validity to portray how lousy the system is.” 45 “Start bankrupting the system by ripping up the foundation. For example, get rid of junior kindergarten and good not-for-profit childcare. Start taking money out of the system and remove democratic structures, all of this too quickly for the system to adapt.” 46 “Do not reinvest savings for reform initiatives, not even for a transition period. Use reform as a smokescreen but ensure reforms don't work, that they are strangled by an absence of time and money.” 47 “Lie about your intent to take $667 million more out of the education budget, and when the lie is exposed, trot out your finance minister to throw in totally misleading teacher pension


Ibid. Bill 160 - Education Quality Improvement Act, Government of Ontario - Ministry of Education (1997). Print. Schugurensky, Daniel, ed. "History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century - 1997." OISE - University of Toronto. Web. <>. Pascal, Charles. "A Lesson From the Protest." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Ibid.




46 47


information and to lie again and say that you haven't really taken any money out of the system.” 48 Although the Harris government claimed in the 1998 budget that they had set aside over “$9.5 billion” 49 for new scholarships and another “$9.5 billion” 50 more for training programs, it proved to be all nonsense. In fact the money had existed in Ontario’s education system for decades. The Harris government had simply renamed the programs. The same government introduced standardized EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) testing in grades 3, 6, 9 and the literacy test in Grade 10. The Harris government had deemed standardized testing was the way to “magically” improve student grades. Everyone else knew that more teachers, smaller class sizes and more student/teacher attention would improve grades. The proposal did not fool many people, including thousands of worried parents. The next step of the plan was to reengineer the “complex” report cards for parents. By replacing the student comment boxes on report cards with predetermined “individual” grade based comments. The government felt it was easier for parents to understand how their child was performing “generally” speaking. The new report cards would prove to be a cut and paste exercise for teachers. 51 A student achieving a “B+” grade would automatically get a computer generated comment such as “the student demonstrates adequate knowledge of the subject matter.” The new system would also re-engineer the marking system as students would now get a grade ranking from “1-4” on assignments. While it was designed by the government to pass more kids (“2-4” was a pass) it also virtually eliminated the perfect percentage rate making it almost impossible for a student who worked exceptionally hard to receive the full “4” under the new marking rubric. The hasty elimination of Grade 13 or OAC in 2003 from Ontario’s high schools however would probably be the biggest mess and Snobelen’s notorious “crises” that never got fixed. For decades Ontario high school students received the foundations necessary and essential for post secondary education in their grade 13 OAC year. The result, a double graduating class in 2003 creating a massive university application backload as universities could not handle the sudden application surge for which institutions were unprepared. Students bore witness to a massive downloading of work onto the lower grades. For example, a student in grade 4 would now be learning what a grade four student must know in addition to what a grade five or even six student was previously learning. The money sadly was never reinvested in the education system but instead went to fund other things like severely biased partisan government ads against the teachers. Students too would suffer the
48 49

Ibid. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Kari Delhi, “Shopping for Schools,” Orbit [published by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto], vol. 25, no. 1, 1998.

50 51


consequences of a “penny wise, pound foolish” government. The climbing high school dropout percentage however was very reassuring to students. It proved that if they chose to drop out and run as a Progressive Conservative, started a garbage truck company and made friends with Mike Harris they could achieve well paying jobs like Minister of Education as Snobelen had proved. 52 Partisan Government Ads: While sweeping changes were hastily being made, the Harris government wasted over $44 million 53 per year in partisan government advertisements. In the seven years the Harris PCs were in office they squandered $250 million on partisan Conservative ads while healthcare and other services suffered. This served as clear repudiation of the previous generally partisan neutral ads Ontarians had viewed for decades. Several ads were strategically released and timed as new bills and proposals were being unveiled in the legislature. For example while the HSRC was quickly firing nurses and closing hospitals, government ads were aired across the province showing Harris walking through “empty” hospital wards with beds sitting “vacant”. The ad alleged: “... empty wards like these cost money and cure no one. That’s why we need to put money where you, the patient, will benefit most. Modern hospitals and the latest equipment ... a healthy start towards making Ontario’s healthcare system work even better.” ( ) <- You may need to click refresh in your browser. Which patient benefited from 28 fewer hospitals, longer emergency wait times and the loss of 6,200 nurses? Many Ontarians did not know any better and sadly took the ads at face value until their local hospital was suddenly fenced off and boarded up. New fuse-box government “service” ads were then aired stating the provincial service system was a “mess.” The ads, narrated by Harris, claimed that people got services from local governments, the Ontario government and some from both. The ad claimed: “...we’re making government smaller, simpler, and less expensive. The savings won’t come from reducing services they will come from untangling the bureaucracy, making the system work again. It makes sense.” ( ) <- You may need to click refresh in your browser. Harris said he would not reduce services. What about healthcare and education? In reality, the PC government downloaded countless provincial services and programs onto the already struggling regional municipalities. The downloaded services included the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), land ambulance services (formerly under the Ministry of Health), public transit funding for major cities (TTC- Toronto, OC Transpo - Ottawa, etc.) and many others. The larger cites could barely

Heble, Ajay, Donna Palmateer. Pennee, and J. R. Tim Struthers. New Contexts of Canadian Criticism. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1997. Print. April Lindgren, “Premier defends government ads as non-partisan: ‘I am very confident in the system we have in place’ National Post, October 11, 2006, A13.



handle the shift, smaller regional municipalities were forced to either privatize or slash the service altogether. Many opted for the latter option. The most controversial ads however would be the ads aired during the province-wide Teachers Federation Strike of 1997. The ads portrayed teachers as the villains, not the government’s new education “reforms.” The ads featured Harris passionately exclaiming: “The teachers’ unions have called an illegal strike! What’s in our plan to reform education that could possibly justify breaking the law? Asking teachers to spend a little more time with their students, putting an end to larger class sizes, standardized understandable report cards, and province wide testing? I don’t think so! We live in a law abiding society! Breaking the law is not the right example. Let’s put our children first.” ( ) <- You may need to click refresh in your browser. Did they put children first when they cut over $1 billion dollars from Ontario’s education system? The ads sparked extensive public outrage all over the province. People signed petitions, wrote letters and rallied their local MPP’s to let the government know that they were not impressed. Teachers were actually striking because of the negative implications of proposals and amendments of Bill 160 not because they did not want to “spend more time with their students” like Harris claimed. In fact, websites were voluntarily created by teachers so that parents could download daily exercises so children would not fall behind and suffer academically during the strike. These new “Government of Ontario” television advertisements painted Harris as a sort of “Mike Holmes” figure. This “Mike Holmes” was the kind of guy you could count on for jobs and development as they showed Harris promising “new hospitals” and “rebuilding services” while more jobs were lost, hospital wait times increased, services were downloaded and privatized and education was systematically destroyed. Most average Ontarians smartened up real fast. Government Consultants and Untendered Contracts: Presently, Hudak and the PC caucus routinely criticize the McGuinty Liberals for their spending on consultants. How soon we forget. Under the Mike Harris Conservatives over $20,000 was blown in consulting fees for Hydro One, funds that went unreported by the media and unrecorded, leaving public scrutiny out of the equation. Progressive Conservative consultant Paul Rhodes collected an astonishing $1,074,000 from untendered contracts relating to the Ministry of Health, Ontario Hydro, the LCBO and plenty more. Partisan Progressive Conservative “consultant” Tom Long, who ironically was a long time friend of Harris’ and worked on his election campaign, collected nearly $3,100,000 in unpublished government contracts. And the list goes on and on.


As part of their new welfare plan the Harris government, with the help of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture Inc.), set up the Business Transformation Project 54 to combat “welfare fraud.” The new system was severely flawed and was as technologically advanced as a typewriter. The new system was so defective that it would send out hundreds of wrong welfare termination notices to people without the knowledge of any government employee. The Andersen system was “off line” for more than 16 days in one year, during that period it cost taxpayers over $2.3 million. The overall system cost Ontario’s taxpayers a blistering $500 million 55 (even though it was quoted at roughly $120 million). Accenture charged the tax payers an additional to $10 million 56 to fix design flaws they themselves made. In the official Government of Ontario’s Auditor General Annual Report of 1998 then Auditor General Eric Peters blasted the government contract stating “shares in savings at a disproportionately high rate to the disadvantage of the ministry.” 57 It went on to state that “we could not demonstrate that it had selected the most cost-effective proposal or that the accepted proposal would result in value for money spent.” 58 In 2002 he would again state that it "was a bad deal for taxpayers." 59 As their preferred “modus operandi” the Harris government ignored the reports. These seldom deviated precedents set a trend for the various government reports that followed during their term in office as we would see in relation to water testing and the environment. The government instead happily signed more cheques throwing an additional $32 million 60 of taxpayers’ dollars at the newly named Accenture. Andersen Consulting would later play a massive role in the Enron Scandal that plagued the United States in late 2001. The fact that Andersen consulting was a publicly “pro- conservative” corporation raised further integrity questions as the entire contract was sole sourced and untendered.

