JUNE 12, 1995 – A horror movie has opened at Queen’s Park in Toronto. We’ll call it Return of the Living Dead.
Its star is an impostor. He claims to be Mike Harris. We have actually uncovered that Mike Harris does not exist. He has been exposed as a monster we thought we had gotten rid of a few years ago. Mike Harris is – Brian Mulroney.
We think. There is also a case to be made that the monster is in fact a disguised Preston Manning. The case for him being Manning is strong indeed. Just like Manning, he pushes the racist button with ease. He campaigned against employment equity because it “discriminated” against white men. What nonsense. Look at any board of directors. Look at the judges who rule us in the court system. Rich white men are doing very well thank you.
Just like Manning, he constantly scapegoats the poor. He argued that the 1.3 million Ontarians who are on social assistance should be forced to “work for welfare.” What a notion. The premise of workfare is that generous welfare benefits mean that the poor won’t take low-paying jobs. As if there are 1.3 million jobs in Ontario that can’t be filled! We have been unable to discover the thousands of Harvey’s, McDonalds and Burger Kings which have closed because they couldn’t hire workers. Seems that people are lining up to take work – any work – because the truth is there are no jobs.
Just like Manning, his plans are absurd and unworkable. Money saved with one hand, would be spent with another, as workfare would require a new bureaucracy to implement. All the while, Harris promises to cut taxes (for the rich) by 30% – and cut the deficit. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these figures will not add up.
But we are convinced that these signs notwithstanding, the monster is in fact Brian Mulroney. Just like Mulroney, he has a majority that is built on sand. The thousands of Ontario workers who voted Tory did not do so because they believe he will solve their problems. They did so out of despair, a despair built on 15 years of falling living standards.
They did so in the context of failed hopes. Many thousands had pinned their hopes on Bob Rae’s New Democrats and had seen those hopes shattered as Rae abandoned his promise to nationalize auto insurance, attacked services by closing hospital beds, and attacked workers by imposing the social contract.
And they did so in the context of a declining economy which will make Harris attack with a vengeance the living standards and social services of Ontario’s workers.
We have seen what this combination of despair, anger and economic crisis can lead to. In Italy, it led first to the election of a far-right government under Berlusconi. And a few months later, it led to the biggest mass movement and radicalization since the red years of the 1970s. In France it led first to the emergence of the fascist National Front. But in this year’s presidential election it led to a massive strike wave that made even the most conservative candidates talk as if they had been converted to socialism.
As for Mulroney. From the most popular of Canadian prime ministers, Canada’s workers reduced him to the most hated. An anti-Tory movement that culminated with 100,000 rallying on Parliament Hill in May 1993 brought Mulroney’s Tories to their knees. Ontario workers, when the real identity of Mike Harris is exposed, will treat him with the same “respect.”
© 1995 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.
 Michele Landsberg, “There Is a Reason to Stick around and Vote,” Toronto Star, May 21, 1995.
 Jack Lakey, “Harris Jostled as Cuts to Welfare Protested,” Toronto Star, May 27, 1995.
 Lisa Wright, “Workfare May Require More Bureaucrats, Harris Admits,” Toronto Star, June 3, 1995.
 Jack Lakey, “Harris Promoting Tax Cuts as Key Part of Tory Good Times,” Toronto Star, April 24, 1995.