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Restraint Gave Way To Excess
The Bitter End of The Common Sense Revolution

MIKEHARRIS The first act of the newly-elected Ontario Tory government of Mike Harris in 1995 was to withdraw funding from, and set for sale, 45,000 units of social housing that had been commissioned by the New Democratic Party government of Bob Rae. This Co-operative and social housing was all but ready to receive families (that means, children) in dire need of adequate housing. Instead, Harris sold off this much-needed housing to the private sector.

Thus political precedent was set for what became one of the most mean-spirited, reactionary provincial governments in Canadian history, by extension setting the stage for the equally mean-spirited likes of rabid right-wing provincial premiers like Gordon Campbell in British Columbia, John Hamm in Nova Scotia, and lest we forget, Ralph Klein in Alberta, and their devastating set of social policies.

From the failed workfare programme for mothers of infant children who — many of them escaping abusive marriages — found themselves in receipt of income assistance (a programme which also required demeaning drug and literacy testing), to the devastating reductions in funding for the province's Environment Ministry which resulted in the tainted-water disaster in Walkerton, when it came to attacking the poor, and the interests of Ontarians, Harris' government knew no equal in Ontario history.

Of late, the Globe and Mail has been looking into the bitter hypocrisies of what Harris and his accolytes termed their ‘Common Sense Revolution’.

While the incidence of childhood malnutrition grew to alarming proportions, while the streets filled with the poor who had been denied income assistance, while programmes for battered women were eliminated and the deaths of women due to abuse grew to unprecedented numbers ...

“William Farlinger, a former Bay Street executive and friend of Mr. Harris, spent tens of thousands of dollars on expenses, including having his golf clubs cleaned and stored, while he served as Ontario Power Generation chairman. Glen Wright, his counterpart at Hydro One and a Conservative mainstay, charged to ratepayers a hunting trip at an exclusive Georgian Bay club. Michael Gourley, who had served as deputy finance minister under Ernie Eves, was a principal in two firms that received $3.7-million for advice on privatization. And Mr. Harris himself received $18,000 indirectly from a Hydro One contract awarded to former Québéc premier Pierre-Marc Johnson.”

Revelations about hunting trips and lavish hospitality among executives hired by the former Conservative government to oversee Ontario's transition to a profit-driven electricity market, followed by information about how some Tories used the privatization of Ontario Hydro as a cover for expensive scratching of each others' backs, are now being published daily by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.

One of the most egregious scandals: the $5.6-million that Hydro One, the government-owned company responsible for transmitting electricity in Ontario, spent on untendered contracts for consulting and other services with senior Tories who were either directly, or indirectly, in the service of the Mike Harris government.

Beginning in 1999, Egon Zehnder International, an executive recruitment firm with an office in Toronto, received $83,000 to recruit Deb Hutton as a vice-president of government relations for Hydro One. What the purchase order didn’t note was that Tom Long, a principal of Egon Zehnder, played a prominent role in the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ of Mr. Harris — he was the chair of the 1995 and 1999 Conservative election campaigns — and Ms. Hutton was a senior adviser on Mr. Harris' staff when Ontario Hydro was being dismantled. This recruitment was done at Canoe, a posh restaurant that Ms. Hutton showed a fondness for after she moved to Hydro One.

These revelations and more are exposed in an article written by Murray Campbell in Saturday's Globe and Mail.

One wonders how the sociopaths involved in, and at the forefront of, the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ manage to sleep at night? The actions of the Harris government verge on the criminal, actions which require, at least, civil reparation. Will the Harris government be made to pay? Too early to tell.

But stay tuned. This story is far from over.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at March 29, 2004 12:06 PM in Canada


1 Comment

I like the way the cartoonist has depicted the brain as being quite miniscule compared to size of the mouth. Isn't that appropriate?

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