There is a story going around that Ernie Eves doesn’t like getting out of bed before noon. Ernie may have to if he wants to succeed his golfing buddy Ontario Premier Mike Harris, who is retiring. It used to be called “The Mike and Ernie Show.” The rest were bit players.

Ernie was the former finance minister, deputy prime minister and government house leader. Ernie has been accused of abandoning his small-town lawyer roots long ago as well as his wife, Vicki, of 32 years. He now claims that he’s a “partner for life” of Isabel Bassett, the former citizenship and culture minister and wealthy Toronto Rosedale widow of multi-millionaire John Bassett Sr. She and Eves vacationed in the Caribbean together recently.

Newspapers in his Parry Sound riding have lambasted him for rarely showing up in the area and being difficult to get in touch with since he was first elected and developed a taste for globetrotting. “He’s now known as Inaccessible Ernie,” says Allan Dennis, editor of the Almaguin News, a Birk’s Falls newspaper. During the election campaign, Ernie was accompanied by bodyguards at all-candidate meetings in little communities of 800 people. Definitely a man of the people.

Ernie, a small town lawyer, who married into money, got himself an $810,000 pay day. This was in 1996 when the Tories scrapped the MPP’s “gold-plated” pension plan and a year later spent $109 million to replace it with a “platinum” one. They spread the cash among 130 MPPs based on how long they had served in the legislature. Ernie had been at the trough since 1981 and made off with a cool $810,000. His pal, Mike, received $864,000.

“Inaccessible Ernie” likes to live like a king. In fact, many a king would like to live as well as Ernie. In total, the public cost of Eves’ salary, expenses, benefits, travel and accommodation and office staff ran to at least $350,000 a year. About $200,000 of this was for his personal use.

Ernie got a salary of $111,004, the use of a chauffeur-driven car and other subsidized travel costs which totalled $18,702 back in 1998-99. He also got $15,400 per year towards the rent of his Toronto accommodation and another $153,344 for miscellaneous expenses, plus being paid for a host of other goodies, RRSP, life insurance, long-term income protection, dental, hospital and vision benefits. Wow!

Ernie spent at least $90,116.58 on food, travel and hotel accommodation over a three-year period. In 1996, Eves and his golfing buddy, Mike Harris, after visiting bankers and investors in Paris, Zurich, London and Frankfurt, made a stopover in Edinburgh to play golf at a number of famous golf courses – all on the government dole, of course.

Described as a “Toronto boulevardier,” Ernie stays in four-and five-star hotels and flies business or first class. He spent $700 month on toiletries and dry cleaning and allots himself an annual clothing allowance of $25,000.

Frank Magazine reports that divorce documents reveal the former finance minister – a man once in charge of Ontario’s trillion-dollar budget – has monthly expenses exceed his monthly income by $12,000. (Under some government plan, he’s possibly eligible for credit counselling.)

Eves, one of the earliest pro-abortionists and anti-family politicians in Ontario, thinks that independent schools teach “hatred.” Hey, Ernie, even Mike Harris says that’s not true.

How good a finance minister was Ernie? Not very. According to Hugh Mackenzie, co-chair of the Ontario Alternative Budget Working Group, after the Harris Tories came to power they introduced a new accounting system. And it sure didn’t smell like Chanel No. 5. It gave the Tories the ability to load up the budget deficit and blame the former NDP government. Eves, since 1995, axed more than 5,000 nurses at a cost of $400 million in severance pay and then he had to spend $375 million to hire 12,000 nurses. It would take almost another $800 million to get back to where they were. Mackenzie also said the Tories borrowed $25 million to finance tax cuts and other costs.

Rumour has it that Ernie has not delivered as vice-chairman of Credit-Suisse-First Boston, an investment bank, and he may be anxious to get back on the government dole and all those glorious trips. If he does get Mike Harris’s old job, it’ll be the greatest boon to the aircraft industry that Canada has ever seen. They’ll say: “Here comes Ernie Eves! Order a few more Concordes.”