Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Bigger and better rats"

Did anyone catch the Mike Harris roundup in yesterday's TorStar? God, I'd almost forgotten how odious he was (and probably still is). Jim Coyle connects Toronto's grim present with the ghosts of Harris past:
As the Star's Jim Rankin reported recently, Toronto's brewing social problems were expressed with customary lucidity by Stephen Lewis in a 1992 report on racism in Ontario. ``It is black youth that is unemployed in excessive numbers, it is black students who are being inappropriately streamed in schools, it is black kids who are disproportionately dropping out, it is housing communities with large concentrations of black residents where the sense of vulnerability and disadvantage is most acute.''
Mike Harris was not buying. In his opposition days, blacks were just one of the minorities he derided. ``We're getting too many, not just black, I mean we're getting too many from other countries, too, that are coming here for a free ride,'' he said.
Harris epitomizes the breed of right-winger that has nothing but contempt for public works; I would go a bit further and suggest that he has nothing but contempt for the public. Read on:
In 1995, Harris campaigned as if middle-class property owners were his only concern. He saw little value in the work of the public sector, few votes in the notion of the public good. He came to power unleashing what no less a commentator than longtime Progressive Conservative insider Hugh Segal has called ``the tyranny of the simple idea.''
In fact, his government's first acts were to undo supports, and make circumstances more difficult, for the very communities that Lewis and others had identified as being most vulnerable. He repealed employment-equity legislation. He cut social assistance by 21 per cent. He abandoned social housing, eliminated social programs.
In the uproar that ensued, he declared (like another notable right-wing leader) that folks were either with him or against them. Those who took to the streets in protest were dismissed as ``Iraqis, Iranians or communists.'' With utter certainty, he led followers into what would become a quagmire of inequity, alienation and division.

Coyle goes on to quote Bob Rae's 1996 book 'From Protest to Power':
"As the quality of services declines, public confidence is further eroded. Human nature being what it is ... the rat race turns us all into bigger and better rats.''
And it isn't just us lefties either. Hugh Segal--a former Mulroneyite--couldn't manage to hold his nose and enjoy the tax-free ride: was Segal who saw the future in his 1997 book Beyond Greed: A Traditional Conservative Confronts Neo-conservative Excess.
He was horrified by ``a selfish barb-wire politics, one that seeks to destroy the conservative ideal that places order at the centre of a universe where individual freedom and social responsibility co-exist in real balance.
``That balance is about compassion, hope, sharing, the true purposes of civilized life — it is about tolerance and equality of opportunity. Eradicating that balance and replacing it with the law of the jungle is what neo-conservatism is all about.''


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