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June 2, 2011

Ontario's Conservatives: Backing into the future with Tim Hudak

The Canadian Charger

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Quick-Hide the women and children! Someone let Ontario's Conservatives leader Tim Hudak out of his cage. He is set to wage war on unions, to cut the pay of public servants and put their jobs out to competition to drive down their salaries.

Also in his gun sites are welfare recipients.  He wants to require a year’s residence in the province before anyone can get financial assistance.  The old Canada Assistance Plan effectively prevented residency requirements, but the Liberals repealed it, making possible this nightmare scenario.  Back in the bad old days of the English poor laws, they called this “warning out.” 

An example of the kind of person who would be a victim of this barbarism:

Mary is mentally ill.  She was living in Quebec, across the river from Ottawa, in a boarding house.  Two drunken men in the house beat her up.  She fled to Ottawa, where she received benefits under Ontario Works and later under the Ontario Disability Support Program. 

Hudak would save Ontarians from people like Mary.  Who will save us from people like him?

Hudak addresses welfare fraud in this document.  “The worst repeat offenders of welfare fraud will face tough penalties, up to a lifetime ban.”  

The wording of this pledge is very careful, in spite of the reckless attempt to smear the poor. 

In the first place, how many “worst repeat offenders” are there apt to be?  Of course there is the occasional welfare fraud, even the rare big-time fraud, but “worst repeat offenders”? “Up to a lifetime ban”?

Well, in 2001, pregnant Kimberly Rogers committed suicide in her seriously overheated apartment while under house arrest and serving a three-month ban on welfare.  The coroner’s jury recommended no such bans. 

Hudak is huffing and puffing, but fortunately it does not appear that there is any substance to his blustering against the helpless this time.  The worst repeat offender is a straw man. 

It should also be noted that his scapegoating of welfare recipients is again part of his class warfare. 

What about physicians who over-bill on OHIP or illegally press patients to pay for surgery?  “Up to a lifetime ban”? 

And let’s remember Hudak’s mentor Mike Harris, under whose reign Rogers killed herself, Mike Harris who instituted a lifetime ban for all welfare fraud.  His winning electoral strategy of attacking welfare recipients was devised by back-room boy Jamie Watt, who himself was convicted of fraud.  Harris tried to appoint him to posts in government, only to face up against public outrage.  Harris pled that his crime should not haunt him forever.  After all, it wasn’t as if it was welfare fraud.

This fixation on scapegoating the welfare poor is a time-honored Tory tradition.  When “The Honorable” John Baird was the Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services, he wanted to test all recipients for drug abuse, on a regular basis.  Maybe he should try the same on his caucus members now.  A  Tory former member was caught with cocaine in his car but managed to avoid a conviction on that count in a plea deal.

What other “Progressive” Conservative features are offered up in this dog’s breakfast of a platform? 

The Tories will make prisoners work up to 40 hours a week.  That plank in the platform raises some interesting questions.  First off, anyone even remotely connected to the field of corrections knows that the jails have significant numbers of prisoners who are mentally ill, since the massive closing of psychiatric beds in the 1970s and 1980s.  But not all prisoners are mentally ill.  In 1932, Paul Muni starred in a film that shook the American legal system: “I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang.”  Hudak may inspire an Ontario remake.

While there is much else that can be said about Hudak and his worm-eaten platform, let’s touch on just two more bright ideas. 

  1. But just think how great it would be if all the other provinces adopted the same kind of protectionist program!  

Finally, the Tories would put the names and addresses of all registered sex offenders on a website.  That will have some interesting results.  Perhaps most significantly it would put all of those people in serious danger.  Ontario’s police forces will need to provide enhanced protection for all of them.  Good thinking, Tim!

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M. Elmasry

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