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ANALYSIS  

       

          Tim Hudak's Deeper, Faster Common Sense Revolution

                Massive Cuts Inevitable As Hudak Pledges To Cut Spending Deeper 

                                 And More Than Twice As Fast As Mike Harris

 


By Susanna Kelley

If there was any doubt about it up until now, Tim Hudak's announcements that he will lay off 100,000 public servants and balance the budget by 2016 have made it crystal clear that a Progressive Conservative victory this election will mean massive spending cuts - even greater than those brought in by former PC Premier Mike Harris - and more  than twice as fast as Mr. Harris did it.   

Think about it.

Mr. Harris cut the deficit from $11.2 billion to $0 in more than 5 years.

Mr. Hudak pledges to cut the higher, current deficit of $12.5 billion deficit to $0 in two years.

In addition, an OntarioNewsWatch analysis of Mr. Harris' "Common Sense Revolution" and Mr. Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan" shows many, almost identical policy planks that Mr. Hudak wants to achieve faster, while facing a larger deficit than did Mr. Harris.

In the interests of voters being clear about what a Hudak government will mean, then, if elected, here are some of the most important similarities and how Mr. Harris implemented his longer budget balancing exercise.

Mr. Harris won the 1995 election on June 8, 1995, based on the Common Sense Revolution, a policy document fashioned on the trickle-down economic theories of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

  

























He was facing an $11.2 billion deficit left over from Bob Rae's NDP, which had governed through a deep recession that saw the province's unemployment rate skyrocket as high as 16 per cent. Record numbers of Ontarians were on welfare.

One month later in July, he and his then-finance minister, Ernie Eves, cut $1.9 billion in spending.  As a matter of fact, that year they overachieved their target for budget cuts by $220 million.

Mr. Harris then proceeded to cut the deficit by about $2 billion more each year after that, until he balanced the budget in 1999-2000.

No ministry was spared deep cuts except Health. In fact, health care spending was increased each year in Mr. Harris' budgets by bringing in the Fair Share Health levy on high-income earners.

However, Mr. Harris still closed 28 hospitals and laid off hundreds of nurses as he re-organized health care. He compared the nurses to Hula Hoops that had gone out of fashion.

Mr. Hudak's Million Jobs Plan calls for all ministries of government to face cuts as well, other than Health.

This time, however, Mr. Hudak says nurses, doctors and police are to be excluded from the layoff of 100,000 government employees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Harris cut teachers' jobs by increasing the number of students in each classroom (the student-teacher ratio) and cutting their so-called "prep time" - the time they are allowed to prepare for their classes. This provoked the largest teachers' strike in North American history as teachers across the province walked out.

Mr. Hudak has said he will reduce the number of teachers and increase the student-teacher ratio this time too.

Mr. Harris also lowered the amount of per pupil funding in education. He cut funding to colleges and universities and allowed them to increase tuition fees.

Mr. Hudak says he will reduce education spending, including eliminating the 30 per cent tuition grant brought in by the Liberals to encourage students to attend post-secondary education. Mr. Hudak says he would pursue a "colleges first" policy.

Mr. Harris refused to meet with any labour leaders for years, and had notoriously bad relations with the union movement. That prompted a series of "Days of Action" in 11 cities, which saw, in Toronto, a quarter million people march against his government, shutting down the TTC for a day while people stayed home from work.  In Hamilton, 120,000 stayed off work for a day to protest in the streets.

Mr. Hudak has conducted a non-stop, two-year campaign against what he calls "big union bosses" (although they are democratically elected.) He has backed down on his plan to bring in "right to work" legislation, now promising he will not do so if elected. 

The Environment Ministry was evicerated under Mr. Harris' cuts. Almost two thousand employees were laid off - the staff was cut from 3,310 in 1994 to 1,394 in 2001. These included water inspectors and many other professionals. The Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Environmental Appeal Board and the Environmental Compensation Corporation all faced funding cuts in 1995. Total funding for the Ministry of the Environment was cut nearly in half by 1998.

The Walkerton Commission's Justice Dennis O'Connor partially blamed Harris' cuts for seven deaths, including that of a little girl, which occurred in Walkerton due to residents drinking town water laced with e-coli bacteria. Also blamed was a local water official.

One of Mr. Hudak's Tory MPPs, Lisa Thompson, says the water safety regulations stemming from the Walkerton Inquiry have become too expensive because there are too many of them. 

Speaking of regulations, Mr. Harris struck a "Red Tape Committee" to eliminate 2,100 regulations in Ontario, including other environmental safeguards.

Mr. Hudak says he will appoint a Red Tape Minister to cut one third of all regulations.

Despite more than two years of questioning the Tories by this reporter on what regulations they'd cut, Mr. Hudak and his MPPs have refused to answer, saying they'd "have to see the regulations first." (One wonders: if they haven't looked at the regulations yet, how do they know they need to be cut?)

Mr. Harris downloaded services costs - including social services such as welfare - onto municipalities - and cut their transfers from the Ontario government.

Mr. Hudak has stated there are services "better provided by municipalities."

Mr. Harris promised, and delivered, a 30% personal income tax cut.

Mr. Hudak is promising a 30% corporate tax cut. He also says he will cut income taxes once the budget is balanced.  

Mr. Harris permanently cut $230 million in grants and loans to businesses.

Mr. Hudak has promised to end those same grants and loans, reinstituted under the Liberals to spur job growth in specific, targeted industries. He calls these "corporate welfare." 

(In this he has, amusingly, borrowed the phrase from the late federal NDP leader David Lewis, who railed against "corporate welfare bums" more than 40 years ago in the 1972 federal election campaign. Politics makes strange bedfellows.)

Mr. Harris cut welfare rates by 22 per cent and brought in "work for welfare," although in the end that turned out to be more job training and job-hunting preparation than actual work.

Mr. Hudak has said he would cut off welfare benefits for those collecting them for a long time.

There are many more policy similarities between the Common Sense Revolution and the Million Jobs Plan.

This is not surprising.

Mr. Hudak's inner circle and those running his campaign, and who will undoubtedly have a significant say in any PC government should he win, are the same people that helped write Mr. Harris' Common Sense Revolution in the early 1990's: Leslie Noble and Tom Long are the PC campaign managers; Mr. Hudak's wife Debbie Hutton has a strong say; others from the original Whiz Kids group are working behind the scenes.

In the 2011 campaign Mike Harris played a key role at the highest levels behind the scenes. His influence is writ large in this campaign's policies as well.  

It is important that voters be provided with as much factual information as possible on which to make their decisions on whom to vote for in the next election.

If Mr. Harris cut the deficit from $11.2 billion to $0 over 5 years with these cuts, it is logical that Mr. Hudak's cuts to a larger deficit in less than half the time will have to be much deeper and much faster.

That timing would allow the PC leader to go into pre-election mode in the last two years of his mandate. His "million jobs in eight years" promise depends upon him winning a second election.  

Mr. Hudak's Million Jobs Plan is The Common Sense Revolution: Deeper and Faster Edition.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : May 13, 2014

View all of Susanna Kelley's columns
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