Transcript: Mike Harris: The Common Sense Revolution at 25 | Jun 26, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, lavender shirt, and spotted purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "@spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says 25 YEARS AGO TODAY, MIKE HARRIS'S PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT WAS SWORN INTO OFFICE AT QUEEN'S PARK. HARRIS HAD MADE HISTORY EARLIER IN THE MONTH BY BECOMING THE FIRST PREMIER IN MORE THAN 70 YEARS TO TAKE HIS PARTY FROM THIRD TO FIRST IN JUST ONE ELECTION. AFTER TEN YEARS OF LIBERALS AND NEW DEMOCRATS AT QUEEN'S PARK, HARRIS CAMPAIGNED ON THE NEED FOR WHAT HE CALLED A COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION IN ONTARIO, AND OBSERVERS PREDICTED THAT BY THE TIME HE WAS DONE, NOT ONE BLADE OF GRASS IN FRONT OF QUEEN'S PARK WOULD FAIL TO BE TRAMPLED UPON BY SOME PROTESTOR. THEY WERE RIGHT. AND ONTARIO'S 22nd PREMIER JOINS US NOW FROM MIDTOWN TORONTO...

Harris is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with side-parted wavy silver hair. He's wearing a pale blue shirt.

Steve continues MR. HARRIS, IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW ARE YOU MANAGING THROUGH THIS PANDEMIC?

Harris says WELL, STEVE, AS WELL AS CAN BE EXPECTED. LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE, WE'RE WORKING FROM HOME.

Steve says WE'RE GLAD YOU COULD SPARE SOME TIME FOR US TONIGHT. I DO WANT TO GO BACK TO 25 YEARS AGO BECAUSE OF COURSE MANY PEOPLE WATCHING US RIGHT NOW DID NOT LIVE IN ONTARIO OR MAY NOT EVEN HAVE BEEN ALIVE SO WE NEED TO TELL A BIT OF THE STORY HERE. WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE PROVINCE AT THAT TIME THAT MADE YOU THINK WE NEEDED A SO-CALLED COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION?

The caption changes to "Mike Harris. Former PC MPP, Nipissing."

Harris says WELL, WE HAD HAD 10 YEARS OF KIND OF LIBERAL, NDP TOGETHER AND SEPARATE GOVERNMENTS, AND A BUILDUP OF SIGNIFICANT ANNUAL DEFICITS AND A BUILDUP OF DEBT, AND IT WAS OUR BELIEF THAT THIS WASN'T SUSTAINABLE. YOU KNOW, IN A NUMBER OF AREAS IN EDUCATION THAT WAS JUST OKAY AND HEALTH CARE THAT WAS JUST OKAY. A LOT OF THINGS THAT WE FELT NEEDED TO BE DONE. INFRASTRUCTURE WE FELT FALLING BEHIND, AT THE SAME TIME AS 11 BILLION DOLLARS ANNUAL DEFICIT. SO WE THOUGHT IT WAS TIME FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. WE THOUGHT IT WAS JUST COMMON SENSE AND I THINK ONCE PEOPLE HEARD IT AND UNDERSTOOD IT, I THINK THEY THOUGHT IT WAS JUST COMMON SENSE TOO, AND YET IT WAS KIND OF REVOLUTIONARY. FOR EXAMPLE, WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO CUT TAX RATES AND THAT THAT WOULD PRODUCE MORE JOBS AND IN FACT MORE REVENUE FOR THE GOVERNMENT. THAT WAS COUNTERINTUITIVE. SO IN THAT SENSE, IT WAS KIND OF REVOLUTIONARY. WE SAID WE WERE GOING TO UNLEGISLATE. WE FELT WE NEEDED A REBALANCING OF LABOUR LEGISLATION. NOBODY HAD UNLEGISLATED BEFORE. THAT WAS A NO-NO. AND SO THAT WAS KIND OF REVOLUTIONARY. AND SOME SMART FELLAS SITTING AROUND THE TABLE CAME UP WITH, LET'S CALL IT A COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION, AND THAT BECAME THE NAME OF IT, AND LET'S FACE IT, IT WAS A CAMPAIGN SLOGAN, IF YOU LIKE. BUT IT DID DESCRIBE I THINK RELATIVELY ACCURATELY WHAT WE FELT NEEDED TO BE DONE.

