Ask Harris

Blog - No Comments » - Posted on August, 23 at 7:27 am

From John Snobelen, Toronto Sun:

Dalton McGuinty is about to discover an inconvenient truth.

McGuinty has never been able to best Mike Harris. In 1999 he was shocked when the people of Ontario returned Harris to a second majority government. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

McGuinty was sure he had Harris beat in ’99.

All he had to do was remind people of the OPSEU strike. Or the days of action. Or the strike and months of work-to-rule instigated by the teacher unions. Or the storming of Queen’s Park by students, activists and anarchists.

Heck, everybody knows a lawyer from Ottawa is smarter than a golf pro from North Bay. And Dalton was certain that he was a nicer guy than Harris. The ’99 election was going to be a cakewalk.

It didn’t turn out that way. Golf pros are sometimes smarter than they look. Harris wiped the floor with McGuinty in the election debates. It wasn’t even close. And McGuinty lost the election he was sure he would win.

McGuinty has been trying to beat Harris ever since. In the 2003 rematch, instead of Harris he faced a tired PC team led by Ernie Eves. Despite the fact Eves had been premier for a year-and-a-half, McGuinty insisted on running against the ghost of Harris. The sting of the ’99 loss hadn’t faded. McGuinty over-campaigned and over-promised.

As premier, McGuinty has tried, without success, to best the record of his rival. Despite proclaiming himself as the “Education Premier” McGuinty has failed to build on the Harris reforms to Ontario schools. In fact, his need to appease the teacher unions has led to a softening of standards for student achievement.

McGuinty has fared no better on health care. Despite seven straight years of throwing money at the health monolith, including the eHealth debacle, and adding a new layer of health bureaucracy, Ontarians are not receiving better health care than they did under Harris. In fact, several important health services, like physiotherapy and chiropractic, have been de-listed under McGuinty’s watch.

Economically, the McGuinty government has been an unmitigated disaster. From first-to-worst in provincial standings. Double the debt. A record deficit. And the cherry on top — have-not status.

McGuinty has but one area where he might beat his rival. He has opted, against the sage wisdom repeatedly offered at no additional charge in this column, to try for a third term as premier. Besting Harris’s record of two consecutive majority governments should, by gosh, exorcise the phantom that has been chasing McGuinty all these years.

The trouble is it won’t work.

The inconvenient truth that is about to strike McGuinty is simple. He is yesterday’s man.

All around the world the tax, spend and borrow theories that McGuinty has personified are falling out of favour. In a country that is outpacing our economic competition, Ontario is dragging behind, not leading as it once did. And in a world that is rapidly entering a post-Keynesian phase, government austerity is the new fashion.

Shocked by the financial disaster in Greece voters are finding favour with politicians who have the courage to curb spending. This is not McGuinty’s forte.

McGuinty’s is the last, lonely example of a government that is sure, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, that it knows best. He is the master of yesterday’s economy. Before he takes the next election leap, McGuinty needs to get in touch with the global trend to more efficient and effective governments.

Heck, maybe he should ask Harris for some advice.

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