Reflections on the Common Sense Revolution at the 25 Year + One Week Mark

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image is from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Another Saturday night. I’m still in my lockdown coop. I want to finish my reflections on the Mike Harris years before another Sunday tempers my outrage.

The response to my June 8, 2020 Facebook post about the 25th anniversary of the Common Sense Revolution was encouraging. Lots of comments and shares.

One friend wrote that the real problem is “not … what has been done, but what has NOT been undone.” I agreed:

“The Liberal administrations that followed [the Harris-Eves era] left much of the toxic legacy of the Common Sense Revolution in place. The workfare scheme, the resentment generating “sunshine list”, the total demoralization of our educators, offloading costs to municipalities (i.e., property taxes), centralization and bureaucratization of the health care system, making an absolute shambles of local democracy in this province, privatization of long term care, riding roughshod over legacies, symbols and traditions: e.g. the King’s Highway, Loyal She Remains, peace, order and good government … the list goes on and on.

We’re not talking about past ills here. We’re talking about chronic ills, and the very real and present danger of relapse.”

Another friend commented: “this neo-con virus is as prevalent and as pernicious as the present pandemic. Calls for eternal vigilance and … Speaking truth to power and all that that implies.”

“‘Virus’ is an apt metaphor,” I replied.

“What emerged in the 1970s was a new strain of disease that began attacking the various bodies politic that we’re all part of.

This disease is virulently contagious, and deeply debilitating. The powerful are as infected as us ordinary folks, so there will be no help from that quarter. We haven’t been vigilant. We’re only beginning to become aware of what hit us.

An emerging awareness, however, is an indication that there is still a possibility that our bodies politic have an immune system that can fight the infection.

In this case, self-isolation is not part of avoiding infection or curing it. The remedy is working together, each by our own lights, in our own particular corner of the world. It is speaking the truth, but also living it, and putting it to work.

If you have a good heart, and you can see a glimmer of hope, you are an indication that our immune system is actively engaged in fighting the infection and restoring us to health.”

As you can tell, I get worked up about these things.

I got furious in 1995, and started speaking out in a way that I never had before. And hadn’t since — I went through the entire Stephen Harper decade without losing my cool even once — until April 25, 2019.

That’s when, on the eve of Ontario Arbour Week, Premier Doug Ford announced that his administration was cancelling a program that was in the process of planting 50 million trees.

In an instant all the rage I’d felt almost 24 years earlier came rushing back. And now, 59 weeks later, I remain committed to doing anything and everything I can to free my life, my city, my province and my country of the influence of the kind of diseased frame of mind that can make decisions like this.

It’s nothing personal. Mike Harris is long gone. Doug Ford is just a mascot. Andrew Scheer has become a pitiful figure. Stephen Harper is in the dust bin. Maxime Bernier came within a hair of being his successor, but his assault on our values was a total bust. Jason Kenney is squandering whatever modicum of credibility he has left with his recklessness. Donald Trump appears to be almost down for the count.

Let them all rest in ever lasting peace. It’s that toxic bundle of attitudes that have held sway on this continent for going on half a century that I want to help find a cure for.

There’s not even a proper name for it. What I mean is the attitudes and proclivities that characterize all those neo-con; neo-lib; earth ravaging; Kochist; rebel-yelling; anti-government; anti-federalist; anti-democratic; anti-republican; anti-Christian; blasphemous; hate mongering; fear, resentment and ignorance peddling hucksters, tempters and tricksters who were and are part of … let’s call it the Big Con for short.

Never mind the personalities. These are all people who have either been deceived, or who are practiced in the art of deception. Concentrate on the lies.

For the last 13 months, this has been my mission in late life.

Reflections on the Common Sense Revolution at the 25 Year Mark

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(this is based on a Facebook post from Monday, June 8, 2020)

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day Mike Harris was elected as Premier of Ontario with a mandate to impose his “Common Sense Revolution” on our way of life.

I was going to post a comment about this being a day for “every Ontarian who has a modicum of decency and loyalty left to hang our heads in shame and grief, and then rise up to voice a solemn vow ‘never again'”.

That’s as far as I got before remembering that this was a Sunday, and such dark thoughts may not be appropriate on the Lord’s Day. So I’m posting this today as a Monday afterthought.

The motto “never again” probably needs some adjusting.

Two years ago Ontario forgot all about what transpired so long ago, and, for the first time since the end of Mike Harris era, elected another PCO government under the leadership of another “for the people” style standard bearer.

And it started to look like they were ready to pick up from where the “reign of terror” of the Harris era had left off by launching a kind of dictatorship in June 2018. This would be Napoleon began his rule making it clear that he had every intention to serve as the successor to the Robespierres of the Common Sense Revolution.