Steve says IT WAS ACTUALLY A YEAR BEFORE THAT 1995 ELECTION THAT YOU BROUGHT OUT THE COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION DOCUMENT, AND I'LL ASK OUR DIRECTOR, SHELDON OSMOND, JUST TO ROLL SOME PICTURES BECAUSE YOU CAME INTO THIS VERY STUDIO IN 1994... THERE'S MIKE HARRIS, A SLIGHTLY YOUNGER FELLA... ON A SHOW CALLED STUDIO TWO WHERE YOU AND I TALKED ABOUT YOUR COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION PLANS. OH, MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT FELLA. WELL...

A picture shows Harris in his thirties, smiling as he sits inside a TV studio. He wears a gray suit. Another picture from the same occasion shows Harris and a young Steve facing each other at a table in the studio.
Another picture shows Steve in his twenties.

Harris laughs.

Steve says DURING THE COURSE OF THAT INTERVIEW, HERE IS HOW YOU DESCRIBED THE MISSION AT HAND. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD, LET'S ROLL THAT CLIP.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "May 12, 1994."
In the clip, Harris speaks with Steve.

Harris says WHAT'S CHANGED IS WE'VE HAD TEN YEARS, THE PERIOD WE CALL THE LOST DECADE OF SOME 65 NEW TAX INCREASES, MASSIVE BUILDUP IN GOVERNMENT SPENDING, A SIGNIFICANT INTERVENTION BY GOVERNMENT INTO THE MARKETPLACE, AND SO WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW IS TO RESTORE THE BALANCE THAT BILL DAVIS HAD THROUGHOUT THAT PERIOD OF TIME. WE DO NEED A CORRECTION FROM THIS POLITICS OF THE PAST 10 YEARS. WE NEED MAJOR CHANGE TO GET ONTARIO BACK ON TRACK.

The clip ends.

Steve says YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING, YOU REFERENCED BILL DAVIS THERE WHO OF COURSE WAS PREMIER IN THE 1970s AND 1980s. YOU KNOW, MANY PEOPLE FOUND IT UNUSUAL THAT YOU WOULD COMPARE YOURSELF TO BEING A BILL DAVIS CONSERVATIVE BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY THINK YOU'RE WAY MORE RIGHT WING THAN HE WAS. SO HELP US FIGURE THAT OUT, IF YOU WOULD?

The caption changes to "Mike Harris. 22nd Premier of Ontario."

Harris says WELL, LISTEN. I GOT INTO POLITICS BECAUSE OF BILL DAVIS. I ADMIRED HIM. I STILL DO. I THINK HE HAD GENERALLY THE RIGHT BALANCE, IF YOU LIKE, BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR, AND I FELT THAT THAT HAD MOVED SIGNIFICANTLY... I DON'T LIKE RIGHT WING AND LEFT WING, BUT LET'S SAY HAD MOVED SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE LEFT TO BIGGER GOVERNMENT, TO MORE GOVERNMENT, TO MORE INTERVENTION INTO THE PRIVATE SECTOR. AND SO WHILE COMPARED TO THE NDP AND BOB RAE GOVERNMENT THAT I WAS WANTING TO REPLACE, YOU COULD SAY I WAS RIGHT OF THEM, AND BILL DAVIS WAS CONSIDERED MODERATE AND IN THE MIDDLE. I FELT I WAS JUST RESTORING THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT BACK TO THE MIDDLE AND IT HAD MOVED TOO FAR LEFT. SO THAT WAS, YOU KNOW, PART OF THE ANALOGY, AND I ADMIRED BILL DAVIS. I THOUGHT HE WAS A MAN OF GREAT PRINCIPLE AND STOOD BY WHAT HE BELIEVED IN AND USED A LOT OF COMMON SENSE, WAS PRACTICAL, YOU KNOW, HE WASN'T DOGMATIC. I KNOW PEOPLE FELT I WAS MORE DOGMATIC OR MORE RIGHT WING THAN HIM. I DIDN'T BELIEVE SO.

