Stephen Harper is asking Ontarians to remember the Bob Rae years. Fair enough. But Ontarian’s should also remember the Harris years of cuts to social programs and labour unrest. This is particularly important when Harper is talking about cutting $11 billion in government expenditure over the next few years. Key members of the Harper cabinet including his finance minister, are ex Harris cabinet ministers.
Harris cut social assistance rates by 22%. The Ontario Conservatives stated that too many people were taking advantage of the program, and that it acted as a disincentive for seeking employment; no matter that the cuts increased the hardship of Ontario’s poorest residents. Harris also introduced “Ontario Works,” frequently referred to as ” workfare” a program that required able-bodied welfare recipients to participate in either training or job placements.
The Harris government laid off several hundred nurses to cut costs in the health sector and implemented a series of hospital closures on the recommendations of a Harris appointed Health Services Restructuring Commission. He cut health spending to record levels and introduced a Fair Share Health Levy (tax) that applied to high-income earners to help pay for mounting health care costs
The Harris government cut funding of major urban infrastructure projects and municipal services. These cuts resulted in Walkerton. In the name of municipal government efficiency Harris eliminated many smaller communities by amalgamating them into larger units.
Harris was responsible for major changes to Ontario’s educational system which reduced the quality of education in Ontario. He eliminated the fifth year of high school in Ontario (known as the OAC year). He reduced the powers of school boards.
The results of all these cuts: the Ontario deficit rocketed an additional $20 Billion.
Ontarians, before you vote Monday please think about what the Harris Conservatives did to Ontario.