Thank goodness the people started voicing their disapproval; thank goodness people started booing our “premierissimo”, and thank goodness things started to quiet down.

Thank goodness, because if that hadn’t happened, Andrew Scheer would be Prime Minister right now, backed by that new-fangled, post-PCC political party controlled by true believers like Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and others in solidarity with the the Fraser Institute / Manning Centre / Calgary School mindset.

“Never again” at this point means coming together in an omni-partisan effort dedicated to using every peaceful, lawful and honest means available to make sure that what began here 25 years ago remains in the dustbin of history, and not the harbinger of what will come to pass.

And there is a real danger that it will come to pass with a vengeance as early as the next provincial and federal elections.

Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter

This was written on the eve of the Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter in Kitchener, and published via on the day of: Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

This image is from the Fashion History Museum website; it’s related to the WARdrobe exhibit prepared in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which is set to open as soon as it is safe to do so. It’s related to my column below because I’m proposing that, although the story of anglophone, francophone and allophone North America has many subplots, it is essentially a single narrative.

I was going to write something about museums for this top of the month of June column. Jonathan Walford and Kenn Norman of the Fashion History Museum in Hespeler, Cambridge,  were guests on our community radio magazine program on CKWR 98.5 last night, and they had all sorts of interesting news to share.  

But current developments have set me in a different direction. At 5pm today the Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter is happening in Kitchener’s venerable Victoria Park. That’s very close to where I live. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m ready to leave my coop just yet. I’m old, and have various vulnerabilities.

So what can this poor boy do instead? “ … [S]ing for a rock & roll band,” Mick Jagger mused at a time when people all over the world were fighting in the streets. I was still a teenager then. In 2020, all I can think of is maybe do a history lecture. Why not? (I wish I was in a band, though. This Groot never liked being a solo act). 

On Saturday, March 21, I was scheduled to give a talk at the 2020 United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observance at Kitchener City Hall, a gift to the community that Gehan Sabry of Cross Cultures magazine has been putting together for many years. (She also does the Cross Cultures radio hour Saturday mornings on CKWR 98.5).

The lockdown started in earnest during the week leading up to the event. So my talk never happened.

Because I usually wait until the last minute on projects like this, I never finished my speaking notes. But I had a good idea of what I wanted to say, so when Gehan asked for a description, I was able to promptly scribble something down.

“I’d like to talk about causes and commitments,” I told her. “It was through happenstance, not conscious choice, that I became involved with arts, culture and heritage with a local/regional focus. So my bias is towards a personal, biographical approach, as opposed to rational ‘prioritization’ ’’.

That was putting it mildly. I am adamantly opposed to setting priorities for others to follow with regard to their personal causes and commitments. 

“However,” I went on in my talk description, “with a growing sense of urgency arising on so many fronts, especially over what is called the ‘climate emergency’, one is drawn towards re-examining long-held interests and preferences. I’m going to propose that convergence, rather than increased specialization, holds the most promise.”

In my talk, I would have taken the long view. I would have suggested that, although the story of anglophone, francophone and allophone North America has many subplots, it is essentially a single narrative for developments over more than five centuries on this continent, from Trinidad and the Mexican border to Nunavut; from Buena Vista to the redwood forest.

The story begins with alien invaders stealing land from men and women who had lived in harmony with place in the world for generation after generation, and then trying to drive them into oblivion. From there, they proceeded to steal other men and women from what had been their land and their people for generation after generation, and ship them here to this side of the Atlantic. Why? The aliens stole African women, children and men in order to possess, work, breed, and sell their bodies. 

My forebears, the sea-faring, sharp-dealing Nederlanders, played a particularly ignominious role in this woeful tale.

The talk would have mentioned 1619, when Africa in what is now the U.S. began. That’s a year before the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims, those radical Protestant separatists who “came out” of a kingdom and a church they considered corrupt beyond redemption in order to found a new, pure colony in the wilderness.

This November will mark the 400th anniversary of that sub-plot of the big story. (The quad-centennial of another key development, the beginning of England and France in our deep, deep south, i.e. the Caribbean, will happen in 2025).   

The plan was to talk up some history and some autobiography, and then tie it all together with the fundamental issue of humanity’s relationship to all lands and all seas, i.e. our earthly home. It would have included a reference to the “ALARM” exhibit that is currently running at THEMUSEUM. I even thought of asking CEO David Marskell if my talk might be a fit for the series of discussions planned in conjunction with this exhibit, now sadly shut off from public view.

But in the wake of what happened in Minneapolis last week, juxtaposed with news about that 21st-century Mayflower adventure called SpaceX, which proposes to “come out” of a defiled planet and set out on an errand into the wilderness on Mars, I’m going to have to make some major revisions to what I have to say.   

When I’m ready, I’ll let you know.