Ontario election: Why didn't voters support progressive

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 19:49:55 -0700 (PDT)


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[Feel free to forward my questions to interested lists and persons.]

Any comments, context or campaign analysis from activists in Canada?
Why did Ontario voters not support pro-poor, pro-worker candidates?

See related article below:

http://biz.yahoo.com/rf/990604/6l.html
FWD  Reuters News Wire - June 4, 1999

     RE-ELECTION OF ONTARIO CONSERVATIVES SPURS NEW FEARS

     By Amran Abocar

TORONTO, June 4 (Reuters) - Ontario's tough-love Conservative party won a
new mandate in Thursday's provincial election but labor and anti-poverty
groups vowed on Friday to continue to fight cuts to welfare and education
spending.

The right-of-center Conservatives were re-elected to a second majority
government on Thursday, taking 59 seats in the 103-seat legislature of
Canada's wealthiest and most populous province.

The Liberals took second place with 35 seats, followed by the left-leaning
New Democratic Party, which took only nine seats and could lose its
official party status.

Reaction to the Conservative victory was predictably mixed. While the
financial community welcomed it, other groups blanched at the prospect of
more cuts to social programs.

The markets were unaffected by the Conservative win, which had been
predicted in most polls. Provincial Finance Minister Ernie Eves has been
lauded for reducing a bloated deficit and introducing numerous tax cuts to
spur job creation.

``It sends a fairly clear signal of the popularity of the tax-cut
platform,'' said economist Marcel Kasumovich at Goldman Sachs. ``There was
potential downside if the Conservatives didn't make it in. However, there
wasn't a whole lot of bad news priced into the market so the opportunity
for a lot of upside on the back of this outcome is probably limited.''

The Conservatives have pledged to cut provincial personal income tax rates
by a further 20 percent, reducing that tax to 38.5 percent of basic federal
tax from 58 percent when they took office in 1995.

But dismayed anti-poverty and labor groups contend those cuts will come at
the expense of social programs and continue to widen the gap between rich
and poor in Ontario.

``People will see that these fears that were put forward were simply not
true and will not come true over the next couple of years,'' Premier Mike
Harris said on Thursday night.

Harris, dubbed ``Mike the Knife'' for his slashing budget cuts, extended an
olive branch to unions on Thursday, promising to be more inclusive in his
next term.

``We'll have to see if that will extend to his victims,'' said Liz Barkley,
president of the Ontario Teachers Federation. ``If he continues with the
cuts in taxes, and thus money going into education, we'll have to oppose
that because the system can't bear anymore.''

Thousands of Ontario teachers, protesting sweeping education reforms and
funding cuts, staged a two-week walkout in 1997, the largest strike by
educators ever in North America.

``We would much prefer peace, we would much prefer consultation but this
government has not shown any interest in even talking to the teaching
profession,'' Barkley said.

The Conservatives, who repealed labor laws that banned the use of
replacement workers, can also expect opposition from labor unions if they
enact tougher labor legislation, as observers expect.

``That would be the major fight of this century in this province,'' said
Sid Ryan, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

For the time being, unions said, they are prepared to give the Conservative
leader the benefit of the doubt.

``It's only when Harris got elected that the doors of Queen's Park were
slammed shut in our faces. Now the ball is in the premier's court,'' CUPE's
Ryan said. ``We'll take him at face value for the first couple of months to
see if there's any changes.''

END FORWARD

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