Steve says HERE IS WHAT YOU DID WHEN YOU CAME INTO POWER 25 YEARS AGO AND YOU DID THIS ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AND WE'LL BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP AND I'LL READ ALONG FOR THOSE LISTENING ON PODCAST.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "The roadmap for the revolution."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
THERE WERE SPENDING CUTS ALMOST RIGHT AWAY, 2 BILLION DOLLARS. YOU CANCELLED PHOTO RADAR WHICH WAS A CONTROVERSIAL ITEM THE NDP HAD BROUGHT IN. YOU CANCELLED IT. YOU CUT WELFARE PAYMENTS BY 21 percent BUT NEVERTHELESS THAT LEFT THEM ABOUT 10 percent ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. YOU REPEALED THE PREVIOUS RAE GOVERNMENT'S ANTISTRIKE BREAKER LEGISLATION, KNOWN AS BILL 40. YOU CUT PROVINCIAL INCOME TAXES BY 30 percent. AND THEN AS TIME WENT ON, YOU SUSTAINED A POLITICAL PROTEST BY MORE THAN 100,000 TEACHERS WHO PROTESTED YOUR EDUCATION REFORMS, AND OF COURSE FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD, YOU CREATED THE SO-CALLED MEGACITY, THE NEW CITY OF TORONTO, A FORM OF GOVERNMENT WHICH STILL EXISTS TO THIS DAY. WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE OVERALL PHILOSOPHY THAT THOSE POLICY CHOICES REFLECTED?

Harris says WELL, THE EDUCATION WAS ONE WHERE WE FELT, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES THAT WERE REQUIRED TO BRING ONTARIO CURRICULUM INTO THE 21ST CENTURY, IF YOU LIKE, AND WE ELIMINATED GRADE 13. THIS BROUGHT US INTO SYNC WITH 50 STATES AND ALL THE REST OF THE PROVINCES. WE WERE BEHIND IN MATH AND SCIENCE AND THERE WERE SIGNIFICANT, YOU KNOW, IT WAS MADE TOUGHER, IF YOU LIKE, IN THAT AREA. BUT THAT EDUCATION IS A KEY PART OF SUCCESS FOR JOBS AND FOR GROWTH AND FOR BUSINESSES TO SUCCEED, AND A BIG PART OF OUR AGENDA WAS GROWING THE PRIVATE SECTOR. WE FELT WE HAD TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT, NOT ENOUGH PRIVATE SECTOR TO SUSTAIN IT. REREGULATING, THE SAME THING. THE WELFARE, WE HAD MOVED WELFARE PAYMENTS IN ONTARIO TO AN AVERAGE OF ABOUT 50 percent HIGHER THAN ALL THE REST... YOU KNOW, THE AVERAGE OF THE REST OF THE PROVINCES, AND IT BECAME BETTER, IF YOU LIKE, OR MORE FINANCIALLY REWARDING, TO STAY ON WELFARE THAN GO TO WORK, AND SO WE WANTED TO BOOST THE PRIVATE SECTOR, WE WANTED TO BOOST THE JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, WE DIDN'T WANT PEOPLE TO... YOU KNOW, WE WANTED TO BREAK THAT CYCLE OF DEPENDENCY, IF YOU LIKE, ON THE STATE, ON WELFARE. AND IT WAS CONTROVERSIAL, BUT HUGELY SUCCESSFUL. IF YOU LOOK AT, I DON'T KNOW, SOME 700,000 OFF THE WELFARE ROLLS, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, OR 500,000 OR 600,000 OFF THE WELFARE ROLLS AND INTO PRODUCTIVE JOBS AND AWAY FROM DEPENDENCE AND INTO... YOU KNOW, INTO FREEDOM, INTO BEING, YOU KNOW, THE DIGNITY OF A JOB, WE USED TO CALL IT. SO IT WAS ALL PART OF WHAT WE FELT NEEDED TO BE DONE TO GET ONTARIO BACK ON TRACK.

