Canada's Latest Import

Canada is known for its moderation, its multicultural, multireligious society, and its tolerance. That's why the June 1995 provincial election in Ontario—when the Conservative Party replaced the left-wing New Democrats—represented a sea change in the province's, and the nation's, political life.

Since his election as premier, Mike Harris, a former golf pro from North Bay, Ontario, has introduced a series of measures inspired by Republican state governments in Michigan and New Jersey, including a 30 percent tax cut, a 22 percent cut in benefits to welfare recipients, workfare programs, dramatic cuts in education and support to municipal governments, restructuring of the health care system, and the repeal of laws favorable to labor unions.

Harris only won 45 percent of the vote in that election. Many of the voters who supported the opposition Liberal and New Democratic Parties have been outraged by the rapid pace of change and the failure of the government to soften its right-wing agenda.

As a result Ontarians have taken their political protests to the street. On October 26 in Toronto, more than 200,000 people took part in the largest protest march in Canadian history. The march, part of five "Days of Action" in Canada's largest city, was organized by a unique coalition of labor unions, churches, non-profit agencies, and community groups opposed to the Harris government.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1997
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