54 55 56 57 58 59 60

Rep. Auditor General of Ontario Annual Report (1998). Print. Brennan, Richard, and Robert Benzie. "How Costly Computer Sparked a 'nightmare'" Toronto Star 10 July 2004. Print. Hennessy, Trish, and Peter Sawchuk. "Tories Ignore Computer Warnings." Toronto Star 13 July 2004. Print. Rep. Auditor General of Ontario Annual Report (1998). Print. Ibid. Ibid. Brennan, Richard, and Robert Benzie. "How Costly Computer Sparked a 'nightmare'" Toronto Star 10 July 2004. Print.


Labour Relations: While in office, the Harris Conservatives agenda quickly dismantled and crippled services more than it improved and reinvested. They proceeded with several “labour reform” bills such the repeal of NDP Bill 7 (anti-strike breaker legislation) and the introduction of Bill 84 (firefighter labour reforms), Bill 31 (anti-union legislation), and the notorious Bill 136 (labour restructuring). They also dismantled more than 46% of the Ministry of Labour’s operating budget, fired over 457 Ministry of Labour employees 61 in addition to one third of the Ministry of Labour’s workplace safety inspectors. These changes opened the workplace safety floodgates and blew the dams designed to protect worker rights and prevent workplace accidents. They would pass even more anti-labour legislation that severely undermined the power of the Ministry of Labour to go after offending corporations. On August 23, 1995 they abolished mandatory inquest legislation for workers injured on the job. 62 The new “safety reform” laws put the responsibility on the employers to report workplaces accidents on their property. In doing so thousands of workplace accidents and injuries would go unreported and underreported, leaving hundreds of workers either dead, sick or in severe chronic pain. The Ontario Public Service would find out the Harris government’s position on collective bargaining and labour relations the hard way. Even when 100,000 striking 63 Ontario Pubic Service Employees Union (OPSEU) members and other Ontarians voiced their concerns during the province-wide Day of Action during the OPSEU strike of 1996, the Ontario Provincial Police riot shields and horses on the lawns of Queen’s Park did all the government negotiating. Harris even went as far to say “By the time we’re done there won’t be a single blade of grass that hasn’t been trampled on by some protestor” ironic coming from a leader who promised he would look after and defend the needs of everyone including the little guy. There was even a “strike brutality” smear campaign scandal when it was proven that Harris’s Caucus Liaison Bill King had not been pushed into the Queen’s Park bushes by striking unionized OPSEU employees as was alleged, but had voluntary thrown himself into them to suggest picket line “brutality.” 64 The government’s main stance in response to the strike was: “we are not going to be bullied.” To set the record straight, the 1996 strike was the first time
61 62 63

Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. Rapaport, David. No Justice, No Peace: the 1996 OPSEU Strike against the Harris Government in Ontario. Montreal: McGillQueen's UP, 1999. Print. Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print.



the Ontario Public Service took to picket lines legally in it’s over 100 year history. It was not about wages but the fact that the government was firing thousands of civil servants, forcing them to sacrifice benefits they had earned over decades of loyal service, and was privatizing government branches into newly formed organizations such as the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) which effectively handed over the safety of Ontario’s citizens to the deregulated and unaccountable private sector!

The Labour strikes were just the tip of the iceberg though. On October 3 1995 then Minister of Labour Elizabeth Witmer (1995-1997) introduced one of the most crippling anti-labour legislation bills the province had ever seen. Bill 7 - Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act not only repealed NDP “anti-scab/strike breaker” legislation but it also gave the government incredible powers in regard to union decertification (power to dismantle unions). 65 In 1997, they introduced provisions to end pension protection laws and pay equity. 66 Continuing their legacy of destruction on Sept. 4, 2001 they introduced the “voluntary” landmark 60-hour work week (7.5 work days), enjoy your weekends. Not anymore, Harris and the gang think you should be at your cubicle if your employer “asked nicely”! That same day they also implemented the Government Efficiency Act (changed Occupational Health and Safety Act) which critically undermined worker’s rights to refuse unsafe or harmful work at no penalty (firing, etc.). 67 So much for looking out for average hard working Ontarians. The most painful memory however is how many workers died while Mike Harris and Eves were in office. In 2000 alone over 243 68 people died and hundreds more were injured due to work related accidents, many of them were youth. It was the highest workplace related death rate the Province of Ontario had seen in over 20 years! 69 This would serve as the clearest example of Harris’s mindless “less government” delusion as he chose to fire hundreds of Ministry of Labour safety inspectors instead of stiffening regulations and funding prevention programs.

65 66 67 68 69

Bill 7 - Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act - Ministry of Labour (1995). Print. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.


One year after the McGuinty Liberals came into power over 200 new labour safety inspectors were added to the Ministry of Labour on July 8, 2004. 70 Consider the fact the number of workplace injuries and deaths plummeted a staggering 20% 71 (2004 – 2008) the evidence was clear, inspectors saved lives! The examples and statistics served as clear reminders that “less government” was not working. Welfare and Tenant Reform: The Harris government also made drastic changes to Ontario’s welfare structure. The Harris government implemented “Workfare” in 1995 under the direction of then Minister of Community and Social Services Janet Ecker for people who had been laid off from their jobs in the first place. The layoffs were blamed on the newly signed free trade agreements and the massive and mounting recession. The Harris government expected people to work for jobs that simply did not exist. They maintained that jobs were increasing in the province from their new social and workfare programs, yet in one year alone, 1996-1997, under their watch the province lost over 37,000 jobs. 72 These changes and a reduction of 22% 73 in welfare payments would result in severe consequences. The “caring” nature of the government would be proven when then Minister of Community Services David Tsubouchi (1995-1996) suggested welfare recipients purchase “dented cans of tuna” and bargain down prices with supermarket managers to make ends meet. 74 To continue the “War on the Poor” a new welfare fraud “tip” line was set up by the Harris government. The line was anonymous and stipulated that any person in question immediately be cut off before and while they were being “investigated.” Hundreds of needy individuals with honest claims would be cut off as disgruntled spouses or boyfriends called the line after their separation or out of revenge. In Conservative Ontario the government felt it was acceptable for single mothers to feed their children meals of popcorn or stale muffins as the cheques were not sufficient for anything else. 75 They also significantly revamped the so called “acceptance” procedure. It was now “acceptable” to ask individuals intimate personal questions such as “do you and your co-resident spend stare time at home together?” or “do you and your co-resident attend your child’s birthday parties?” 76 Funny coming from a government that campaigned on the fact

Government of Ontario. Ministry of Labour. 12 New Health and Safety Inspectors to Join London Office in April 2005. Http:// 23 Feb. 2005. Web. Talaga, Tanya. "Construction Workers At High Risk." Toronto Star [Toronto] 24 Jan. 2010. Print. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Rapaport, David. No Justice, No Peace: the 1996 OPSEU Strike against the Harris Government in Ontario. Montreal: McGillQueen's UP, 1999. Print. Brock, Deborah R. Making Normal: Social Regulation in Canada. Toronto: Nelson Thomson Learning, 2003. Print. Ibid.

