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September 14, 2011

Tea Party politics coming to Ontario

The Canadian Charger

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Former Ontario Premier Ernie Eves is miffed. Some of the old Tory gang in Ontario is being ousted by brash, populist, extreme right-wingers. When Norm Sterling, a sitting MPP, was ousted in a primary by Jack MacLaren, what happened to Stirling "was not very polite, was not fair, it was not loyal, it was not compassionate, it was not even and it was not honest." Wow!

Those responsible for the dastardly deed wanted “the Tea Party version of Ontario politics,” he charged.  In the U.S., the Tea Party is an amorphous movement largely based in the Republican Party and backed by Big Money.  It is populist in character and decidedly anti-tax and pro smaller government.  While it is not clear at this point whence the money for efforts within the Regressive Conservative Party is coming, the other characteristics certainly fit.  But what is the difference between Tea Party Tories and the other Ontario Tories to whom Eves clings as bosom buddies, the buddies so wrongly done by? 

Eves has been called a Red Tory, but to put him in the same category as Dalton Camp, for instance, is far out.  Red Tory? More parlor-pink.  The redness is a smudge that comes off with a wipe of the Kleenex, like lipstick from a messy kiss.  History outs him. His support for abortion rights is simply an anomaly.

No one ever claimed that Mike Harris, Eves’ close friend and golfing mate, is a Red Tory.  Eves supported his bid to become the party’s candidate.  Eves then served as a member of his cabinet before succeeding him as Premier.  He was rewarded by being named Minister of Finance, and in that post he cut taxes and public spending.  Remember the Walkerton e-coli disaster?  Cutting taxes can be expensive.  Social assistance also suffered under the axe.

While the 21.6% cut to Ontario Works rates “kept him up nights” according to the man himself, when he succeeded Harris as Premier, he did not think to reverse this vicious assault on the poor.  He apparently had gotten over his insomnia.  Was that failure to act polite, fair, loyal, even, and honest?  But then, these poor people could never be members of his fancy clubs and certainly never members of his Tory coterie. 

Documents filed for his messy divorce indicate that he spends $25,000 a year on clothing and $700 a month on toiletries and dry cleaning. Well, a 21.6% cut on his lifestyle might be tough, but he perhaps could bear it.

There is nothing about the Tea Party types in the party that basically differentiates them from the members of the “legitimate” private members club of which Ernie Eves is a true blue accredited member.  MacLaren would hardly have been out of place had he been seated beside Eves in Mike Harris’ cabinet.  As columnist John Ibbotson put it succinctly, “Choose Eves and you get Mike Harris all over again.”

Mike Harris characterized welfare recipients as beer-swilling pregnant women.  Did our so-called Red Tory resign in protest?  Did he publicly chastize his personal friend and his boss the Premier?  Well, no.

So what do we make of Eves’ forceful attack on the Tory ouster of Sterling?  Was he aiming his shafts at the local Tories who did the deed, or was there another target?  Perhaps the un-Red Tory Eves (really infra-red:  you can’t see it with the naked eye) was aiming higher–at Tim Hudak.  After all, Hudak at the very least let it happen.

If that reading of the situation is correct, then it appears either that Hudak prefers the Tea Party types to the old boys or that he thinks that a dose of Tea is good electoral strategy.

In any case, Ernie Eves believes that charity begins at home, inside the Tory camp.  And for him it stays there though he may shed a quiet crocodile tear or two for those struggling on welfare.

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