While the Harris government has been a big disappointment, the PCs still deserve some credit

In last month’s Interim we presented a general overview of the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s record on life and family issues. This month, we present details and a rating of the Tories on some of the issues most important to social conservatives.Although there is a lot of criticism of the Tory record in these articles, it would not be correct to assume that the Liberal and NDP parties would be rated any better. The Interim is also publishing critiques of these parties. It appears that the best thing the Tories have going for them at the moment is pro-abortion, pro-gay Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, and the voters’ memory of the NDP’s few disastrous years in power.

unacceptable    worthy of some support

Abortion –   Conscience Legislation –  Homosexuality –  The Family –  Education
Health care –  Other Moral Issues –  Gambling –  Sunday and Holiday Work


Over 45,000 pre-born children are being killed each year in Ontario under the Tories. This is no improvement over the previous NDP regime.
Well over 25 million tax dollars pay for the slaughter carried out in these elective procedures (no “Common Sense” here). PC party spokesman Paul Rhodes stated in 1995 that, “We regard abortion as a medically necessary service and have no plans to stop (funding) it.”
The Harris government will not even discuss abortion, and actively discourages all MPPs from speaking about it in public.
Policy or legislative initiatives that might in any way lessen access to abortion are strongly discouraged by the government.
Abortion was placed by the Tories at the top of the 1996 list of 15 medical services excluded from billing caps and clawback provisions. Abortion was the only elective procedure in the list. This special protection for abortion was partially removed last fall. An exception is still made for abortion specialists like Henry Morgentaler, who will continue to receive full funding for their killing practices, without fear of the cutbacks affecting other areas of health care.
Just prior to the 1995 election, Mike Harris said that he would like to see “more balanced funding” for counselling women who are considering abortion. The Tories have since been uninterested in mandatory right-to-know or informed consent legislation for those seeking abortion.
The PC government has continued its predecessors’ policy of giving large annual grants to Toronto Planned Parenthood, a branch of the extremely aggressive world’s number one abortion promoter and provider. Almost $1.2 million was given to Toronto PP by the Conservatives in 1997 alone.
The Mike Harris government has imprisoned Linda Gibbons for most of its mandate. The Tories have strongly resisted all requests to drop the NDP-initiated injunction under which Linda and others have been arrested for peaceful pro-life demonstrations. The attorney-general continues to give inaccurate or incomplete responses to both the public and his fellow MPPs, including many Tory backbenchers, to justify his maintenance of the injunction. He has refused to meet with any pro-life leaders and is usually hostile towards those who dare to bring up the issue with him.
As he promised during the 1995 election, Mike Harris has not expanded abortion services.

Conscience legislation

The merging of religious and secular hospitals as a result of Tory hospital restructuring has brought home the great need for conscience protection for health-care workers. Workers are being fired, demoted, or moved, or are leaving the profession, because of pressure to participate in medical activities that violate their moral or religious principles.
The government has been presented with the need for this fair-minded legislation. The health ministry’s response is that it is a matter to be resolved between workers and their employers – a process which has proven to be far from satisfactory for many.
One MPP was strongly encouraged by party agents to drop the introduction of conscience legislation. It was referred to as an “abortion bill,” when in fact the bill would have covered much more than abortion.
April 1999, a spokesman for the Health Minister stated that the government had no intention of even considering conscience legislation.
Most telling of all was a suggestion made by the Tory policy chief to a member of the Coalition for Conscience, which supports conscience legislation. He suggested that the government might be willing to move on the issue if Catholic hospitals were to allow certain objectionable services to be carried out on their premises. (This proposal was a serious contradiction of this policy drafter’s Roman Catholic faith, by the way.)


The Tories have quietly challenged a few court decisions creating new homosexual privileges. They have appeared unenthusiastic in doing so, however. Their actions on this score may be intended merely to placate the vocal core in the PC party that opposes expansion of “gay rights”.
Far more revealing was the June 1996 appointment of homosexual activist Keith Norton to head the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Through the HRC, the government can wash its hands of controversial issues, and major leftist social changes can be initiated without a political cost. Under Norton, London Mayor Dianne Haskett was persecuted for refusing to declare a “gay pride” weekend. An HRC case has been brought against Toronto Christian printer Scott Brockie for refusing a job from a gay organization, and the HRC has forced a small newspaper, the Perth Courier, to print gay personal ads. Norton has also stated that he would like to see gays receive full “spousal” rights.
Premier Harris placed homosexual advocate Jaime Watt in his inner circle of advisers. The premier and Watt had many discussions on this issue. Watt was let go after it was publicly revealed that he had been guilty of a serious criminal fraud offence. The government later re-hired him quietly for another position, but this too was discovered, and they had to remove him again.
In October 1997, then education minister John Snobelen said it was wrong for the York Region (Roman Catholic) Separate School Board to fire teacher Joseph Stellpflug, who had just gone through a “marriage” ceremony with his gay lover. Snobelen said publicly funded school boards should not be “discriminating” against homosexuals.
The premier congratulated Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman for his decision to participate in the city’s “gay pride” parade. Harris stated that the parade “brings a lot of tourism dollars to Toronto.” Citizen and Culture Minister Isabel Bassett participated in the parade the past few years.
Premier Harris immediately and meekly submitted to the ruling of the Supreme Court on May 21, 1999 in M. v. H. that struck down the Ontario Family Law Act’s opposite sex definition of spouse. Harris could only respond with the moral relativist comment “It is not my definition of family, but it is of others. And the courts have ruled that it is constitutional.” With that type of response it is reasonable to question whether the Tory government put its best effort into the court challenge that resulted in this decision.

