Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Will Canadians Have to Adopt the Rapporteur Model to Combat the Corporate Welfare State?

When Mike Harris became premier of Ontario in 1995, everything changed. It was one of the first attempts at neoconservatism in the country and a province was blind-sided. Because instead of addressing social issues they scorned them, and instead of fighting poverty, they fought the impoverished. Poor bashing became a spectator sport.

There was no longer a social welfare state but a corporate welfare state, and it became clear that unless you were already very rich, this government had nothing for you but contempt.

Riot police were a normal scene around Queens Park, and were used vigorously to stifle dissent. But friends of Mike Harris needn't worry, because they had Julian Fantino in their corner, and he could fix anything. Allegedly, with his own version of the game show The Price is Right.

Given the new change in direction, and with the Common Sense Revolution drafted by Republican strategist Mike Murphy, it came as no surprise that Harris chose a corporate lobbyist to 'clean up' our social services.

And that corporate lobbyist would prove to be the most hyperpartisan politician the province had ever seen. His name: John Baird. And he was ruthless. He cut thousands off assistance and reduced benefits by 42%. All without notice.

But a multinational corporation got very rich off John. In his attempt to privatize social services, he paid them four to one what it would have cost to keep the civil servants he laid off. And while another Harris henchman, Tony Clement, earned the nickname "two-tier Tony" for trying to privatize our healthcare, John Baird became known as 'Enron John'.

When it was reported that many Ontario seniors had been eating catfood, the Harris government produced a meal plan of tuna and beans. And when Mike Harris was asked about the unprecedented need for foodbanks, he callously replied that the foodbanks were good and that he and his wife had just dropped off a bag of groceries.

Can you imagine the premier of a province suggesting that he had done his part to reduce poverty by dropping off a bag of groceries?

When it was brought to their attention that homelessness was also increasing at an alarming rate, another Harris boy, Jim Flaherty, came up with a solution. He would just throw them all in jail, as if being poor was a crime.

But there was something else happening In Ontario during those years, which is unthinkable in a developed country. There was a large segment of the population living in fear. Fear of speaking out against a government who had the ability to cut off their livelihood, or have them beaten for their efforts.

And human rights abuses became so bad that an interfaith group assisting the poor, was forced to adopt the United Nations Human Rapporteur" model, to conduct their investigations, and get help to those who needed it the most. This was a special mandate under the UN Commission on Human Rights, that allowed for "secret" interviews, for those suffering the effects of inhumane actions.

There is a new book, Persistent Poverty: Voices From the Margins, that speaks of those days in Ontario.
Back in 1998 the atmosphere in Ontario had been so poisoned by poor-bashing and punitive attitudes that many people were afraid to speak up at public hearings. In 2003 ISARC [Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition] decided that all future audits would use the "United Nations Human Rapporteur" model.' This is a model used in oppressive countries, with hearings generally held only in places in which people are accustomed to gather. The news media are not invited; governments are not notified. UN rapporteurs listen to participants' words and submit written reports. The process ensures safety, confidentiality, and truthfulness. (1)
"A model used in oppressive countries" was having to be used in the largest province in Canada, so that human rights abuses could be heard.

With those same key players now planted in the federal government, and an even more callous and vindictive leader, we are all starting to feel the effects of oppression. The G-20 in Toronto was a perfect example of what happens to people who oppose the decisions made by the Harper regime.

And when a senate committee produced a report on how to address poverty, Stephen Harper barely gave it a glance before throwing it in the trash. But when one of the 'victims' of his corporate welfare state needs help, he's there with our cheque book.

And just as with Harris, people are terrified of speaking out. We saw this with KAIROS, another interfaith social justice group, who had their funding removed for speaking out against government policy. Public servants work in an atmosphere of distrust, and as one of them said, 'welcome to Harper's world'. But only on the promise of anonymity.

Do we need to create a "Human Rapporteur" model to address concerns of the victims of the corporate welfare state's economic meltdown? Those who would challenge the 'rosy' jobless figures? Who would describe their lives after losing good paying union jobs and now having to work two at minimum wage, and still not able to survive?

There is an atmosphere in this country now. The fear is palpable, but familiar to those living in Ontario under Mike Harris. And if you look at the roster of Conservative candidates for the next federal election, many have been handpicked by Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement and John Baird.

Heaven help us.