71 72

73 74

75 76


that they would shrink the size and intrusive nature of government, surly it sounds pretty intrusive to the average person! The death of Kimberley Rogers, a single expecting mother from Sudbury would prove to be one of the visible victims of these new policies. Rogers was eight months pregnant and on welfare but had taken out education loans to improve her situation and had enrolled at Cambrian College in Sudbury. The government was made aware of the A grade student’s situation and claimed that these education loans qualified as “income.” In return, then Minister of Community and Social Services John Baird had her prosecuted and charged with welfare fraud. Her welfare payments were immediately terminated. She was then ordered to pay the government $13,000 and was sentenced to several months of house arrest. The Globe & Mail published the details of her ordeal shortly after her death. When the Globe & Mail story was released, Baird simply remarked that it was an “unfortunate occurrence” and had no further comment. In spite of such cases, the next part of the Conservative agenda was to amend tenant and landlord reform. The Harris government oversaw widespread changes to previous landlord and tenant legislation with the notorious and extremely biased Bill 96 - Tenant Protection Act. The bill repealed the Rent Control Act, Landlord and Tennant Act, Residents Rights Act and Rental Housing Protection Act 77-- all critical pieces of legislation designed to protect tenant’s rights. It also shifted tenant/landlord dispute cases from Ontario’s Court System to the newly established Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal. The tribunal was tasked with deliberating on tenant/landlord disputes. New legislation severely impacted legal neutrality as they were armed with one key piece of legislation. This new legislation automatically approved landlord eviction applications unless the tenant filed a notice of dispute within five days. Countless accounts would later be released to the public describing how people with poor literacy skills or those who did not speak English or French found themselves on the street after being evicted by default by the tribunal. Tax Cuts and Fees: Today, while Tim Hudak promotes massive tax decreases, people fail to realize that Harris proposed the same tax cuts back in his 1995 election campaign. Harris slashed income taxes by 30%. More than 57% 78 of the tax cuts ($ 6 billion) 79 would, not surprisingly, go to line the pockets of 10% 80 of the province’s population, the affluent elites.
77 78

Bill 96 - Tennant Protection Act, Government of Ontario (1997). Print. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid. Ibid.

79 80


The rest of the province saw their tax break snatched up by government implemented service charges on previously free services like libraries and community recreation centers. 81 On July 15, 1996 they imposed annual user fees for prescription drugs for OAS (Old Age Security) seniors, people with disabilities and the poor totalling over $225,000,000. 82 On April 1, 1997 eight months after the first user charges were introduced, an additional $100 83 annual user service charge was implemented. Harris then realized the province was slowing dying economically from his slash in tax revenue so the government borrowed money at exorbitant interest rates (1.4 billion/year). 84 As a result, the province’s debt skyrocketed an additional $25 billion. 85 The debt was then downloaded on the short-lived Progressive Conservative government of Harris’ successor Ernie Eves government and then onto the McGuinty Liberals when they took power in 2003. The McGuinty government had the daunting task of rebuilding the province, restoring dignity to Ontario Public Service employees, re-instating services or creating new programs to make Ontario whole again after the “Swiss cheese” exercise created by the two Conservative governments. Special Interest Groups and Lobbying: Special interests groups and “side line string pullers” are daily Question Period topics for the Hudak Progressive Conservatives. They routinely accuse McGuinty and the Liberals of being in the pocket of big business, soul source contractors, making sweetheart deals (Samsung), top hydro kingpins, healthcare moguls and the list continues. They seem to forget who Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris’ key advisor, election counsel and key Progressive Conservative strategist Leslie Noble was. Noble was none other than founder and CEO of government lobbyist firms Strategy Corp. and Political & Communication Strategies Incorporated. Political & Communication Strategies Inc. focussed primarily on lobbing the Progressive Conservative party. In 1997, it received $51,928 for “research and polling” services. However, Strategy Corp. represented Noble’s key clients such as Greyhound Canada, Canadian Highways International (407 ETR Toll Highway Consortium), pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-Wellcome ( which successfully lobbied against limiting public funding kickbacks for drug companies), computer consulting firm SHL Systemhouse and financial powerhouse Coopers and Lybrand which saw their
81 82 83 84

Ibid. Legislative Proceedings - Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard (July 15, 1996). Print. Legislative Proceedings - Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard (April 1, 1997). Print. McClellan, Ross. "1,460 Days of Destruction." Comp. Ruth Cohen. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid.



government business significantly increase while clients of Noble’s. 86 Noble’s special interest group clients also included the Brewers of Ontario, Ontario Forest Industries Association, Alliance for Community Care (which owned nursing homes), and The Ontario Provincial Police Association. All of these groups would see significant results from the Ministry of Health, Transportation, Energy, Finance and the Office of the Solicitor-General. 87

Noble also oversaw the unelected provincial aides and officials of Harris and his cabinet ministers. Such aides included Guy Giorno (Harris’ Policy Director), Tim Hudak’s wife Deb Hutton (Issues Management Director), David Lindsay (Harris’ Chief of Staff before Giorno replaced him), Brian Patterson (Minister Tony Clement’s assistant), Peter Clute (Minister Ernie Eves’ assistant) and John Guthrie (Minister David Tsubouchi’s assistant). Progressive Conservative MPP Bill Murdoch would shed light on all the backroom deals and power exhibitions of these unelected officials. He stated that on several occasions aids had proudly exclaimed “Hey Murdoch, we didn't even have to go through an election and we're running the place.” 88 Even Queen's Park Speaker (1996-1999) Chris Stockwell, a Progressive Conservative MPP from Etobicoke (1990-2003), broke his silence calling them “cabals” 89 and stating they make key decisions without any input from elected politicians. It was revealed that in correspondence with a client in relation to proposals for video lottery terminals in bars and charity casinos, Noble had told the client that the Minister of Economic Development Bill Saunderson (1995-1997) was “powerless” even though the matter primarily involved the Ministry of Economic Development. Noble was no pauper either; while an aide to Harris she moved from her humble Cityhome split (50/50 fair market share/government subsidized) building to a prime real estate Front St. condominium penthouse and purchased a brand new $75,000 BMW 540i. 90 While Progressive Conservative campaign manager (1994-1995) the Toronto Star reported the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario paid her a whopping $181,940 for
86 87 88 89 90

Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. Ibid Donovan, Kevin, and Moira Welsh. "Queen of the Park." The Toronto Star [Toronto] 13 Mar. 1999. Print. Ibid Ibid


“consulting” and “travel expenses.” Other Progressive Conservatives “advisors” were paid between $20 -23,000. 91 These conflicts of interest would be proven on January 4, 1996 before Queen’s Park when then Minister of Transportation Al Palladini (1995-1997) proposed a bill to introduce deregulation in Ontario’s bus and transport market. Palladini even went so far as to state “government has no business telling bus companies how to run their businesses.” The bill proposed an implementation date of Jan 1, 1998. Shortly after the 1996 proposal Greyhound hired Strategy Corp. to take up its case with the government. When interviewed by the Toronto Star, Noble simply stated that “... our clients set up their own meetings. We are not retained for this purpose; indeed it is our view that any client would be wasting this money if they retained a consultant simply for the purpose of setting up meetings with ministers.” 92 However, Greyhound Canada President Dick Huisman fiercely defended “that was not her competency.” In fact he told the Toronto Star that he had hired Don Haire, one of Canada’s top bus industry advisors, to give him advice. Huisman maintained he had simply hired Noble to get access to the Premier, Palladini and other top government policy makers. Shortly after Noble got involved, the bill was halted and scrapped; bus deregulation was forgotten about and was never reintroduced. Not so coincidental is the fact that Greyhound Canada also contributed significantly to the Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign from 1995 - 1997 totalling a blistering $27,666 compared to a very modest donation of $3,600 93 to the Liberal campaign. It did not end with Harris however, when Eves took over as Premier a new face was added to the consulting kingpins, Hugh Mackenzie. Like his predecessor Leslie Noble, Mackenzie too was the founder and CEO of another government lobbyist firm, Enterprise Canada Group Inc. 94 One must also take into account Mackenzie’s relations with then Minster of Community and Social Service (19851985) Ernie Eves and Mike Harris were hardly recent and dated back to the extremely short lived Frank Miller PC government of the 1980s. The disastrous Miller government was voted out of the house by the Liberal-NDP Accord after only two months in office on a vote of non-confidence. Mackenzie was none other than Miller’s chief of staff. 95 After Miller’s disastrous defeat Mackenzie not surprisingly rode off into the sunset forever, or so we thought. While Harris was still in power Eves had resigned as Minister of Finance vowing “never to return to politics.” Guess who the Premier of Ontario was hardly a year later! Mackenzie was also back and firing on all cylinders as Eves’ trusty campaign manager and chief strategist. 96 Enterprises client list was an interesting one also. During the Eves’ years Enterprise Canada Group Inc. worked closely with scandal
91 92 93 94 95 96

Ibid Ibid Ibid. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. Ibid. Ibid.


