Those attack ads, branding Bob Rae a "Failure," are ubiquitous these days. But Tim Armstrong, a former deputy minister of Industry and Trade in Rae's government, sets the record straight in this morning's Toronto Star:
For 18 months I worked closely with Bob Rae on two of his highest priority projects — saving Algoma Steel in Sault Saint Marie and securing Bombardier’s purchase of de Havilland Aircraft in Downsview from Boeing Inc. His dedication and negotiating skills in these two successful endeavours, and several other industrial restructurings, were remarkable.
Then Armstrong gets down to specifics:
• In the decade before the Rae government’s election, Ontario had lost over 4 per cent of its manufacturing employment, triple the loss in Alberta and double that in Quebec over the same period — a substantial inherited problem.
• Despite the loss of those jobs, Ontario’s manufacturing sector earnings had gone from the lowest among the Great Lakes jurisdictions in 1987 to the second highest in 1991.
• Unemployment, at 9.6 per cent, was high, but lower than Quebec and below the Canadian average of 10.3 per cent. In the recent 2008-09 recession, Ontario’s unemployment rate was higher, for three years, than the Canadian average, something that never happened under Rae’s leadership.
Labour was very unhappy about Rae's brand of austerity -- Rae Days. But, as the federal government eliminates jobs and services, it's worth remembering that Rae tried to do just the opposite. In fact, his objective was to maintain government services and the people who provided them.
When Mike Harris arrived, he lambasted Rae for irresponsible fiscal management. The Harris solution resulted in welfare cuts, teacher strikes, the Ipperwash tragedy and the Walkerton debacle. In the end -- with Jim Flaherty as Minister of Finance -- Rae's $9.7 billion deficit was reduced to $5.6 billion.
And, finances aside, there were other initiatives. Armstrong writes:
Other noteworthy achievements included the Jobs Ontario program; incentives to employers to hire people on welfare; the expanded child-care program; the new Trillium Drug Plan giving affordable access to those in need of therapeutic drugs; renewed emphasis on aboriginal affairs; and a deep commitment to the success of our federal system, leading to an affirmative vote in Ontario on the national referendum on the Charlottetown accord.
Meanwhile, the people behind the attack ads are keeping two sets of books.