Steve says I WANT TO ASK YOU A BIT ABOUT YOUR STYLE OF LEADERSHIP BECAUSE I REMEMBER TALKING TO A TEACHER UNION LEADER AT THE TIME WHO SAID: EVERY TIME A PREVIOUS PREMIER TRIED TO BRING IN SOME KIND OF EDUCATION REFORM WE DIDN'T LIKE, WE'D PUT THOUSANDS OF TEACHERS IN THE STREETS, WE'D HOLLER AND HOLLER, MARCH UP WHATEVER STREET IT WAS, AND THEY'D BACK UP A BIT, PUT SOME WATER IN THEIR WINE AND FIND A HAPPY PLACE. I REMEMBER SAYING TO THIS GUY, THIS GUY ISN'T GOING TO DO IT. THIS GUY ISN'T GOING TO COMPROMISE AT ALL. HOW COME YOU DIDN'T?

Harris says YOU KNOW, I WAS A TEACHER, I WAS A TRUSTEE, I WAS SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR, I WAS INVOLVED PROVINCIALLY. I THINK I UNDERSTOOD WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE. I HAD BEEN IN OPPOSITION FOR 10 YEARS. I HAD BEEN LEADER FOR 5 YEARS, TRAVELLING THE PROVINCE, LISTENING. BY THE WAY, I HAD SUBSTANTIAL TEACHER SUPPORT FOR MY ELECTION. AS YOU KNOW, THEY ENDED UP AGAINST DAVID PETERSON, THEY ENDED AGAINST BOB RAE, THEY EVENTUALLY ENDED UP AGAINST ME. THEY DIDN'T LIKE ANY CHANGE THAT DIDN'T BENEFIT THEM. I UNDERSTAND THAT. THAT'S WHAT UNIONS DO. THEY PUT THEIR MEMBERSHIP FIRST, QUITE FRANKLY. AND IT WAS MY JOB TO PUT STUDENTS FIRST AND TO PUT FAMILIES FIRST. WE FELT WE WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. WE CAMPAIGNED, YOU KNOW, ON SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. YOU KNOW, BY THE WAY, A LOT OF THOSE CHANGES WE MADE IN EDUCATION ARE STILL IN PLACE TODAY. AND I THINK WE'VE BEEN PROVEN RIGHT. WAS IT PERFECT? NO. DID WE MAKE SOME MISTAKES ALONG THE WAY? I'M SURE WE DID. DID WE GO A LITTLE TOO FAST, A LITTLE TOO SLOW? THAT HAPPENS, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE IMPLEMENTING CHANGE. BY AND LARGE I THINK WE MOVED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND I THINK IN THE END THE PUBLIC UNDERSTOOD IT. BY THE WAY, I HAVE RUN INTO LOTS OF TEACHERS WHO HAVE SAID TO ME, YOU KNOW... YOU KNOW, WE UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BETTER TODAY, YOU KNOW, WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO DO AND WHAT YOU DID, YOU KNOW, WE'RE NOT SO OPPOSED TO EVERYTHING YOU STOOD FOR.

Steve says YOU WON'T BE SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT I DO WANT TO TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE MISTAKES FROM 25 YEARS AGO. MIND YOU, I'LL SET IT UP THIS WAY. YOU KNOW, THE SLOGAN ON YOUR GOVERNMENT WAS, IN THOSE MID TO LATE 1990s, YOU KNOW, HE DID WHAT HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DO. AND AS FAR AS WHAT YOU CAMPAIGNED ON IN THE COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION, THAT WAS TRUE. AND IN FACT WHEN YOU WENT FOR RE-ELECTION IN 1999, YOU WON A SECOND CONSECUTIVE MAJORITY, WHICH HADN'T BEEN DONE IN THREE DECADES, WITH A SLIGHTLY HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF THE TOTAL VOTE CAST AS WELL. HOWEVER, THE KNOCK ON YOU WAS THAT WHEN STUFF CAME UP THAT YOU HAD NOT CAMPAIGNED ON OR PLANNED ON, YOUR GOVERNMENT DIDN'T REACT AS WELL. AND I'M THINKING HERE OF, FOR EXAMPLE, THE TRAGEDY OF THE SIX DEATHS IN WALKERTON FROM TAINTED WATER, I'M THINKING OF IPPERWASH WHERE A PROTESTER WAS KILLED. DO YOU THINK, WITH THE BENEFIT OF 25 YEARS OF HINDSIGHT, THAT THAT'S A FAIR KNOCK ON YOUR GOVERNMENT? THAT YOU DIDN'T HANDLE THE STUFF THAT CAME UP AS WELL AS THE STUFF YOU PLANNED?