1. Persistent Poverty: Voices From the Margins, by Jamie Swift, Brice Balmer and Mira Dineen, Between the Lines Toronto, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-897071-73-1


  1. God, I lived through the nightmare of Harris and swore never again...but if we don't ACT now this is exactly what the whole of Canada will be going through

  2. How Mike Harris destroyed Toronto.

    And that's how Mike Harris amalgamation is now proved to be what it was, NOT REVENUE NEUTRAL and just a tax grab from Toronto. Thanks neocons, for destroying everything good about Canada.

    “The sole purpose of amalgamation was to download. (Premier Mike Harris) promised no more downloading and everything was going to be revenue-neutral. Can never forget that word, revenue-neutral. Some $365 million later and I was screaming."

  3. Toronto was looted.

    The new City of Toronto was created on January 1, 1998. The amalgamated city was the result of legislation passed by the Province of Ontario merging seven municipal governments into one.

    With a population of 2.5 million people, the unified Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the fifth largest in North America.

    The municipal government's gross 2000 operating budget of $6.3 billion is larger than the budgets of the majority of Canadian provinces.

  4. The province's position was that huge savings would be exacted. That was a big lie by Harris.

    Ten years later, it's virtually impossible to determine which of Toronto's problems are the result of amalgamation, of downloading, or simply inevitable in any case.

    The city talks of Queen's Park owing it $700 million to $1 billion. On the other hand, it got a $1 billion asset in Toronto Hydro, and the province took on $600 million in education costs.

    What is irrefutable is that the city was set on a path to fiscal failure. Amalgamation was supposed to deliver three main benefits: savings, greater equity and more clout.

    But as an experiment in local democracy, merger has been a huge failure. The megacity's continued survival is a testament mainly to the efforts of a great civic workforce. Its creation was too hurried. Too much was heaped on its head.

  5. John Baird lines his pokets with tax payer’s money

    He has a growing list of enemies, which I think he rather enjoys; and his obvious love of theatrics, make him often seem petty and rather childish. A former colleague, Garth Turner, says that Baird “has become a caricature of himself” and many find it hard to take him seriously. In fact, he continues: “MPs often laugh when he stands up, in anticipation of the instant outrage he can manufacture”. (We all remember the ‘yelly man’ spoof on The Mercer Report).

    My own personal dislike of Mr. Baird began when he was one of the henchmen in the Mike Harris Ontario Conservative government. Initially, the mass program cuts met with approval, until we learned that the savings went into the pockets of Harris and his buddies... but more on that later.

  6. Has Steve Harper’s man Guy Giorno worked for Mike Harris?

    Bruce Dickson: DiGiorno was Harris' brain for pretty well the entirety of Harris's tenure as premier. Harris was a golf pro and a gym teacher by trade. So you've got to know that all that neo-con ideology, the scorched-earth strategy with which it was imposed and the accompanying media-relations machine did not spring from Mike Harris's square head.

    Bruce Dickson Harris also threw over the mother of his children for the CBC Toronto News at Six anchor woman, Sharon Dunn. A real class act, that Harris.

  7. “Ford, Hudak and Harper: A trifecta cabal of republican-style, right wingers.”

    Our Prime Minister Stealin’ HarperCon was behind Rob Ford's appointment.

    Mike Harris was behind Ford's campaign. Rob Ford’s dad used to work for Mike Harris. With help from Guy Giorno, who happens to be Harper's recently departed Chief of Staff. Guy Giorno used to be chief of staff to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

    Are you starting to notice a neocon circle jerk going on here?

  8. a good repost from: Not Blind wrote: Posted 2011/02/01 at 7:19 PM ET

    Evan Soloman made a comment about "attacks from the RED chamber".

    Guess what Evan, the Senate isn't a Liberal Majority any longer. Both Evan and Rosemary are also fixated on the term "unelected Senators". Guess what you geniuses, they are all "Unelected". That applies regardless of their political affiliation. I know Harper promised an elected senate, but that was another one of those promises that was never kept.

    For the record, "Netflx" is a movie based entertainment provider. So Evan and Rosie don't have any competition type of threat from that organization. Even the CBC won't lose anything, since their movies are usually dated.

    Rocco Rossi is nothing more than an opportunist. He is not even a winner. Rob Ford walked all over him. So anyone who believes that he is now a fiscal conservative is going to be very disappointed. As for the Tim Hudack idea, that is nothing more than a Mike Harris wannabe. Harris and Flaherty put Ontario into one of the worst debts in the history of the province. They tried to sell of provincial assets to cover their losses. Highway 407 is their biggest example. It's just like selling the equity of your house to pay your credit card bills. It's crazy to believe that this is good financial planning.