riddled Accenture Inc. 97 to help locate new government contracts. Their second high profile client was Direct Energy a company that hand long advocated for a privatized hydro system (a Harris/Eves Conservative idea). 98 Can you guess which company helped Direct Energy receive their operating licence? See a trend developing. It is hardly coincidental that both of the last two PC Premiers have hired key high profile government lobbyist executives and CEOs as their advisors and chief campaign strategists. Transportation Transportation has always been a high profile news issue in Ontario, mainly due to Ontario’ severe snow conditions for roughly six months of the year. The Harris’ government failed to get the message yet again on something so basic as snow removal and road safety. Almost overnight then Minister of Transportation Al Palladini became a household name and the poster boy of public fury when he suggested the Ministry of Transportation slash its snow removal staff and budget for provincial highways. 99 Considering Ontario’s cottage country can receive a few feet of snow in a mild storm, it stunned the province. Standing before Queen’s Park on November 15, 1995 provincially highway Palladini passionately exclaimed (the day after a women died on an icy highway): “The Ministry of Transportation is streamlining its winter operation. It's taking advantage of the opportunities that we have to utilize the dollars. This government is not going to pay people standing around waiting for snow to fall.” 100 The snow storms of 1998 and 1999 proved otherwise as Ontario was slammed with two of the worst snow storms in decades. The snow was so bad that fire and ambulance services could not reach critical patients as the municipal and underfunded provincial snow removal services couldn’t keep up. The system was so overwhelmed that Prince Edward Island voluntarily sent 100 of their snowploughs across the country to help Ontario. 101 In cities like Toronto the army was called in to deal with the snow as it severely hampered critical
97 98 99

Ibid. Ibid. Leyton-Brown, David. Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs, 1995. [Toronto, Ont.]: University of Toronto, 2002. Print. Legislative Proceedings - Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard (November 15, 1995). Print. Tambar, Jaspreet. "10 Years Later, Mel Lastman Proud He Called in Army." Toronto Star [Toronto] 11 Jan. 2009. Print.

100 101


emergency services. The snow was so bad that army personnel carriers were literally being used at ambulances or as fire snowplough escorts in the downtown core. Don’t worry, in the event of a snow/ice storm or related roadside collision a newly privatized and underfunded municipal ambulance service would happily deliver you on a treacherously icy road to a severely overcrowded and understaffed hospital, provided it got to one of the few remaining ones not slated for closure on time, unless of course it was on critical care bypass! All an integral part of the benefit of living in PC Ontario! The media directly and indirectly painted Palladini as an anti-intellectualist after hearing several of his similar transportation “service” proposals. The fact that he had no prior political experience before being appointed as Harris’ millionaire Minister of Transportation was not shocking. The fact he was previously a used car salesman and later owner of Pine Tree Ford Lincoln did nothing significant for his overall image. While a popular local figure in his ridings of York Center and later Vaughn-King-Aroura the rest of Ontario had a very different opinion. Highway 407 Privatization:

One of the biggest blunders of the Harris government however, would probably be the one-time sell-off and privatization of the taxpayer funded highway, the 407, to the international consortium known simply as Canadian Highways International. The 407s long and turbulent history began in the mid 1980s. For decades the 401 had transitioned from an expressway to what many would deem a parking lot. The solution was the 407 a parallel highway north of Toronto that would alleviate much of the congestion providing Ontario’s with faster commute times and newer infrastructure and roadways. The price however was daunting at $20 million 102 a kilometre so the Peterson Liberals looked to public/private partnerships and investors to help out. Ultimately they decided that the highway would be a province owned toll collection highway. When Bob Rae took over as premier the proposal and plan continued until 1995. When all was said and done Ontario taxpayers paid $1.6 billion dollars for a beautiful new highway that was officially theirs.

Sewell, John. The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto's Sprawl. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2009. Print.


The Harris government had a better solution though, simply give the already built and public funded highway away to a big business consortium for a fraction of its projected worth and then sign an unprecedented 99 year lease contract so that any responsible successive premier can’t undo the damage! Just in case that wasn’t enough they figured it was appropriate to add provisions in the contract so that the new owners could essentially charge whatever they liked by means of tolls to thousands of helpless “hand-tied” motorists. When the rights were officially transferred over the Harris PCs loudly yelled from the highest mountains “see we got $3.1 billion 103 for the $1.6 billion 104 we paid.” They failed however to notify the general public that the highway generated roughly $400 million worth of revenue for the consortium annually. By 2003, Highway 407 tolls had gone up a blistering 1.45¢/km, the 5th increase in 40 months. 105 In roughly nine years the consortium easily paid off the costs had new cash loaded gold mine while the taxpayers that gave it to them got stiffed with more user fees and utterly useless government over publicized “tax breaks.” City Amalgamations: Another big blunder the Harris government is credited with is Bill 103 -City of Toronto Act, and respective acts that also saw the forced amalgamation of the City of Hamilton, Ottawa and several other municipalities across the province. Many of you might not remember or might not have even been in the province during those tense days in late 1990s when we lost our boroughs and cities but those who were here have still not forgotten. Being raised in the Borough of Scarborough (suburb of Toronto) I still remember the bright yellow referendum/petition cards to prevent amalgamation, all had voted overwhelmingly to preserve their individual cites. Councillors from Toronto, York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York lugged over 11,000 petition cards to Queens Park but these cries were ignored and the cities were amalgamated against the will of its citizens anyway. Speaking from personal experience, I know preamalgamation Scarborough no doubt had one of the best public works and fire departments in Toronto. Fire response times were less than 10 minutes and road and sidewalk snow service was done within 24 hours of a major snow fall, simply exemplary given the sheer size of the municipality. Now, you’re “fortunate” if the snowplough comes around two days after! Still remember weekly garbage/recycling pickup? All cherished shreds of history under Harris’ Ontario! To their amazement, the Progressive Conservatives have still not won a single seat in the 416-Toronto electoral regions since. The attitude still remains unchanged even after tireless and desperate PC seat

"Hard-hat Heaven - The Globe and Mail." Home - The Globe and Mail. 26 Feb. 2010. Web. <>. Ibid. Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print.

104 105


filling attempts. The most humorous being the attempt to win over the riding of St Paul’s (Toronto) with grossly offensive tabloid columnist Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun, needless to say she lost by more than 5000 votes to child humanitarian and Liberal candidate Dr. Eric Hoskins . Classic examples of this were the most recent provincial by-elections in the ridings of Toronto Center (Glen Murray, Liberal) and Ottawa West – Nepean (Bob Chiarelli, Liberal). The Hydro Legacy:

It’s easy to vilify the Liberals for their tax hikes regarding healthcare and hydro. For the most part, though, these actions have been straightforward and to the point. For example, which government in our history has openly stated hydro rates are going up? Regardless of party or partisanship, previous premiers were all under the false illusion that our hydro system was flawless and prices were adequate for the time, even though the fuses had blown years ago! The McGuinty Liberals have been heavily refunding social service programs, Hydro infrastructure, healthcare and education, programs that the Progressive Conservatives had neglected for years. The Harris Progressive Conservatives had left Ontario’s power infrastructure in such a deplorable state that when the Liberals took over in 2003 there were daily “brownout” warnings across the province due to the lack of generation, an aging power grid and quite simply a routine underproduction and underperformance of Ontario’s power generation and delivery system. The NDP is not blameless either as they constantly harp on that fact that Ontario should not be rebuilding our nuclear reactors. How do they propose we power our homes? Considering that nuclear power alone makes up more than half of Ontario’s source of power it is ludicrous to think that ignoring nuclear projects would benefit us. That neither the NDP nor the Progressive Conservatives have any sort of hydro or energy plan less than one year away from a provincial election is frankly quite pathetic and very alarming. The Harris Conservatives made no significant efforts to rebuild nuclear plants or phase out the highly toxic coal generation stations, in fact, they increased coal usage by a whopping 125%. They continued to increase production at the coal fired Antikokan Generation Station, Lambton Generation Station, Thunder Bay Generation Station, Lakeview “Four Sisters” Generation (closed in 2005) in Mississauga and the Nanticoke Generation Station, the biggest coal fired generation plant in North America. At the same time, however, they chose in 1995 to permanently close cleaner natural gas generation stations such as the iconic Richard L. Hearn Generation Station on Toronto’s waterfront which still stands today. Before being converted Hearn released harmful coal emissions, 24