Harris says WELL, I DON'T THINK IN THE TWO CASES YOU BRING UP. I MEAN, WALKERTON WAS A TRAGEDY. I WAS PREMIER AT THE TIME. I'M NOT SURE THERE WAS QUITE FRANKLY ANYTHING THAT OUR GOVERNMENT DID THAT PRECIPITATED THAT. YOU KNOW, DUDLEY GEORGE WAS AN UNFORTUNATE TRAGEDY. THE ONLY ACTION OUR GOVERNMENT TOOK WAS WE SOUGHT AN INJUNCTION. YOU KNOW, IT HAPPENED UNDER MY WATCH AND OBVIOUSLY I REGRET BOTH OF THOSE THINGS HAPPENED. BUT IN HINDSIGHT, WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT I COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT OR OUR GOVERNMENT COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT? I'M NOT SO SURE, YOU KNOW, WHAT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED THOSE. THE MEGACITY IS BROUGHT UP A LIKE. THE AMALGAMATION. WE DIDN'T CAMPAIGN ON THAT. WE DIDN'T CAMPAIGN ON IF THERE WAS A BETTER WAY TO DO THINGS, WE'D LIKE TO HEAR ABOUT THAT. YOU KNOW, IT WASN'T HANDLED QUITE AS SMOOTHLY AS SOME THINGS THAT WE DID. ON THE OTHER HAND, PARTICULARLY IN THE CASE OF TORONTO, I FELT IT WAS IMPORTANT THAT WE NEEDED A WORLD CLASS CITY, AND TO HAVE A WORLD CLASS CITY, YOU NEEDED SOME SCALE AND YOU NEEDED SOME SIZE, AND I ALSO FELT THAT THE CITY OF TORONTO, UNFAIRLY, WAS TAKING ON THE BURDEN OF A LOT OF SOCIAL COSTS THAT THE SURROUNDING MUNICIPALITIES DID NOT HAVE. AND I JUST THINK IT MADE SENSE. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I TRAVELLED THE WORLD AFTER TAKING OVER, FINANCIAL CENTRES AND WHATNOT. EVERYBODY HAD HEARD OF CANADA. EVERYBODY HAD HEARD OF TORONTO. NOBODY KNEW WHAT ONTARIO WAS. AND YOU NEED WORLD CLASS CITIES, QUITE FRANKLY, AT LEAST I FELT YOU DID AND I STILL FEEL YOU DO, TO BE SUCCESSFUL. AND I THINK TORONTO BY AND LARGE HAS BEEN A SUCCESS. SOME OF THE OTHER AMALGAMATIONS WERE CHALLENGING AND I THINK WE MADE SOME MISTAKES THERE, MAYBE TOO QUICKLY, MAYBE TOO MUCH. NOT EVERYTHING WORKED OUT. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? GENERALLY, I SUPPOSE IT'S A FAIR KNOCK ON THINGS WE DIDN'T CAMPAIGN ON BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THOSE WERE THINGS WE DIDN'T HAVE FIVE YEARS TO PLAN AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO.

Steve says I WANT TO ASK YOU MORE ABOUT YOUR BRAND OF CONSERVATISM INASMUCH AS I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT WHEN A CONSERVATIVE PARTY TAKES OVER, EITHER FEDERALLY OR AT QUEEN'S PARK, SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES THINK THEY HAVE AN ALLY IN THAT PERSON. AND I ALSO THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU LEFT A LOT OF SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES VERY DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T RECRIMINALIZE ABORTION, OR ATTEMPT TO DO THAT, AND WHEN THE COURTS DECIDED THAT DOZENS AND DOZENS OF ONTARIO LAWS HAD TO COME INTO COMPLIANCE WITH A RULING THAT GAVE SAME-SEX PARTNERS ADDITIONAL RIGHTS, YOU DID IT. YOU DIDN'T APPEAL THE DECISION, YOU JUST WENT ALONG WITH IT. HOW COME?

