The backlash was immediate, but Harris wasn't worried. He had a secret weapon. Deceit.
In the run-up to the election he had pulled out all the stops, beginning with advertising at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer.
"... the log for three stations in the 12 months before the campaign, shows the Tories advertised in the months before the campaign at unprecedented levels ... The Tories used government advertising as part of their overall re-election campaign .. Government advertising ran at unprecedented levels during the campaign, bathing voters in feel-good spots and positive imagery. (1)In fact, under the direction of Guy Giorno, the Harris government spent 42 million tax dollars in self promotion. Later Giorno would do the same for the Harper government, though their abuse of our tax dollars is now well over 100 million.
Tim Hudak is yet to have that kind of access to our money.
Another factor in Mike Harris's victory was in turning on the taps of the wealthy and corporate sectors, by increasing the amount of money he could hit them up for.
Party contribution data demonstrate that the government's near doubling of the legal limit on contributions to political parties in an election year (from $14,000 to $25,000) was prompted by the Tories' dependency on contributions from wealthy individuals and large corporations who give the maximum donation possible. The higher limits on contributions brought the Tories an additional $2.2 million, while the Liberals took in $277,000 and the NDP $103,000 as a direct result of the changes.Mike Harris himself bragged that he had the support of 100 corporations, pleased with the corporate welfare state that Harris had created.
To almost all Ontarians, the higher contribution limits are irrelevant because they cannot afford to donate such large sums ... both previous and existing contribution caps are not a restraint on, but rather a licence for, the very wealthy and corporate interests to try to influence government. (1)
More than two-thirds of the money the Conservative central campaign raised came from corporations. MacDermid calculates that 16 per cent of all the money raised came from just 19 corporate conglomerates. For example, TrizecHahn and its subsidiary Barrick Gold made 17 contributions worth a total of $121,000, and the Latner conglomerate, which includes companies such as Dynacare, Greenwin Properties and Shiplake Investments, gave over $100,000. Over all of the contribution periods in 1999, TrizecHahn and related companies gave to the Tories $255,000, the Cortellucci (see story of Adams Mine Scandal) and Montemarano companies $254,000 and Latner companies $220,000. (1)They also shortened the period of time for campaigning which benefited them immensely.
When the government shortened the campaign period from about 40 days to 28, it benefitted fund-raising that depends on large donations from relatively few individuals and corporations. The Tories raised $4.9 million dollars without spending a penny on fund-raising, while it cost the NDP $206,000 to raise just over $400,000. The shorter campaign also brought the unregulated pre-campaign period closer to election day and allowed the Tory campaign to advertise in the pre-campaign period as much as in the campaign period without any concern for spending caps. (1)Perhaps more importantly was the removal of seats that Harris knew he couldn't win, under the guise of cutting costs.
The government's 21 per cent reduction in the number of MPPs, from 130 to 103, has resulted in few cost savings to the taxpayer because of increased members' spending and a projected salary increase. MacDermid argues that this measure has in fact cost Ontario citizens, reducing their chances of receiving timely services and assistance from their elected representative. (2)Stephen Harper has gone the other way, gerrymandering with thirty new seats at the expense of the Canadian public.
In their book: The provincial state in Canada, Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, also wrote of the Harris government:
"As in 1995, the Tory campaign was a well-executed, generously funded and probably the most undemocratic Electoral campaign that post-war Ontario had witnessed." (3)Yet even with the overt cheating, the Tories lost 23 seats, and that was because of the unions and other groups, who launched a campaign against Harris's stealing from the poor and middle class, and giving it to the already wealthy.
It was only the reduction of seats that gave Harris another majority.
Tim Hudak is posturing with unions now, but without the benefit of our money, it could cost him.
His over the top Million Jobs promise (there are only 555,000 unemployed)' has been debunked as a work of fiction, supported only by a right- wing Republican strategist.
Hudak is now toning down his dire message of one million unemployed, but showing the tape of his "one million unemployed Ontarians" could be a feather in the cap of the Ontario Liberals.
If we had 1,000,000 unemployed and now only 555,000; that means that they created 445,000 jobs after the economic crisis.
He's clearly not the brightest bulb on the tree.
With unions and other advocacy groups promoting a Stop Hudack campaign, he may have picked on the wrong people.
But then if he does win, not to worry. He'll pick on us all.
1. . York U. Political Scientist Reveals Secret to Conservatives' Electoral Success, York University Press, September 5, 2000
2. How Charles McVety moves money, By Bene Diction Blogs On, April 24, 2008
3. The Provincial State: Politics in Canada's Provinces and Territories, by Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, UTP Higher Education, 2001, ISBN-13: 978-155111368, p. 193