A Commentary by NAL publisher Doug Draper
I’ve been thinking about whether Niagara At Large should join the rest of the media in endorsing one of the parties in this provincial election, and I have a hard time doing it.
There are a couple of reasons for my reluctance to endorse one party over another. First of all, not much in this provincial election –the most boring one I can remember in my 32 years as a journalist covering these things – has turned my crank. And second, I remain fiercely non-partisan, as much as some readers have tried, over the years, to peg me as a Liberal or an NDP. I ascribe to the old line by Groucho Marx that ‘I would never want to belong to any group (in this case, a political party) that would have someone like me as a member.’
Yet there is something I can’t endorse on the eve of this Ontario election, and that is any idea of a Conservative majority government lead by one of former Tory premier Mike Harris’s favourite pets – Tim Hudak.
I feel a bit sad saying this in the sense that I’ve sat down with Tim Hudak, one-on-one, on about three or four occasions over the years and interviewed him via phone more often than that, and I can’t help but like him as an individual and be impressed by his sharp mind.
There is something that won’t go away for me though – his close association with Mike Harris, who supported his campaign for the leadership of the provincial Conservative Party a year and a half ago, and stood on the stage with him when he won. Hudak’s wife, Deb Hutton, was also an operative for Harris, working in his office as a senior advisor while he was premier.
I couldn’t help thinking about that again recently while Tim Hudak was doing a campaign stop at a farmer’s market in downtown St. Catharines, holding his four-year-old daughter Miller in his arms. Miller is only about one year younger than my daughter Sarah was when she was starting kindergarten in this province back in 1995, the first year Harris was serving as premier and Hudak was one of his newly minted MPPs.
Harris, who’d taken, by many reports, a less than illustrious shot at being at teacher himself, was now spouting rhetoric that teachers in the province were, in so many words, overpaid and under-worked, and he immediately went to town cutting funding to schools. And who suffered the most – the students. We watched our daughter’s opportunities to have decent school libraries, manageable class sizes, and even clean washrooms and hallways, evaporate before our eyes. We were constantly being asked to support “pizza days” at the school to purchase everything from basketballs to library books. That was the Harris/Hudak “common sense” solution to getting back at those overpaid/under-worked teachers, and the students were the ultimate victims.
We could go on and on. There was the gutting of environmental programs and regulations that once put Ontario in the forefront of progressive change when it came to protecting and preserving our life-sustaining resources. And there was the war on people on any kind of social assistance. They were treated like cockroaches by the Harris/Hudak government.
The most disgusting case, and one that any civic-minded citizen in the province should feel ashamed of, is that of Kimberly Rogers, who died in the sweltering heat apartment in Sudbury, Ontario 10 years ago this August. Caught in a Mike Harris dragnet of wanting to nail ‘welfare cheats’, Kimberly Rogers was placed under six months of house arrest for simultaneously collecting welfare benefits and about $13,000 in student loans. For that, she and the baby she carried in side of her (she was eight months pregnant) died in an apartment where she had no relief from the heat and no food.
To this day, no remorse for the Kimberly Rogers case has been shown by Harris or anyone else who served in his government at the time, including Hudak. And where are the God-fearing rural voters Hudak connects with – those good Christian and Church of Christ people out there? Did they never care about the plight of this desperate young lady or was she just cheap white welfare trash?
One could go on to discuss the Harris government’s downloading of social and other services to local municipalities, that placed a higher burden on property taxes, while they bragged about cutting taxes at the provincial level.
For these and more reasons than I can discuss in a post that would run several thousand words if I continued, I hope and pray that we are not looking at tghe horror of a majority Conservative government a minute before midnight this October 6.
(Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post below. Remember that we won’t post your comment if you don’t have the courage to link your real first and last name to your comment, just as the author of this post threw out his name.)