Harris says WELL, I'M A BIG BELIEVER THAT RELIGION, IF YOU LIKE, WHICH DRIVES A LOT OF THESE THOUGHTS ON ABORTION AND ON GAY RIGHTS AND MARRIAGE AND WHATNOT, I DON'T THINK THEY BELONG IN POLITICS. I DON'T THINK THAT'S WHY WE ELECT GOVERNMENTS. WE LEAVE THAT TO CHURCHES. WE LEAVE THAT TO INDIVIDUALS. WE LEAVE THOSE DECISIONS IN THE HANDS OF OTHERS AND THE INDIVIDUAL. SO IT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE TO ME THAT... THAT'S WHY WE WERE ELECTED. WE WERE ELECTED TO PROVIDE THOSE THINGS THAT PEOPLE CAN'T PROVIDE FOR THEMSELVES, AND HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND SAFETY, YOU KNOW, IN THOSE AREAS. AND THOSE WERE THINGS THAT WERE, YOU KNOW, DIVIDED PEOPLE. I, YOU KNOW, HAD SPENT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIME WITH MY PARTY AND MY CAUCUS, NOT EVERYBODY JUMPED ON BOARD RIGHT AWAY WITH THAT PHILOSOPHY, BUT I SAID, LOOK, HERE ARE THINGS THAT UNITE US. HERE ARE THINGS WE WERE ELECTED TO DO. BY AND LARGE I HAD ANONYMITY AMONG THE CAUCUS AND I WAS PRETTY PROUD OF THAT. YOU KNOW, EVEN... BACK IN THE DAY, SAME-SEX BENEFITS... GOING BACK 30 YEARS, 35 YEARS. DAVID PETERSON PROMISED TO BRING IT IN. HAD A MASSIVE MAJORITY GOVERNMENT. COULDN'T GET IT THROUGH HIS CAUCUS. THE NDP, BOB RAE, PROMISED TO BRING IT IN. HAD A MAJORITY. COULDN'T GET IT THROUGH HIS CAUCUS. SO I... YOU KNOW, MAYBE THE TIMING WAS BETTER FOR US, BUT I WAS PRETTY PROUD OF THE FACT THAT WE HAD ANONYMITY IN THAT. AND PART OF THAT, YOU KNOW, GOES BACK TO... YOU KNOW, WHEN I WAS NEWLY ELECTED, I WAS CHAIRING A NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE AND BOB ELGIE HAD A CONTROVERSIAL BILL THAT WAS BROUGHT... THAT BROUGHT GAY RIGHTS... YOU KNOW, COVERED UNDER...

Steve says HUMAN RIGHTS CODE.

Harris says THAT WAS VERY CONTROVERSIAL AT THE TIME. AND THEY SENT THAT BILL TO MY COMMITTEE. NOT A NATURAL COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS LEGISLATION, BUT, YOU KNOW, WE GOT THAT THROUGH. AND IT'S JUST BEEN, YOU KNOW, MY PHILOSOPHY.

Steve says I DO WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR BEING HERE TO BRING YOU A LITTLE BIT FAST FORWARD AND TALK ABOUT SOME CURRENT EVENTS BECAUSE, AS STRANGE AS IT SOUNDS, YOU'VE BEEN OUT OF POLITICS FOR ALMOST TWO DECADES NOW AND THE ONLY CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER TO WIN AN ELECTION SINCE YOU IS THE GUY WHO CURRENTLY HAS THE JOB AND THAT'S DOUG FORD. AND UNLIKE YOU, WHO HAD A GREAT DEAL OF EXPERIENCE BEFORE BECOMING PREMIER, MR. FORD HAD NONE. HE HAD NO EXPERIENCE IN PROVINCIAL POLITICS BEFORE BECOMING PREMIER. IN YOUR VIEW... AND I KNOW YOU'VE ADVISED HIM BEHIND THE SCENES A LITTLE BIT. IN YOUR VIEW, HOW ILL-PREPARED WAS HE FOR THE JOB HE EVENTUALLY GOT TWO YEARS AGO THIS MONTH?