dispersing thick ash plumes of pollutants as far as the CNE Exhibition grounds a staggering seven kilometres away, but they seemed to justify the operation of Nanticoke and Lakeview. Coal power alone directly cost the government $3 billion in OHIP/Healthcare expenditures ranging from respiratory illnesses such as Asthma to severe cases of lung cancer from routine smog exposure. The next phase of the hydro agenda began on October 29, 1998 106 when the Harris government passed legislation to privatize and deregulate Ontario’s $10 billion 107 hydro monopoly and sell off Ontario Hydro (now Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One) a Crown Corporation owned by the Government of Ontario. Ontarians eager to find out more about the deregulation proposals would be told “Sorry, we can’t say anything” as the Harris Conservatives conveniently removed Ontario Hydro from the Freedom of Information Act on April 11, 1999. 108 Ontarians were shocked as for decades the Government of Ontario had been in control of the province’s energy monopoly, another steady stream of revenue besides taxation. When Harris resigned as Premier of Ontario in 2002 it was then up to Ontario’s new PC Premier Ernie Eves’ to carry out the rest of the Harris hydro agenda. The people of Ontario were not the only ones concerned with the government’s privatization agenda. This was proven on April 19, 2002 when Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice decided that it was in fact illegal to sell off Ontario’s hydro grid. 109 Unconvinced of the looming damage Eves fought to appeal the decision. When Ontarians quickly transitioned from being rightfully concerned to downright furious the Eves’ PC government had another brilliant solution at the ready from “Damage Control: The PCs Guide to Pleasing Ontario One Miscalculation at a Time Playbook”. The solution, simply cap the hydro rates and the problems will magically disappear forever. To sweeten the deal Eves promised on May 1, 2002 110 that privatization of Ontario Power Generation and Ontario Hydro was “off the table”. Days later on April 7, 2002 Eves told the province that privatization is back again and swiftly deregulated and removed the price caps Harris had previous implemented on hydro rates. Hydro rates went through the roof overnight and the taxpayers of Ontario not surprisingly take the fall for it. When questioned about the sudden spike they simply blamed it on the hot summer Ontarians were experiencing at the time. No doubt, the sweeping changes were all part of their solution to make Ontario a “leader in power.” Had the Liberals not defeated Eves in 2003 and scrapped his “power deregulation solution” TD Economist Doug Peters concluded it would have cost Ontario’s taxpayers a blistering $300 million 111 a year in additional costs. Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One remain important and preserved government assets under the incumbent McGuinty Liberals.

106 107 108 109 110 111

Miller, Jim, Heather Wood, and Roz Owen. Trust Me: a Handbook of Tory Contortions. Toronto: Harrisees Pub., 2003. Print. Ibid Ibid Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.


Bypassing the Democratic Legislative Process: The introduction of the Omnibus Bill 26, Savings and Restructuring Act, by then Minister of Finance Ernie Eves (1995-1999) was undoubtedly the long awaited Progressive Conservative sequel to their bestseller, the “Common Sense Revolution.” Announced in 1995, Bill 26 contained amendments to over 40 112 statutes and new bill introductions which normally would have been mandated by the Speaker of the House to be separated into individual bills. This practice is almost always done to allow sufficient time for debate, suggestions and planning input from the respective commissions in relation to the proposed measures. However, Progressive Conservative MPP and then Speaker of the House Al McLean accepted the bill in its entirety against the wishes of the opposition Liberals under Lyn McLeod and the New Democrats under the newly defeated former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae. The bill was so extensive that it allowed the government to impose and direct the practice of doctors, close hospitals, seize and stockpile public health records, impose mandatory labour arbitration on Ontario Public Service employees, collect tolls on the newly built and publicly funded highway 407, restrict inquiries under the newly amended Freedom of Information Act and imposed mandatory amalgamation of certain municipalities. 113 Bill 26 was strategically proposed the same day as Eves’ economic statement in order to “limit debate”. The Liberal opposition and NDP were carefully examining the next economic policy and were not in the chamber at the time of its introduction. It raised questions as the Harris Progressive Conservatives held the majority of the seats in the house and the bill passed without a doubt due to the lack of opposition votes. The sly manner and expansive scope of the bill rightfully irked the opposition. These extensive measures were carried out even though Harris had made election campaign promises to reduce the role of government only a mere seven months before. In response, the opposition parties demanded that the speaker deem Bill 26 “out of order.” The speaker refused, prompting the NDP to walk out of the chamber in an act of protest. 114 Once the dust had settled the Liberals began to criticise the bill’s healthcare policies and accused the Premier of lying before Queens Park. The Conservatives had maintained they would not make any cuts to essential healthcare. Seven months after their landslide election victory here they were in black and white. The Speaker deemed these criticisms “wrong” stating they were “unparlimentary.” Liberal leader Lyn McLeod and NDP leader Bob Rae refused to retract the statements so the Speaker of the House had them and six other MPPs removed, 115 shocking behaviour considering the Speaker of the House is supposed to display non partisan behaviour in that capacity.

112 113 114 115

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.


Alvin Curling, then Liberal MPP for Scarborough North, took on not only the Speaker but the Premier and his cabinet over the omnibus bill. On December 6, 1995 Curling was ordered by then Speaker McLean to leave the House. He refused to leave so the Speaker demanded the Legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms forcibly remove him. Immediately MPPs from both the Liberal and NDP caucus formed a human barricade around him preventing his removal. He heroically sat in his seat for over 18 hours 116 preventing any further debate as Ontario legislative protocol determined that the House could not resume until the speaker granted him permission to stay or he voluntarily left. The Harris Progressive Conservatives were also accused of “gerrymandering” (manipulating riding boundaries for partisan gain) when they reduced the number of provincial ridings from 130 to 103 for the 1999 election. They were returned to power in 1999 mainly due to their surprising base of support in the 905 (Halton, Brampton, Mississauga, etc.) region of Ontario. They are proposing what? Recently, Hudak has proposed to scrap the Human Rights Tribunal which protects citizens’ rights and further protects employees from employer harassment and discrimination in the workplace. 117 In a province where social values and rights are arguably the most important values held by most Ontarians the proposal has definitely raised some eyebrows and some jaws have dropped. Did the PCs feel that their previous “successful” tenant, education, healthcare, labour and welfare reforms had not caused enough crises in Ontario? Maybe they should review past policy and their legacy in this province. Less than a year away from a provincial election and Hudak’s PCs still offer no real plan or repudiation of the Liberal’s stance on healthcare or education. He says the LHINs (Local Health Integration Network) will surely be scrapped to save on administration costs with no mention of a replacement solution 118 The proposals are hardly surprising considering his disastrous role at Ministry of Health. The Hudak PCs offer Ontarians a brilliantly juvenile “Recession Job Creation” proposal creatively named “10 ideas to create jobs” to tackle provincial unemployment. In the list Hudak claims he would:


Ibid. Blair, Donald, Hon. Janet Ecker, and Hon. David Tsubouchi. "Who is Tim Hudak?" The Agenda. Dir. Steve Paikin. Television Ontario. TVO, Toronto, Ontario, 14 May 2010. Television. Warren, Michael. "We Know What Hudak’s against but What Would He Do in Power?" Toronto Star 30 Nov. 2010. Print.




Chop WSIB Premiums (WSIB premiums are employer paid insurance premiums to help workers that are injured or maimed as a result of workplace accidents or injuries. What next? Why not fire some more labour safety inspectors that surely helped the problem the last time!) Eliminate Government “Red Tape” (Remember Walkerton and the Plastimet Fire? The Harris PCs said they were eliminating red tape when they “reformed” Ontario’s Drinking Water Surveillance Program and repealed several recycling facility guidelines and certification regulations. Seven people died and over 1000 people would fall sick as a result in Walkerton. The Plastimet Fire was the fourth largest environmental disaster of its kind in the world. The Harris government’s “red tape reduction” legislation prevented the Ministry of Environment from regulating and inspecting such facilities.) Expand Youth Programs (Why did the PCs slash over a billion from Ontario’s education system, cancel breakfast club programs to needy students and oversee a blistering 800% increase in university and college tuition fees across Ontario?) Cut Wasteful Government Spending (What about the $250 million dollar partisan government ads and the $500 million they gave to Accenture? All hallmarks of “competent money managers.”) End Corporate Welfare & Sweetheart Deals (What about Canadian Highways International and Glaxo-Wellcome?) Cap Spending and Rates (Remember the Harris/Eves hydro rate freeze disaster?)

