Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Run John Tory, run away!

Yesterday was a big day at Queen’s Park: the unveiling of the official portrait of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

The portrait unveilings are traditionally a day to put aside partisanship, and even Dalton McGuinty’s speechwriters found something nice to say about the guy that slashed services and jacked-up the deficit:

"Mike Harris took a third place party and turned it into a machine designed in his own image: bold, confident and uncompromising, and voters responded," Mr. McGuinty said.

Also on hand were two former Harris cronies who are busy bringing Harris’ brand of (lacking) common sense revolution to Ottawa, former provincial ministers Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement. Bill Davis was there too. So was Ernie Eves. That’s three former Ontario PC leaders.

Who was noticeable in his absence however? If you guessed current Ontario Conservative leader John “Mike who?” Tory, then give yourself a gold star. Tory has gone to great pains lately to avoid getting within a country mile of Harris, not that he’ll admit it.
Brendan Howe, Mr. Tory's press secretary, said his boss made a commitment several months ago to give a speech yesterday in Waterloo to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

Mr. Harris told reporters that Mr. Tory telephoned him last week and said he felt torn because he had the other commitment.

Umm hmm. To quote Oprah-approved relationshipologist Greg Behrendt: Mike, he’s just not that into you!

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SUZANNE said...

That shows no class.

Jason Hickman said...

The portrait unveilings are traditionally a day to put aside partisanship...

Too bad you didn't get that memo, Jeff. This is pretty nasty stuff, compared to your usual...

And FWIW, Harris didn't leave a deficit in his last year (2001-02). Ernie E., on the other hand ...

Cerberus said...

"And FWIW, Harris didn't leave a deficit in his last year (2001-02). Ernie E., on the other hand ... "


In the year and a bit that Eves was Premier, and all of those deferred payments and costs from the Harris pre-election promises and budgets came due, Eves bears all of the responsibility for all of the $5.6 billion deficit that has hampered the province to this day.

And how is it showing no class to wonder why the current PC leader is avoiding the former PC leader?

A BCer in Toronto said...

Oh please, Jason. I'm not a politician and I wasn't there. I'm a blogger, and it being a day later I think it's fair to comment.

And just what is so nasty? The fact that Tory seems to be running away from Harris as fast as possible isn't relevant? If it was only one incident, sure. I'd cut John some slack. But it's been many. And when they were in the same room recently for a fund raiser they banned the media so there wouldn't be a picture of the two of them together.

I think that's a bit nasty and classless myself. Maybe I'm alone there. C'est la vie.

I'm not saying it's bad politics on Tory's part. If I were him I'd probably avoid Harris too. But I'd also wonder about the message that would send to a large percentage of the Ontario PC membership.

Jason Hickman said...

Ted - Care to provide some specifics of what, precisely, "came due"? The Libs, in '03-'04, tried to smear Harris with the deficit tag too, but realized that it was better, and more factually accurate, to stick with Eves.

And if you don't think a province can go from a surplus (and to be fair, a damned narrow surplus at that - as Coyne and others have pointed out, despite his Chainsaw Mike image, Harris didn't exactly turn off the spending taps) to a deficit in a year, especially with some of the dough that the ON Tories were throwing around in '02-'03, I don't know what else I can say to persuade you.

Ted & Jeff - Tory will certainly have to explain himself if he keeps running away from the Harris years.

Personally, I'm less than impressed by it, but it's not unusal for the new guy to ignore/downplay the old guy - Martin didn't run a lot of ad's featuring Chretien, Campbell & Charest didn't exactly trumpet Mulroney's name, and David Peterson's image hasn't exactly show up a lot in Dalton's campaign lit. (And let's not even get into Bob Rae's relationship with the ONDP these days ...)

My comment was based on Jeff trying to use this occasion to score points. Whatever, Blogging Tories & Libloggers do it all the time. I felt that using this occasion to do so was a little offputting, that's all, especially for a non-Kool Aid drinker like Jeff.

Cerberus said...

"it's not unusal for the new guy to ignore/downplay the old guy"

Except it was two leaders ago and 6 years. Plus it is one thing to take the party on a different path and not refer to a prior leader in your literature; it is altogether another thing to go out of your way to avoid being seen in public with him.

Cerberus said...

"Care to provide some specifics of what, precisely, "came due"?"

Sure. Off the top of my head, there were promises made during the 1998 campaign and in each subsequent budget for increases in policing, increases in road maintainance (remember all of those highway signs advertising "Your Government at Work for You" or whatever it was they stated), huge health care money injections to name just a few. On the flip side/revenue side, Harris promised tax cuts. Harris promised these during the electionw ith specific numbers and then re-promised them in subsequent budgets all the while saying we could afford them both (i.e. spending increases and tax cuts).

But he pulled a classic and traditional sleight of hand, most recently perfected by Paul Martin.

Huge promises with long-term trailing action. So you had spending promises like a few hundred million dollars on health care - nice splashy headline - but in the detail it would go something like $100 million 5 years from now, $50M 4 years from now, $25M 3 years from now, $25M next year and $5M this year. So Eves gets stuck with that. They did this on everything.

BUT that did not apply to the tax cuts which were immediate.

Cerberus said...

Forgot the other significant accounting "magic" employed by Harris.

He had a bad habit of booking future revenue today. For example, in order to balance the budget in his last years, he factored in approximate funds from future government land and buildings in current fiscal period. Worse, he did not account for related expenses but deferred those until they were actually incurred. In short, book fairly certain future revenue now but book related expenses only when incurred.

That is an accounting no-no. The auditor caught up with the Progressive Conservatives during the election campaign but it had been a practice for years.

Worse, those related expenses turned out to be way way way bigger than they had budgeted.

Jason Hickman said...

Ted, I would have to, and will if I can, look at the details of the budgets to which you refer to see if what you say checks out. I'm not sure that you're right about the effect of those "trailing promises", nor with respect to the revenues that were collected year-by-year; I think a lot more spending was promised & made by Eves himself. In other words, it wasn't the last couple of years of a 5-year plan for health spending (to take one example) that would've got Eves into trouble, but rather the spending and revenue plans he intro'd in his own budget. And Eves was certainly willing to cancel or put off Harris-era policies, which was his prerogative. But if I'm mistaken, then I'm mistaken. I do think you may be right about the accounting "issue" you raised in your last response, but I'd have to double-check.

And the fact that Harris was "two leaders ago and six years" makes it all the less likely that Tory and Harris would be on the same platform, etc.

But look, like I said, Tory will have to explain himself to PCPOers and Ontarians at large if he chooses to run away from Harris. One of the examples that Jeff pointed out in his response - kicking out the photog's from the fundraiser - is just silly & shouldn't have been done. It's interesting that the leaders who do that (Martin, Gore in '00, Eves - take your pick) usually don't end up doing measurably better.