I looked at my TV set recently, which was turned off at the time (actually there’s not that much to look at anyway), and lo and behold I was shocked at what I saw on the screen!
Suddenly the front page of the National Post appeared before my eyes with screaming headline: ‘HARRIS TORIES DEFEATED.’ I looked at the date. It was Oct. 11, 2003!
Sub headings read: Harris defeated in own riding by Sid Ryan.’ ‘Anti-Harris radical labour leader Sid Ryan wins in landslide.’ ‘Harris blames falling U.S. economy for defeat,’ and ‘Pro-lifers insist Harris defeat was result of unified pro-life efforts.’
I read on: Tory opponents blamed the Tory election disaster on the fact that the Ontario teachers resigned in a body and have chartered airplanes and were threatening to head for teaching posts in the United States.
This was a technique that teachers were accused of learning , by the Tories, from doctors, nurses and other high-tech people.
A groundswell of support mounted all over Ontario for the departing teachers. ‘Stop Torturing Teachers!.’ became the slogan of all the opposition parties and some Tories in the past election found themselves so unpopular they ran under assumed names.
I was given a website to visit that had a secretly filmed interview with the former Premier Mike Harris that took place at the John F. Robarts Secondary School in North Bay earlier that day.
Into the principal’s office hurried a tall man with an obvious wig and a phony black mustache that made him look like Emil Zapata, the Mexican folk hero. The principal, Ms. Watson, a suspicious looking unfriendly woman, looked up from her desk and said sharply, “You don’t have to wear that stupid looking wig and that phony mustache! We were expecting you Mr. Former Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, for your interview. Sit down.”
Mike, uncomfortably complied. “And you might take that button off your trench coat.” Mr. Harris.
“Oh, you mean this one: ‘I promise that I will not grow up to be a beer-swilling welfare mom.'”
“Yes, that one.”
“It’s just to warn young girls of the paths that might lie ahead for them,” said Harris, defensively.
“I see here that you’ve applied for a teaching job with our school. What was your previous occupation?”
“You know what it was. I was the premier of Ontario! And I can’t believe that Sid Ryan beat me and he didn’t even campaign! Sid Ryan! The biggest pain in the neck and other parts of my body I ever had. Ah, I see you have his button on your suit!”
“I thought you’d never notice. Who do you think really defeated you?”
“The teachers. And me a former teacher! Where is their loyalty?”
“Weren’t you the kind of teacher that when the closing bell rang in a foot race you beat every student out of the classroom?”
“Yes, but that was Mike Harris when he was wet behind the ears. Now I see the necessity for teachers to take on extracurricular activities – like coaching a football team or teaching golf to students.”
“Listen, with the increased work schedule that you mandated for teachers there won’t be any time for golf lessons. Surely you’re aware of the stupid mindless tests – the budget shortfall? – all the teachers heading for the U.S.?”
“They’re bluffing! They never had it so good.”
“I’ve got my bags all packed. If there isn’t a drastic change in the new government’s attitude towards teaching, I’m gone. Now tell me why are you seeking a teacher’s job? I heard that they had to build a special vault in the local bank to take care of your premier’s pension.”
“Exaggerations, I just want to keep busy. I always enjoyed teaching – the Christmas holidays, Easter holiday, summer holidays, professional development days, the generous sick leave, the generous pensions.”
“If there is any school this year – I’m looking for a teacher who enjoys yard duty?”
“I never did like it,” said Mike.
“What about coaching the football team? Basketball team? Hockey team? Overnight educational trips? Directing the school play?”
“What you want is dedicated volunteers to do all those.”
“You figured that out, Mike, one election too late. Before you leave I want you to meet our new Minister of Education. Sid! Sid Ryan will you come in here?”
Mike collapsed on the floor.