• •

Hudak has even stated "we will cut taxes to give families some relief from the HST, the health tax and all the new fees Dalton McGuinty forces them to pay." 119 People however fail to realize that the taxes were implemented to help rebuild Ontario’s vital services, not slash billions from Ontario’s Education and Healthcare system to give multi-billion dollar corporations and partisan PC friends “get rich fast” cheques. Or how about Hudak’s claim “we need the construction sector firing on all cylinders ... and get jobs going in construction, sometimes we need these large infrastructure spending programs, they take an awful lot of time especially if there are several levels of government involved.” 120 It is almost comical to think this came from the leader of the party that cancelled hundreds of NDP infrastructure programs in 1995. Ironic considering they were the ones who cancelled and subsequently spent over $100 million 121 plugging up the joint provincial/municipal TTC Eglinton-West Subway project. Though Tim Hudak routinely boasts he has held three senior “economic” cabinet positions. In reality Mike Harris and his Progressive Conservative successor Premier Ernie Eves had only appointed Hudak to


Press, Canadian. "CBC News - Toronto - Hudak Pledges Tax Cuts, Smaller Government." - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. Web. 22 Dec. 2010. <>. "Tim Hudak Interview." Interview by John Laforet. Current on The Wire. 26 June 2009. Podcast. Hon. Bob Rae. "Premier Bob at 20" The Agenda. Dir. Steve Paikin. Television Ontario. TVO, Toronto, Ontario, 01 October 2010. Television.




the Northern Development and Mines (1999-2001), Culture and Recreation (2001-2002) and Consumer Services (2002-2003) portfolios in their cabinets. Hudak’s strategy is crafty. He knows that if he keeps a high “tax cut” profile and leaks “modest” policy “odds and ends” there will be virtually nothing to criticize in his underlying agenda. This image “softening” with the voting electorate will as he must perceive lead to an overwhelming victory. Newly elected Conservative MP Julian Fantino adopted the same strategy at the federal level and won! To the average person the plan seems distressed and repulsively indecisive. Don’t for a minute think the old Harris string pullers are gone either. Common Sense Revolution writer Leslie Noble and her trusty sidekick Tom Long are back as some of Hudak’s top campaign advisors. 122 Hudak’s Campaign Manager is hardly a fresh face either as Mark Spiro 123 was none other than one of former Ontario Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty’s advisors. 124 Jim Flaherty of course is the man responsible for squandering his Conservative government’s $13 billion Liberal (Chrétien/Martin) inheritance and racking up the biggest deficit in Canadian history 125 (making Mulroney look like a prince!). Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and loyal voting cabinet minister Tim Hudak are more than pleased with the legacy they left in this province. Only Ontarians can decide whether or not they will let “Premier Hudak” add even more waste, cuts and chaos to an already deplorable and devastating legacy. The Ministerial Sequel and Radical Caucus : Many of Harris’ and Eves’ former cabinet ministers still remain at Queen’s Park though. These include none other than Elizabeth Witmer, Jim Wilson, Ernie Hardeman, Frank Klees and Norm Sterling all hanging on just one more term just to see if they can add another cabinet profile or blunder before retiring. Notable Veteran Ministers: • • Elizabeth Witmer – Elizabeth Witmer’s detrimental “bottomless pit” approach to legislation surrounding labour took almost a decade to undo. Her healthcare record speaks for itself. Jim “Whipsaw” Wilson - Wilson is a Progressive Conservative veteran at Queen’s Park. Jim was none other than Mike Harris’ notorious first Minister of Health. Wilson oversaw the first wave of hospital closures and emergency and long term patient bed deletion. Norm Sterling – Notorious Norm was Minister of Environment during the fourth biggest plastics related environmental disaster in the world, the Plastimet fire in Hamilton. To his day Norm fiercely defends the Harris government played no role in the events leading up to or during the

122 123 124

Benzie, Robert. "Mike Harris Is Back As Tory Kingmaker." Toronto Star [Toronto] 18 Mar. 2009. Print. Ibid. "The Players Who Won Him the Game." National Post, 24 Jan. 2006. Web. 07 Jan. 2011. <>. Veniez, Dan. "The Tory Myth of the Competent Manager | The Mark." The Mark. 3 Sept. 2010. Web. <>.



fire. Common sense and history still proves otherwise. The Harris government passed and repealed “red tape” recycling facility inspection legislation. Choosing Leaders: The Progressive Conservative leadership selection strategy over the last few years has been very questionable. Truly, what on earth were they thinking? If the Conservatives want to win seats in Toronto and Ontario they need to realize that they need to select moderate, stable and pragmatic leaders to govern, using Conservative leaders like Bill Davis or to a lesser extent John Robarts as examples, not Mike Harris or Ernie Eves. With that said, does the apple not fall far from the tree? Is it safe to say that we can expect more Mike Harris-styled dictatorship under Tim Hudak? Considering Hudak claims he is a “Common Sense Revolutionist”, is proud of the 1995-2001 years, is married to one of Harris’ former chief aides and has proudly stated time and time again that Mike Harris is a huge influence and mentor I think it goes without saying. When Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution” was over it had directly and indirectly targeted thousands of Ontarians including the unemployed, homeless, OPS (Ontario Public Service) employees, patients, seniors, children, single parent families, university students, teachers, nurses, doctors, paramedics and firefighters to name a few. How could anyone be proud and willing to defend such a legacy? Does Ontario really need to go back to that time again? Surely it’s a no brainer. Since the end of the Harris and Eves governments, key high profile Harris Cabinet ministers have been swept up by Prime Minister Harper for his federal cabinet. The “Queen’s Park Harris Institute Alumni” are none other than Valedictorian and Class Clown John Baird, “Least Likely to Succeed in Business” honouree Jim Flaherty and Homecoming King and Head Cheerleader Tony Clement. Clement was not only a former Harris cabinet minister but had previously served as Harris's Assistant Principal Secretary from 1992 to 1995 and was one of the key writers of the Common Sense Revolution agenda and its policy directives. Former Mike Harris Policy Director and Chief of Staff Guy Giorno without a doubt the unelected mastermind behind Harris’s Common Sense Revolution, its directives, and its implementation strategy -- is presently Prime Minister Harper’s unelected Chief of Staff. Spanish philosopher George Santayana once stated “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I don’t think anyone could have summarized such sentiments better. From the looks of it Tim Hudak surely sounds like a younger reincarnation of Mike Harris or as some have humorously put it, a Mike Harris with training wheels, Play-Doh in the hands of Mike Harris or Tim is Him! Harris Eves and Hudak have left us quite a legacy, we must never forget it. Can Ontario afford to go through another PC Government? Haven’t we seen how detrimental their policies were and their contemporary reincarnations? Can we survive another period of wide spread cuts, loss of basic services and “restructuring?” and another duration of labour strife that Ontario experienced under their rule! If we care about the quality of life at home, work and other aspects we need to take into account the past and its critical impact on our future.


The primary purpose of a government is to maintain order and to have policies and programs in place to ensure the health and safety and social needs of citizens are met, exercise accountability and manage resources competently. Governments also need to regulate and maintain corporations and fund essential services. It is when resources are mismanaged and regulations and legislation ignored that the lives of citizens are at stake. The Mike Harris government would see this philosophy very differently. For seven years the Harris government’s massive downsizing, deregulation and privatization plans would result in drastic changes to programs, a downsized civil service, impacting on public services and resulting in innocent Ontarians dead, sick or severely injured. The reasons for these unnecessary incidents were mindless short-sighted corner cutting and cost saving schemes and blatant disregard and negligence. Ontario did not need a smaller public service or more deregulation. They needed a stable level headed and responsible government to protect them. The Progressive Conservatives would prove the opposite of this during their term in office from 1995-2002. When the Harris Progressive Conservatives came into power in 1995 they brought with them an agenda to reduce the deficit, streamline almost all government services and build the economy. Honesty they achieved only one of their goals, “streamlining government services” while eliminating or pulling major funding from them. These were outlined in their election campaign promises, with no feasibility studies or impact statements. They promised over $8 Billion 126 in spending cuts affecting municipalities, hospitals and school boards and proposed to cut 10,600 127 civil servant positions. Though Harris proposed $8 billion in cuts, he stated he was willing to slash as many as 23,000 Ontario Public Service jobs. Harris was even quoted in relation to the Omnibus Bill 26 – Savings and Restructuring Act, “it should have been better managed and better understood.” 128 Harris himself wasn’t convinced his own plans were doing any good, yet they astonishingly continued at record speed. As Ruth Cohen states in her book Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario: “A minimum of 13,000 employees were to be fired from the Ontario Public Service and Harris said that up to 22,000 jobs were at risk. The first instalment of 10,600 layoffs was announced on April 11, 1996, with the release of the so-called 'business plans'. Some ministries— like Natural Resources with 2,170 job cuts; Transportation with 1,239 job cuts; Agriculture with 954 job cuts; and Environment with 752 job cuts are literally chopped to shreds.” (pp. 108) This only proved that Harris was more than willing to go further than the proposed numbers, an initiative that would send massive shockwaves through the province in the years to come.

