Thursday, August 09, 2018

It Doesn't End Well

Sylvia Bashevkin, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto, predicts that the Ford government will be a hurricane that will leave a lot of damage in its wake. Ford's government was spawned by Mike Harris' Common Sense Revolution. Consider Harris' platform and its results:

Let’s consider Mike Harris’s track record as leader of two consecutive PC majority governments. Elected in 1995, Harris-era Conservatives endorsed lower taxes and cost-cutting in their calls for “less government,” “fewer politicians,” and “less overlap and duplication.” The Tory platform known as the Common Sense Revolution promised to “spend more efficiently” because, in Harris’s words, the party would trim “a lot of fat, a lot of waste.”

And, like Ford, the first target of Harris' "common sense" was the city of Toronto:

Arguably the most consequential decision of the Harris years for Canada’s largest city was sharp, rushed and unexpected. The move announced in December 1996 to eliminate borough and metropolitan government in Toronto rejected the recommendations of at least two expert reports, including one produced by a panel the PCs themselves commissioned. Harris’s government also ignored the results of a local referendum on amalgamation in 1997 in which 76 per cent of Toronto voters opposed plans for a megacity.

The damage was far reaching:

Not only did the Harris PCs dramatically reduce welfare benefits, weaken rent controls and chop education funding in the name of cutting costs, but also they downloaded to fiscally strapped municipalities responsibility for child care, social housing and transit.
By empowering conservative suburban voices (like those of Mel Lastman and the Fords) at city hall under the megacity scheme, Harris’ strategy flattened the hose that carried funds for social programs at the same time as it limited chances for competing perspectives to challenge the Tory maelstrom.

And, for women particularly, the results were catastrophic:

From holding two of the six mayoral posts on the old Metro Council, women disappeared as executive decision-makers in Canada’s largest city. From about a quarter of borough council and a third of Metro Council seats in 1996, proportions of elected women tended to stagnate or decline.\
As of 2018, the representation of women on Toronto City Council is lower than in the last Metro Council of 22 years ago. The spatial plan governing amalgamated Toronto stresses nodes for highrise development and fails to consider how working women, new arrivals to the city or any other group of citizens might experience an increasingly dense and tense urban landscape.

More generally, Harris and Ford sought to squelch opposition:

Similar to the situation in the late 1990s, progressive critics of the Ford government will find fighting back is difficult when the game of musical chairs is stacked in such a way as to silence their voices.
It is already hard for local candidates — notably women from diverse ethnocultural and sexual orientation backgrounds — to win elections when we have an orderly, predictable system in place. Imagine trying to mount a campaign when chaos is intentionally created by a provincial government with nearly carte-blanche constitutional powers.

We've seen this movie before. And it doesn't end well.

Image: twitter


bill said...

Owen, here is a brain teaser

Try and name one conservative government at any level that has a legacy of leaving peoples lives better when they left power.

In Canada, the U.S. and Britain the closest I can come to is Bill Davis and Mulrony if you stretch the concept.

Owen Gray said...

Bill Davis certainly would qualify for that honour, bill. But he was a PROGRESSIVE Conservative. Despite the banner Ford ran under, there is no longer a Progressive Conservative Party of any kind.

The Mound of Sound said...

People do tend to forget Bill Davis. Had he managed to get past Pierre Trudeau there was some indication that Bob Stanfield could have been a fine prime minister. Even Mulroney, with his grifter tendencies, is to be commended for his environmentalism and his opposition to apartheid in South Africa.

Since that era progressivism has been slowly extinguished within not just the Tory party but the Liberals also. The Liberals still like to say the right things but their record betrays them.

Has anyone been polling the Ontario electorate over how they like premier buck-a-beer's shenanigans since he ascended to the throne?

Owen Gray said...

I'm aware of no such polls, Mound. But outside the craft brewery where they made their announcement -- and spurred on by the guy who wrote the letter you published the other day -- protesters greeted the celebration of "a buck a beer."