Tomorrow night is the election in Ontario. It is likely to bring down the Liberal government and herald in what looks like a Progressive Conservative government led by Doug Ford which will bring some challenges. My hope against hope is that there will be an NDP minority government which will give the Liberals and the PCs a chance to find new leaders that can have a better contest a couple of years from now.
I have taken a keen interest in this election as a transplanted Ontarian. I have watched with nervousness as Doug Ford has become PC leader and taken advantage of a vacuum of leadership in the Liberal and NDP to have a realistic chance of being premier of Canada’s most populous province. I have watched many people compare him to Trump because the comparison is too irresistible but I’ve also seen him compared to Mike Harris which is also not a comforting thought.
Mike Harris was premier from 1995 to 2002, just as I was finishing high school and going to university. As I was poor and making the transition to university, Mike Harris was nothing but awful in my eyes. He not only cut social assistance, he demonized being poor by starting welfare snitch lines which cost more to operate than they saved in welfare snitching (the precursor to Harper’s Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline). His cuts to the education system, which was ironic given that he was trained as a teacher, led to teacher strikes, larger class sizes, and higher tuition fees. His first Minister of Education didn’t even graduate high school which I took for disdain for the education system. Mike Harris’s government was partially responsible for Ipperwash and Walkerton. He was responsible for the loss of community identity in many places through the ill-conceived idea of forced amalgamation of municipalities, which in many cases resulted in illogical local government structures and boundaries (see Quinte West).
I understand why people voted for Mike Harris after the Bob Rae NDP era as the promise of reduced taxes and reduced provincial debt was alluring and the perception that he was going to stick it to fat cat civil servants and to poor welfare bums was likely appealing. He marketed the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ to great effect because really, who doesn’t like common sense. Mike Harris was the precursor to Stephen Harper and ushered in a much meaner type of politics in Canada where there were clear winners and losers in society.
I say all of this because while Doug Ford has been compared to Donald Trump, he is more akin to a Mike Harris – meanness and policies that help a select few. I wish Ontarians well as they go to vote tomorrow – it can’t possibly be easy. May the best woman win…