The Effects of a Downsized Public Service and More Deregulation: The Harris Government in Ontario

126 127 128

Janigan, Mary. "The Harris Revolution." Maclean’s 10 June 1996: 24-30. ProQuest 5000. Web. Ibid. 24 Ibid. 27


Plastimet (1997) and U.S.E. Hickson Fire (2000):

While in office the Harris Progressive Conservatives oversaw massive amendments and changes to several critical recycling and recycling facility regulation bills. The Plastimet recycling facility fire in 1997 would prove to be a fatal consequence of these massive deregulation policies. Prior to these amendments the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MOEE) had randomly but routinely inspected recycling and hazardous materials facilities. With the changes to legislation the Ministry was forced to deem that the Plastimet facility which recycled PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) plastic from car interiors and other means did not need a government Certificate of Approval and Ministry of Environment inspection services were terminated on October 1, 1996. 129 The only inspectors that visited the facility since the Ministry of Environment had pulled out were from the Hamilton Fire Department to check the physical building’s fire code. On July 7, 1997 over 400 tons of highly toxic PVC was set ablaze at the facility. The result, the fourth largest environmental disaster of its class in the world. The thick black smoke plumes were so highly toxic they contained highly concentrated amounts of hydrochloric acid. The acid plumes were so toxic that the paint on the fire trucks bubbled and the exposed metal on the fire trucks started rusting. Firefighters battling the blaze were literally being burned alive after countless hours of exposure over the three days the fire raged. The City of Hamilton’s water drainage and management systems could not handle the excess water, the drainage systems started flooding and the hydrochloric acid tainted water started seeping into the firefighter’s boots. The thick black smoke plumes were so dense that firefighters were ordered to link hands while moving in toward the facility. Fire suits designed to withstand extreme heat had perished to threadbare. Fire trucks had to be sandblasted and decontaminated; the corrosion was so bad that entire chunks from the mufflers and radiators started disintegrating. In years following the massive blaze, firefighters would be diagnosed with various chemical related cancers and other respiratory diseases. The government was warned on a number of occasions of


Government of Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security - Ontario Fire Marshal. Plastimet Report. 1st ed. Vol. 7. Toronto: Government of Ontario - OFM, 1997. Print. OFM Publications.


previous incidents at the facility including over 26 fires 130 reported to the Ministry of Environment by the Hamilton Fire Department under the facility’s previous ownership. The Harris government’s massive deregulation agenda however caused all the pain and heartache that could and should have been prevented. If the Ministry of Environment had been allowed to regulate, certify and inspect such facilities like it had done for decades in the past, the incident undoubtedly would have been averted. When the City of Hamilton, local residents, firefighters and other interest groups demanded a provincial inquiry into the Plastimet case, then Minister of Environment Norm Sterling (1997-1999) and current Progressive Conservative MPP for Carleton-Mississippi Mills blatantly refused stating “I’m waiting for evidence that there is some wrongdoing, or something wrong in regard to somebody’s conduct during this whether it be the fireman, the Medical Officer of Health, or the Ministry of Environment or anybody else. You don’t call an inquiry for fun.” 131 The statement would serve as a clear example of the ignorance of the Harris government and their refusal to accept responsibility for their policies, but, their games were not over. The Harris government got another chance on April 9, 2000 132 to rectify their mistakes when the U.S.E. Hickson Products Limited chemical factory in Scarborough went up in flames. 133 The raging inferno was fed with solvents, chemicals and asphalt. 134 The fire was so intense that it even prompted then Toronto Fire Department Commander Peter McCabe to state "It's one of the worst ones we've had in the megacity." 135 Thankfully, Toronto (Scarborough) Fire managed to get it under control in a matter of hours, due to the fact they had previously demanded to know the toxicity of the building’s contents. By fluke, the toxic smoke was also blown over Lake Ontario instead of the surrounding houses but it forced the province to ask more questions, only three years after Plastimet. Critical provincial “right-to-know” and prevention legislation was clearly still missing from the law books. Scarborough had asked companies to provide such information, but what if the fire took place in a different municipality or the companies simply refused to provide the information? Not surprisingly, the Harris PCs disregarded the new suggestions and critical prevention lessons of the fire. When the opposition Liberals pleaded with them to introduce new “right-to-know” legislation that would mandate the public, police and fire services had access to the toxicity reports and storage habits

Carty, Bob, prod. Burned: The Anatomy of a Plastics Fire - Plastimet Investigation. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Toronto, Ontario, Oct. 1997. Radio. Ibid. Government of Ontario. Ministry of Environment. "Follow-up Investigations of the U.S.E. Hickson Products Fire of April 9, 2000 : Ontario Ministry of the Environment" Government of Ontario Archives. 2000. Print. Mathieu, Emily. "Explosive Past." Toronto Star [Toronto] 11 Aug. 2008. Print. Lucas, David. "Toronto Fire Could Prompt Big Evacuation." Canadian Press [Toronto] 10 Apr. 2000. Print. Ibid.

131 132

133 134 135


of such hazardous materials facilities, they turned another deaf ear. This new legislation was proposed to safeguard emergency service personnel, prevent and effectively handle future incidents. 136 The Harris PCs had a different strategy. Instead they trotted out then Minister of Environment Dan Newman (20002001) to pat the government on the back for their “effective” handling and “prevention “of disasters like Plastimet! Sadly, like Plastimet, five firefighters who went into the building first would later be diagnosed with testicular cancer. 137 Walkerton Disaster (2000):

The Walkerton tragedy in 2000 was one of the biggest water deregulation fiascos in Ontario and Canadian history. However, though the Harris government tried to claim that it in fact was an unfortunate “accident”, it was nothing short of deliberate and costly mismanagement. In early 1996 the Mike Harris government had outlined their new plan for Ontario’s restructured water system. The plan included the privatization of Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Environment’s water testing facilities and was designed to severely reduce what they deemed the “red tape buffers” in Ontario’s water system. The system had never failed before, yet, the Harris government took it upon themselves to “fix it.” The government severely amended and downright repealed critical sections of the Ontario Water Resources Act (1990) through Bill 57 – The Environmental Approvals Improvement Act. In addition to these amendments and repeals the Ministry of Environment and its arm’s length agency the Ontario Clean Water Agency ("OCWA") had been drastically reduced in size by the massive “restructuring” plans. The province-wide Drinking Water Surveillance plan designed to monitor, warn and regulate water operators was also drastically underfunded and then scrapped altogether.

Legislative Proceedings - Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard (April 10, 2000). Print. Grewal, San. "Firefighter Won Final Battle." Toronto Star [Toronto] 22 Mar. 2007. Print.



In addition, the budgets for the Ministry of Environment were also slashed by 42% and hundreds of positions were dissolved (Cohen, 124). The labs had been privatized so hastily that legislation safety nets had not yet been introduced to compensate for the massive changes and crippling spending cuts. Moreover, Bill 107 - The Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act (1997) also stated “The proposed act will give the Minister of Environment and Energy the power to transfer ownership of water and sewage works owned by the Ontario Clean Water Agency ("OCWA") to municipalities.” This would lead to further widespread privatization of municipal water particularly in rural Ontario as municipalities could not handle the extra costs, resulting in even less government regulation and control. These massive changes and the backdoor legislation loopholes led to one of the biggest water related tragedies in Canadian history. The firing of thousands of Ontario Public Service employees had adverse effects on the province as there were not enough resources or inspectors to ensure water quality and testing. Specific scientific testing strategies were replaced with new “regulations” which consisted of meager clipboard checklist bubble sheets that casually asked water providers to fill them out “occasionally”. Compliance was based solely on the “honour system.” Under Bill 107 testing misinformation was not deemed to be an offence at any level. From 1996 to 2000 the Provincial Ombudsman, the International Joint Commission and the Environment Commissioner of Ontario issued several reports warning that the cutbacks had been so damaging that the government was no longer capable of providing the services it was mandated to provide. (Cohen, 125) The reports were simply ignored by the Harris government and water deregulation plans continued at full steam ahead. They claimed the reports were just the cries of biased “awareness groups.” In 1996 an alarm would go off at the Ministry of Environment when hundreds of people in Collingwood would become ill after their drinking water was infected with cryptosporidium, a parasite linked to animal fecal matter. There were no fatalities but it was a clear signal that the water system was faltering (Cohen, 126). An E-coli incident in Japan linked to animal fecal matter would send shockwaves around the world, governments and municipalities all over the world began testing for such infections, but not in Ontario! Harris responded to the pandemonium by swiftly removing E-Coli testing from the monitoring programs altogether. The government responded shortly after the incident not by fixing the flaws it had created but passed Bill 57- The Environment Approvals Act which explicitly stated “No action or other proceedings shall be brought against the Crown, the Minister or an employee or agent of the Crown because of anything arising out of or in relation to a matter carried on or purported to be carried on pursuant to a regulation or action of the crown.” In October of 2000, seven people would die and 2300 138 people fall ill in Walkerton when it was revealed that the Koebel brothers in charge of Walkerton’s water filtration plants had been warned of EColi contamination and forged documents to cover up the incident. The Ministry of Environment was also notified several times by Walkerton’s testing labs but was deemed powerless in apprehension by legislation passed. The Koebel brothers fired their previous testing labs and then hired A&L Canada Laboratories to test their water. E-Coli was discovered again but A&L did not notify the Ministry of Environment citing it was a matter of “customer confidentially”. Government deregulation, token laws and the lack of legislation killed seven innocent Ontarians who trusted their government.