Harris says WELL, HE WASN'T WELL-PREPARED. HE CERTAINLY WASN'T AS WELL-PREPARED AS I WAS BECAUSE I HAD HAD TIME IN GOVERNMENT, I HAD TIME IN OPPOSITION, I HAD FIVE YEARS TO PLAN. YOU KNOW, SOME I REMEMBER CRITICIZED HIM AND SAID, YOU KNOW, YOU DON'T SEEM TO BE AS WELL-PREPARED AS MIKE HARRIS WAS. WELL, HOW COULD HE HAVE BEEN? YOU KNOW, FIVE OR SIX MONTHS BEFORE THE ELECTION HE WAS RUNNING FOR MAYOR. HE HAD NO PROVINCIAL EXPERIENCE. SO HE WAS STILL, YOU KNOW, LEARNING THINGS ON THE FLY, IF YOU LIKE, AND A LARGE PART OF HIS GOVERNMENT WAS AS WELL. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S A FAIR COMPARISON TO MAKE TO THE AMOUNT OF PLANNING I HAD. BUT LET ME SAY THIS. YOU KNOW, WHILE HE HAD A CHALLENGING START, HE'S PERFORMED AMAZINGLY WELL AND HE'S A QUICK LEARNER AND HE'S DEMONSTRATED A KIND OF EMPATHY AND BALANCE THROUGHOUT THIS COVID SITUATION AND HE'S LEARNED FROM ANY, YOU KNOW, MISTAKES THAT HE'S MADE. AND I THINK... HE'S FACING FAR GREATER CHALLENGES TODAY THAN I DID AND I THINK BY AND LARGE HE'S HANDLING IT VERY, VERY WELL.

Steve says I SHOULD ASK YOU ABOUT COVID AS WELL. AS HAS BEEN REPORTED YOU'RE THE CHAIR OF ONE OF THE BIGGEST LONG-TERM CARE PROVIDERS IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO. AND YOU KNOW THAT THE NEW DEMOCRATS HAVE SAID THAT THE LESSON OF COVID-19 IS THAT WE REALLY SHOULDN'T HAVE ANY MORE PRIVATE OWNERS OR OPERATORS OF LONG-TERM CARE HOMES IN THE PROVINCE GOING FORWARD, THAT THEY SHOULD BE ALL PART OF THE CONTINUUM OF CARE THAT OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM PROVIDES. AND I SHOULD GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO COMMENT ON THAT. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON IT?

Harris says WELL, THE NDP WANT GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE EVERYTHING. THAT'S SOCIALISM AT ITS BEST, AND IT'S AN IDEOLOGY THAT THEY HAVE THAT ANYWHERE AROUND THE WORLD, IT'S BEEN TRIED, DOESN'T WORK VERY WELL. THE BIG PROBLEM IN THE LONG-TERM CARE IN ONTARIO, AND IT IS A PROBLEM AND IT'S BEEN A PROBLEM FOR MANY, MANY YEARS, WE'RE SHORT OF SPACES, WE HAVE OLDER HOMES THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN REBUILT OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS, 16 YEARS, HAVE NOT BEEN REBUILT. YOU KNOW, WE HAD A SIGNIFICANT BACKLOG WHEN I CAME INTO OFFICE. OUR COMMITMENT WAS 20,000 NEW BEDS. WE BUILT THOSE. THEY'RE ALL MODERNS. THOSE HOMES WHETHER PRIVATE OR NOT-FOR-PROFIT, HAVE DONE RELATIVELY WELL. BUT THE OLDER HOMES HAVE NOT DONE VERY WELL, WHETHER THEY'RE IN THE HANDS OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR OR IN THE HANDS OF THE NON-PROFITS. QUITE FRANKLY, THERE'S REALLY NOT MUCH PROFIT. IN FACT, I WOULD ARGUE THERE'S NO PROFIT IN LONG-TERM CARE. CHARTWELL HAS ABOUT 10 OR 11 PERCENT OF OUR RESIDENCES, OUR LONG-TERM CARE. THE REST ARE RETIREMENT RESIDENCES. 100 percent OF THE MONEY WE GET FROM THE GOVERNMENT IS SPENT ON SERVICES. BUT THERE'S NOT ENOUGH MONEY AND THERE HASN'T BEEN FOR THE LAST 15 YEARS, I WOULD SAY. THERE'S STILL 30,000... I THINK WE REBUILT ABOUT 17,000 BEDS WHEN WE WERE IN GOVERNMENT, OF THE OLD, YOU KNOW, FOUR-BED WARDS, THE NARROW HALLWAYS AND WHATNOT. THERE ARE STILL 30,000 THAT SHOULD HAVE CONTINUED TO HAVE BEEN BUILT. AGAIN, WHETHER THEY'RE PRIVATE SECTOR OR WHETHER THEY'RE NON-PROFIT. AND THAT WASN'T DONE. SECONDLY, I THINK IT'S OBVIOUS THAT GOVERNMENTS WERE ILL-PREPARED FOR THIS PANDEMIC AND ILL-PREPARED TO DEAL WITH IT IN LONG-TERM CARE AND YOU HAVE STARTED TO SEE SOME OF THE ANALYSIS NOW OF LACK OF PERSONAL PROTECTION EQUIPMENT AND WHATNOT. BUT I DON'T THINK THE ISSUE IS WHETHER IT'S... HOW IT'S INCORPORATED. I THINK THE ISSUE IS ONE MORE OF PREPAREDNESS, OF BEING READY. QUITE FRANKLY, SOME OF THE LARGER FOR-PROFIT, IF YOU LIKE TO CALL THEM, HAVE HAD ECONOMIES OF SCALE. CHARTWELL, FOR EXAMPLE, EARLY ON, WHEN WE COULDN'T GET PPE FROM FEDERAL OR PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS, WE WERE SOURCING IT OURSELVES. WE HELPED A NUMBER OF THE NON-PROFITS WHO HAD NO CLOUT AND HAD NO RESOURCES, WE HELPED THEM AS WELL WITH PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AT THE SAME TIME. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? I AGREE WITH DOUG FORD THAT THE SYSTEM NEEDS A COMPLETE OVERHAUL, AND PART OF IT IS A SIGNIFICANT LACK OF FUNDING.