    By the way Evan, it's In-ter-net, not Inner-net.
    Just like this time of year is Winter, not Winner. Summer isn’t loser.

  9. Murder?

    Sikura's body was found sprawled across the front bucket seats of the burned-out vehicle. Young said Sikura likely was trying to kick out the car's windows after its locks failed, and he was overcome by smoke, heat and carbon monoxide.

    The original police investigation into Sikura's death in November, 1994 took just two days to conclude the death was an accident. The brevity of that investigation, coupled with a series of news stories about a mysterious car seen leaving the scene and a separate report from York Regional Police Const. Patrick Lee alleging murder kept the rumours of a cover-up alive.

    Sikura was the estranged husband of former CBC broadcaster Sharon Dunn, who made headlines last year for her relationship with Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

    Sikura's body was found sprawled across the front bucket seats of the burned-out vehicle. Young said Sikura likely was trying to kick out the car's windows after its locks failed, and he was overcome by smoke, heat and carbon monoxide.

  10. Mike Harris Sex Scandal

    TORONTO - A female law student articling at one of the country's most prestigious law firms says she is the victim of a hacker who apparently used her e-mail account to send nude photographs of herself to Mike Harris, the former Ontario premier who is the firm's senior business advisor.

    Ms. Nelson appears in a 2002 "Girls of Canada" issue of Playboy.

    In an interview with the National Post's ****Sharon Dunn****, she said: "I wish I could decide who gets to see the pictures and who doesn't."

  11. A day in the life of a soulless rich neocon.

    Ontario Power Generation Inc. has hired a forensic accounting firm to probe 18 months of missing receipts for expenses rung up by the company's former $250,000-a-year chair, William Farlinger.

    For example, Nov. 20, 2000, was not a good night for the Toronto Raptors, as they were pasted 100 to 64 by the Charlotte Hornets.

    But the stinker of a game was easier to take for blue-chip occupants of the Ontario Power Generation box that night at the Air Canada Centre. The guest list as recorded included then-premier Mike Harris and companion Sharon Dunn as they sipped an $80-a-bottle Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Farlinger, wife Esther and their eight guests ran up a tab of $1,501.53, more than one-third of which — $582 — was for wine.

    Three of the bottles cost $80 a pop; the others upward of $57. Other names listed on the records for that night were Andy Brandt, former Tory cabinet minister turned chief executive of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario; Senator Trevor Eyton, a director of Brascan Corp., which, like OPG, is in the electricity generation business; and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.

  12. Is Harris Harper’s Mentor?

    On a more personal note, Harris' marriage of twenty-five years broke apart, and he was soon seen in a relationship with socialite Sharon Dunn, which later also ended.

    Because of these stresses and the diminishing popularity of his government, Harris resigned in 2002 and was succeeded as Tory leader and premier by Ernie Eves.

    Later in 2002, Harris joined the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, a 'Senior Fellow'.

    Harris has frequently been cited as a potential federal politician who could "unite the right," but, despite an intense effort to draft him, in December 2003 he announced that he would not run for the leadership of the new Conservative Party of Canada. He endorsed Belinda Stronach, a former business associate, in the subsequent 2004 Conservative Party of Canada leadership race.

  13. neocon Common Nonsense Revolution

    Main article: Common Sense Revolution Upon election, the Harris government immediately began to implement a far-reaching reform agenda in order to cut the large provincial deficit accumulated under the previous Rae government. One of its first major policy decisions was to cut social assistance rates by 22%. The government stated that too many people were taking advantage of the program, and that it acted as a disincentive for seeking employment. Critics argued that the cuts were too dramatic, and increased the hardship of Ontario's poorest residents. The government also introduced "Ontario Works," frequently referred to as "workfare," a program that required able-bodied welfare recipients to participate in either training or job placements. Opponents criticized both the rationale and effectiveness of the program, which was significantly scaled back after Harris left office. Provincial income taxes were cut by 30% to pre-1990 levels. In addition, a new Fair Share Health Levy was established and charged to high-income earners to help pay for mounting health care costs. Shortly after assuming office, the

    Harris government announced that several hundred nurses would be laid off to cut costs in the health sector.

  14. Sharon Dunn is the most widely watched news anchor in the history of CBLT-TV News (CBC Toronto). She took programming ratings to their highest levels ever.

    Sharon has 20 years experience as a Broadcaster: TV News Anchor, Host, Interviewer, Reporter, Analyst, Writer, and Story Editor.

  15. Anyone that poses with Bill Clinton has got to be a douche bag.