Editorial Board 2001-2002
Portrait of a politician
Portrait of a politician
Ontario premier Mike Harris announced his resignation yesterday, citing personal reasons for his decision.
Whether they loved him or hated him, Ontarians will never forget him.
Known most famously as an oppressor of the poor and a champion of the rich, Harris will be remembered as much more than that. He represents a political entity sorely lacking as of late he is a true politician in an age where the wishy-washy, fence-sitting leader has become the norm.
'Mike the Knife' found something to believe in and stuck to it, regardless of the enemies created by his right-wing platform and policies. Despite his faults, you cannot say he didn't do what he said he'd do.
Harris said he would reform education in Ontario and he did just that. He promised to build the 407 Express Toll Highway and there it stands. He offered to lower taxes and he delivered.
While the long-term effects of the Premier's policies remain unknown, the decrees themselves have brought much-needed change to the province and given us all something to talk (or complain) about.
Whether Harris was good for Ontario depends largely on who you are. He has pitted parents against teachers and workers against businesses, the whole time using these Machiavellian diversions to slip through the cracks created in the province's political economy in order to achieve his goals.
Harris may have saved taxpayers money by eliminating a year of high school, but, in the process, he has forced students to decide their futures at an earlier age, which may ultimately limit their later options.
University tuition increases were never as high as they were during his reign and the loss of OACs has helped create major concerns regarding post-secondary accessibility for future generations of students.
Moreover, he was bad for national unity, with his divisive and petty provincial politics.
Perhaps now that he is gone, Ontario will once again become a team player, instead of acting like the pompous child who plots against her parents with her kid sister, Alberta.
Regardless, the fate of the Ontario government remains cloudy. The fact the provincial Tories are often referred to as the 'Harris Government,' reveals a possibility they may not be able to function as effectively without their fearless and much-feared leader.
But if he is so fearless, why is leaving now? Have recent developments such as Walkerton and Ipperwash had a greater effect than originally thought? Does he want to get out of office before Ontario's once healthy economy takes a nosedive? Or has his time to shine simply run out?
Whatever the reason, the premier's legacy is reminiscent of another politician with a somewhat corrupt inner-layer who also threw in the towel before his mandate had expired.
Maybe Mike Harris looked in the mirror, saw Brian Mulroney's face and decided his time as Premier was up.