Davidson, Bruce, Hon. Chris Stockwell, and Colin Perkel. "Walkerton: Ten Years Later." The Agenda. Dir. Steve Paikin. Television Ontario. TVO, Toronto, Ontario, 14 May 2010. Television.


Safety Inspection Privatization (TSSA - Technical Standards and Safety Authority):

In addition, the Mike Harris government privatized and deregulated a critical government inspection component of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations which was absorbed into the newly created TSSA (Technical Standards and Safety Authority). Ministry inspectors had previously inspected and certified fuel storage facilities, ski lifts, amusement rides and devices, boiler systems, elevators and lift devices, Bill 54 – Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act however would change all that. The problem with government deregulation is the fact that the government doesn’t have the power to “weed out” interest groups within the newly privatized organizations. For example, the TSSA Board of Directors is made up of corporations that are inspected routinely by the TSSA. Does it not seem like a massive conflict of interest? Examples of such failures included countless accidents at the Canadian National Exhibition one in 1999 in which the “Wave Singer” 139 amusement ride crashed suddenly and then dropped, slamming into the ground injuring five 140people. The TSSA had deemed the ride “safe” and had inspected it twice the week before the incident. It was determined that the accident was caused when four of the cables snapped, cables that had not been designed or approved for the ride in the first place. The TSSA would fail to catch similar instances in 2001, and again in 2007. This only proved that standards were being met on paper but not in practice compared to the Ministry’s stellar safety record. The notorious TSSA would be brought back into the limelight again in 2008 when the Sunrise Propane facility in Toronto which fell under the TSSA inspection jurisdiction exploded. The Ontario Fire Marshal’s


"CNE Accident Leads To Charges Against Operator." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11 Nov. 1999. Web. >. Ibid.



report deemed the cause was a faulty hose. 141 A hose that should have been checked and certified by the TSSA. The incident cost two lives in the process, a Sunrise Propane employee Parminder Singh Saini 142 and a Toronto Fire Chief Bob Leek 143 suffered the consequences of the Harris Government’s deregulation and short sighted privatization plans. In hindsight, the so called “Common Sense Revolution” proved not so sensible after all. If the government looks at the bottom line above all else, and not the well being of its citizens, then it has failed miserably regardless of what it might say to justify it. No doubt, governments have to clean house, but this should be done in a methodical way with feasibility studies, impact statements, options reports, policies and implementation plans in place and evaluations conducted to check their success or effectiveness, not be the subject of a government’s or a Premier’s narrow sightedness.


"Sunrise Propane Blast Spark Still a Mystery." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 Aug. 2010. Web. <>. Ibid. "Firefighter Dies Battling Huge Fire at Propane Depot." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 Aug. 2008. Web. <>.

142 143


Bibliography for Part II • • • • • Bill 107 - Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act, Government of Ontario - Ministry of Environment (1997). Print. Bill 26 - Savings and Restructuring Act, Government of Ontario - Ministry of Finance (1995). Print. Bill 57 - Environmental Approvals Improvement Act, Government of Ontario - Ministry of Environment (1997). Print. Carty, Bob, prod. Burned: The Anatomy of a Plastics Fire - Plastimet Investigation. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Toronto, Ontario, Oct. 1997. Radio. "CNE Shuts down Ride Due to Safety Concerns." Http:// Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 21 Aug. 2007. Web. "CNE Accident Leads To Charges Against Operator." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11 Nov. 1999. Web. < >. Cohen, Ruth. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. Print. "Firefighter Dies Battling Huge Fire at Propane Depot." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 Aug. 2008. Web. <>. Government of Ontario. Ministry of Environment - Standards Development Branch. Plastimet Inc. Fire. Toronto: Government of Ontario, 1997. Print. Government of Ontario. Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security - Ontario Fire Marshal. Plastimet Report. 1st ed. Vol. 7. Toronto: Government of Ontario - OFM, 1997. Print. OFM Publications. Janigan, Mary. "The Harris Revolution." Maclean’s 10 June 1996: 24-30. ProQuest 5000. Web. Davidson, Bruce, Hon. Chris Stockwell, and Colin Perkel. "Walkerton: Ten Years Later." The Agenda. Dir. Steve Paikin. Television Ontario. TVO, Toronto, Ontario, 14 May 2010. Television. "Sunrise Propane Blast Spark Still a Mystery." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 Aug. 2010. Web. <>.

• • • • •

• • •


Photo Credits

(Chronological Order)

1. Photograph. Toronto Star, 6 Oct. 2010. Web. <> (Cover Photo) 2. Photograph. Warren Kinsella, 6 Oct. 2010. Web. <>. 3. MADONIK, RICK. Photograph. Toronto Star, 15 June 2010. Web. <>. 4. Hanson, Tom. Photograph. CTV News, 20 Jan. 2006. Web. < 2006&no_ads=1>. 5. Cotrone, David. Photograph. The Advocate. 16 Sept. 2010. Web. <>. 6. Unknown. Photograph. Flickr. 1 Nov. 2008. Web. <>. 7. Unknown. S.O.S. Montford. Photograph. Museo Parc, 1996. Web. <>. 8. Mikula, Chris. Photograph. Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 1995. Web. <>. 9. Unknown. Photograph. 28 Nov. 2010. Web. <>. 10. Unknown. Photograph. Pushed to the Left and Loving It. 1997. Web. <>. 11. Unknown. Photograph. Focus Online. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. <>. 12. Unknown. Man at Computer. Photograph. Aug. 2010. Web. <>. 13. Days of Action. 1996. Photograph. OPSEU. Web. <>. 14. Photograph. No Justice, No Peace: The 1996 OPSEU Strike against the Harris Government in Ontario. By David Rapaport. Print. 15. Strike Compilation. 1996-2002. Photograph. OPSEU. Web. 16. Broke. Photograph. Unknown. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. 17. Unknown. Eviction Notice. Photograph. Apartment Therapy. Web. <>. 18. Unknown. Prescription Drugs. Photograph. 19 Oct. 2010. Web. 19. Leslie Noble. Photograph. Strategy Corp. Web. <>. 20. Harris Assistant Compilation. Photograph. 26 Dec. 2010. Web.


21. Photograph. Enterprise Canada. 2 Nov. 2010. Web. <>. 22. Al Palladini. Photograph. Benvenuti a Prossedi. 8 Dec. 2010. Web. <>. 23. Gunn, Frank. Toronto Snow Storm - Jan 15, 1999. Photograph. Toronto. CTV News. 2009. Web. <>. 24. Unknown. Photograph. Brampton Guardian. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. <>. 25. Johnstone, Eddie. Photograph. Scarborough Firefighters, Scarborough. Scarborough Firefighters. Web. <>. 26. Hydro Compilation. Photograph. Web. 3 Oct. 2010. 27. Unknown. Lakeview Coal-Fired Generating Station. Photograph. Canada Energy. 5 Dec. 2010. Web. <>. 28. Gunn, Frank. Ernie Eves. Photograph. Globe and Mail. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. <>. 29. Alvin Curling. Photograph. Global Stills Conference. Web. <>. 30. TALOTTA, VINCE. Photograph. Toronto Star, 17 June 2009. Web. <>. 31. Unknown. Plastimet Compilation. 1997. Photographs. Hamilton. Web. 32. Johnstone, Eddie. USE Hickson Fire. 2000. Photograph. Scarborough. Scarborough Firefighters. Web. <>. 33. Unknown. Walkerton Compilation. 2000. Photographs. Walkerton. Web. 34. Unknown. Sunrise Propane Explosion. 2000. Photographs. Toronto. Web.


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