Steve says WE'RE DOWN TO OUR LAST MINUTE HERE AND I WANT TO ASK YOU ONE LAST THING. EVEN THOUGH YOU'VE BEEN OUT OF PUBLIC LIFE FOR ALMOST TWO DECADES NOW, YOUR NAME GETS RAISED AT QUEEN'S PARK ALL THE TIME. YOU STILL ARE AN AMAZINGLY POLARIZING PERSON. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

Harris says WELL, WE BROUGHT ABOUT A LOT OF CHANGE. I THINK THE CHANGE WE BROUGHT ABOUT WAS POSITIVE. SO EITHER POSITIVELY OR NEGATIVELY, FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER, I GUESS ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE, IT'S USUALLY THE NDP OR THE LIBERALS BRING ME UP. I WEAR IT, I GUESS, AS A BADGE OF HONOUR. I'M PROUD OF MY TIME IN OFFICE. WERE WE PERFECT? NO. BUT WE DID DO WHAT WE SAID WE WOULD DO, AND BY AND LARGE WE TOOK... YOU KNOW, I CALL IT THE TRIFECTA. THE TRIFECTA OF TAKING an 11 BILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT, TURNING IT INTO A SURPLUS, AT THE SAME TIME AS WE CUT TAX RATES, AT THE SAME TIME AS WE CREATED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF NEW JOBS. THAT WAS AN IMPORTANT TRIFECTA THAT GAVE ONTARIO THE RESOURCES TO BE ABLE TO INVEST MASSIVELY INTO, YOU KNOW, THE FIRST SUBWAY SYSTEM THAT HAD BEEN DONE IN 25 YEARS, INTO THE ARTS, INTO NEW HOSPITALS, INTO THE BIGGEST EXPANSION OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THERE. THOSE DOLLARS CAME IN BECAUSE WE GOT THE PRIVATE SECTOR BOOMING, AND EVEN AT LOWER TAX RATES, WE GOT SUBSTANTIALLY MORE DOLLARS IN. THAT'S AN IMPRESSIVE TRIFECTA, I BELIEVE. AND IT'S A LESSON FOR FUTURE GOVERNMENTS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin."

Steve says MR. HARRIS, THANKS FOR SPENDING SOME OF THIS 25TH ANNIVERSARY HERE WITH US ON TVO TONIGHT. TAKE CARE.

Harris says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Watch: Mike Harris: The Common Sense Revolution at 25