Harris has no regrets
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Entering on a wave of electrified support, Premier Mike Harris prepared to deliver his speech entitled "Beyond 2000" as over 800 delegates rose to a standing ovation while "No Regrets" by Tom Cochrane blared overhead.
The event, which took place Saturday evening at the London Convention Centre, soon quieted as Harris began discussing what he believes to be the single most important characteristic of the party's success the past, present and future.
Using the word "courage" over a dozen times, Harris went on to explain how the Conservatives have drawn strength from this quality which will eventually help build their future successes.
Fellow caucus members were desribed by Harris as heroes of a "Common Sense Revolution" which was designed to combat the over 1.3 million Ontarions on welfare, double digit unemployment rates and a deficit of more than $11 billion.
Harris attributed these problems to the former governments led by Premiers David Peterson and Bob Rae. "I always choke when I say their names."
By cutting taxes and spending simultaneously, Harris said he plans to not only reduce the deficit but create new jobs at the same time a goal he believes has partially been achieved.
This year alone, he said the deficit will be less than $7 billion while over 216,000 new jobs have been created in the private sector. "And with no tricks, no smoke, no mirrors my friends, we will balance Ontario's budget by 2000, just as we said we would," Harris added.
Other changes which have been made since the party has been in power include spending almost $1 billion more on health care than originally promised, while reducing the number of welfare recipients by 235,000.
Although Ontario schools have received more money, Harris said education is still lacking and he fully intends to implement the principles of their reform which include province-wide testing, standardized report cards, an end to larger class sizes and more teacher time in the classroom.
"My friends, if money alone were the secret to a quality education, then we would have the best system in the world. We do not. The status quo is failing our children," Harris said.
The next steps proposed by Harris include taking his new initiatives for the future back to the delegates' individual ridings to spread the word to the hundreds of thousands he hopes will get involved.