Resurrection of Harrisites boggles mind – Canada – Resurrection of Harrisites boggles mind
March 20, 2009.   Jim Coyle

Sweet mother of mercy, but colleague Robert Benzie’s front-page report this week that the ghouls of the Common Sense Revolution were rising from the crypt must have had Ontarians across the province scrambling for garlic cloves and crosses.

Word is that former premier Mike Harris, in hopes of yanking the party sharply back to the right, is strongly supporting his former cabinet minister Tim Hudak in the nascent race to succeed John Tory as Progressive Conservative leader.

To read the names of the hacks and schemers resurfacing along with Harris is like an appalling acid flashback to a period of reckless and ruinous excess.

To revisit some of the highlights – or more properly lowlights – of the Harris era is to be struck by the suspicion that this unholy renaissance of an ideology and its cast of adherents might well keep the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty in power for perpetuity, irrespective of his dreamy ditherings or the havoc global economic chaos inflicts on Ontario.

What did the Common Sense Revolution give the province?

Why, a premier who left behind him a rubble of meanness and vulgarity, who likened nurses to laid-off makers of hula hoops, who celebrated anti-intellectualism, who introduced Mr. Silly to the provincial reading list, and who was of the odd view that too much knowledge was a dangerous thing.

We had a government of the angry inspired by every half-baked, right-wing quick-fix drifting up from the U.S., aspiring to the sort of greed-fuelled deregulated free-for-all that led that nation (and the world) to its current state.

“We are not the government,” they boasted absurdly. “We’re the people who came to fix government.”

We had cabinet ministers unashamedly promoting welfare diets and instructing the poor that if they bought in bulk or shopped shrewdly for dented tins they could find tuna at 69 cents.

We had riot police kitted out around Queen’s Park as if it were a Third World capital, the armed-to-the-teeth facing down protesters and happy to (as it was so quaintly put at the time) “whack ‘em and stack ‘em.”

It was a regime that created crisis after crisis, and had the school system in perpetual chaos.

We had a historic Bully Bill of omnibus legislation so complex, vast in its implications and unscrutinized that judges later complained of the government’s “mega-chutzpah” and the triumph of administrative convenience over democratic process.

It was a contempt for the parliamentary system so total that it led ultimately to the bizarre spectacle of a budget delivered in a car plant.

We had the tainted water disaster at Walkerton and a public officer of health telling of the government’s retreat from public safety.

We had Ipperwash, the killing of unarmed native protester Dudley George and the premier of the day’s considered view (so an investigating judge concluded) of the need to get “the f——” Indians out of the park.”

To recall it all is like listening to a K-tel ad of cringe-making greatest hits from a particularly awful era.

Even so, Harris insisted in the end that he regretted nothing.

“If I had it to do all over again, I would have tried to do more and do it more rapidly.”

No less a right-winger than David Frum has warned that the Gingrichian nostrums of the ’90s are passé, that there are things only government can do and that conservatives “must prove that we care enough about government to manage it well.”

Yet here come Harris and his horsemen of the apocalypse riding again. The horror! The horror!

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