The 'made-in-Canada' recession threw a million people out of work, decimated the manufacturing sector, and left the Rae government deep in the red. They were attacked viciously in the media for running deficits over which they had no control.That writer is more sympathetic to Rae than I am about his unilaterally re-opening labour contracts. I understand that Rae was trying to avoid lay-offs, an it was a noble concept, but not noble enough to justify taking a sledge-hammer to the entire point of labour unions, which is to negotiate as equals the conditions of their employment.
The deficit ballooned into the ten billions, and the Rae government tried some Keynesian counter-cyclical spending to soften the blow for families being thrown out of work, which of course made the deficit worse (but what else could they have done?).
After the worst of the recession was over, the NDP set about reducing the deficit, albeit without eliminating public sector jobs. Rae went to the unions and asked them to agree to renegotiate their contracts to save money. He called it a "social contract".
The unions flat-out refused to bargain, so the Rae government unilaterally implemented the changes they were hoping to make. No one lost their jobs, but the dreaded "Rae Days" came into effect, in which public sector workers were required to take occasional unpaid days off.
At the same time, the economy was recovering and the deficit was falling, but the damage was done. Vilified from all sides for their efforts to soften the recession and balance the books without laying anyone off, the NDP were almost universally hated.
In 1995, when the NDP lost to the Mike Harris Tories and their "Common Sense Revolution", the deficit was falling steadily. Harris, an economic conservative and therefore "fiscally responsible", immediately reversed the downward trend in Ontario's deficit by implementing a series of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited corporations and the rich.
The Harris Conservatives also laid off public sector workers, cut welfare payments by over 20 percent, reduced funding for education, health care, and the environment, and dumped cyclical expenditures onto cities with the notorious Omnibus bill.
Over the next eight years, a period of non-stop economic growth in Ontario, the Tories managed to balance the books only by selling off a chunk of Ontario Hydro and then selling off Hwy 407 ETR.
Now, any economist will tell you that if you have to sell off capital assets to balance your budget, you're not running a sustainable operation.
By the time the Tories handed power to the McGuinty Liberals, Ontario's deficit stood at $5.5 billion, comparing rather poorly with the deficit eight years earlier, when the NDP were trying to bring Ontario out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
(The size of the deficit was not revealed until after the Liberals had taken over the government. Prior to the election, the Tories had claimed the deficit was in the $1-2 billion range.)
Even taking inflation and population growth into account, that's a heck of an accomplishment for a party that is supposed to stand for "conservative" - i.e. prudent - fiscal management.
But the long and the short of it is that event the NDP provincial government that is held up as an example of the "disastrous" consequences of electing a government of tree-hugging, faggot, lazy, welfare-cheat enabling, union-controlled left-wingers, is, when you remove the corporate media spin, not such an ominous example after all.
Yes, the Rae NDP government is criticized by the left-wing and the right-wing. But that's not really indicative of how completely terrible they were. The left-wing was angry because Rae betrayed left-wing principles, alienated a powerful sector of the NDP's base, and vindicated right-wing rhetoric with their idiotic welfare snitch-lines and useless austerity policies. Right-wingers trash the Rae government because they're all (Conservative and Liberal) hypocrites and morons.
I noticed that it was after two Tory majorities and two Liberal majorities, that Ontario became a have-not province with regards to equalization payments. One would think that allowing Canada's industrial heartland to fall into needing equalization payments would be a bigger indictment of the two mainstream parties that allowed it to happen (and the neoliberal philosophy that they were implementing) than Rae's having run deficits during a recession.
But that's the way it is in our political culture: obvious truths are lost if they're inconvenient to capitalism and its delusions, myths are created to obscure our perception of reality, and the elites laugh all the way to the bank.