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The truth about Mike


I can understand why the Liberal Party won such a sheer majority in the last provincial election – after over a decade of living on the left, people were ready to take a walk on the sunny side of the street, a sidewalk made popular by the Ralph Klein and Mike Harris governments in Alberta and Ontario.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s platform borrows liberally from these conservatives, from the lowering of taxes to the privatization of government services to the elimination of photo radar. Up big business, down special interests, and everyone will be a lot happier.

Having lived in Whistler for the past 2.5 years, I actually believed that the Harris government was a good thing – I worked there once and lower taxes meant more money in my pocket.

Then I went to visit my family in Toronto this Christmas and saw firsthand the damage Harris’ policies have wrought to that once decent city.

It’s no secret that Harris hates Toronto – while the rest of the province voted for his Conservative Party in the last election, he didn’t get a lot of votes in the Toronto area. His policies on the arts and the environment, and obvious distaste for all things unionized, didn’t sit well with a city that was once known as "Toronto The Good."

He has been reluctant to help the city out with badly needed infrastructure projects and funding, and it shows. Maybe Toronto was a rich and self-sufficient city once upon a time, but the fairy tale is definitely over – Harris simply doesn’t recognize Toronto’s contribution to the economy of Ontario, or the very real needs in terms of government services and infrastructure. The population of that city, a magnet for immigrants, refugees, and Canadians who want to get closer to the action, is supposed to increase by one million people in the next five years.

There’s already a critical housing shortage, and school yards are choked with portables. Speaking of choking, Toronto had a record 22 smog warnings last year, which speaks volumes about Harris’ commitment to health and the environment.

The Toronto Transit Commission, the busiest and once the best of any transit services in North America, needs close to $5 billion to improve its own infrastructure, and replace aging subway cars, streetcars and buses. Toronto and the province are kicking in, but not nearly enough. As a result, the service is looking for a federal handout.

The city is a mess. Parks are littered with garbage, and the streets look like they’ve been cluster bombed.

The 2008 Olympics would have been a boon to Toronto, because it was the only way the federal and provincial governments could be convinced to invest in the city.

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