The Family

Early in 1996, the government showed that strengthening family life in Ontario was not a priority. It conducted hearings on Bill 19, an act to amend the previous NDP government’s laws on consent, advocacy, and substitute decisions.

Many of the changes brought about in Bill 19 were good, and restored control over these matters to individuals and their family members.
The bill did not include the restoration of parental control over the health care of their minor, dependent children. This right of parents had been removed by the NDP. Many pro-family delegations made excellent presentations to the committee hearings on the bill, calling for restoration of parental rights. Shockingly, they were all completely ignored. Direction came from the premier’s office to Tory committee member Frank Klees to keep his strong views in favour of parental rights to himself, so as not to endanger passage of the bill.
Frank Klees later introduced Bill 91, which would simply have required that parents be advised of health care treatments planned for their children. The bill was supported by 34 Tory backbenchers from the PC “family issues caucus.”
It was opposed by the Liberals and the NDP, who were joined by 13 Tories, including four cabinet ministers. Health Minister Jim Wilson actually spoke out against the bill in the legislature. This caused Bill 91 to be defeated.
Last summer, the government instituted a program of child care expense supplements for families with children under age seven – a program that will provide a little relief for some lower-income families.
Early in its term, the PC government successfully appealed the court decision permitting “lap dancing.”


It remains to be seen what effect the government’s massive education reforms will have on the very liberal bent of Ontario’s school system. Many parents have been distressed about this problem, while at the same time recognizing that most teachers are sincerely dedicated to helping students.

NDP education critic Dave Cooke was appointed by the Tories to co-chair the Education Improvement Commission. Cooke emphasized that the Tories’ Bill 160 reflects many of the recommendations that came out of the NDP’s Royal Commission on Learning. That is cause for serious concern.
Despite the above, there are some positive changes: major curriculum changes reflect somewhat more traditional and demanding educational goals and standards (this should indirectly move the system away from some of the left-wing, anti-family indoctrination we have seen for many years); the new report card standards are more respectful of parents, by giving them a clearer assessment of their children’s progress; Tory policies may end the excessive control over the education system by the far too powerful,left-wing teacher unions; separate schools are finally receiving equal funding per student; province-wide standards for student behaviour are being implemented.
The Tories are committed to a highly centralized, state-controlled education system. This government ministry monopoly control of children’s education and formation and school programs contradicts genuine social conservatism which would give far more authority to family and local community.
Tory decision makers, contrary to the wishes of many PC backbenchers, have recently completely flip-flopped on support for private schools and other alternatives to the current education monopoly. Struggling private schools, many founded and run by parents, can no longer expect that the Tories will give them any support. Education Minister Dave Johnson has said that the government won’t fund charter schools, put public money in private schools nor consider an education voucher system. This is an unexpected major blow to all independent school projects and a continuation of the policies of previous governments.
Another welcome change is that the new health education program requires that sexual abstinence be taught as a positive option by all schools. It also leaves the discussion of contraception and homosexuality up to the local school and parents. Unfortunately, the program still mandates the presentation of lots of sex-ed, and doesn’t address the real causes of our culture’s sexual chaos.

Health care

Tory health care restructuring seems to have been too fast, too drastic, and often poorly thought out. The decline of the system began before the Tories came into power, when the federal government made huge cutbacks in health care transfer payments. Still, the policies of the Harris government have so far made the situation even worse.
Some Catholic hospitals which have been merged with secular institutions have lost their all-important obstetrics departments. Citizens in those areas are denied the freedom to choose an obstetrics facility that does not kill pre-born children.
The Tories have refused to do anything about the fact that many of the most caring and principled health care workers in Ontario are being forced to leave the system, due to coercion to take part in unethical services (See “Conscience legislation” above).
It has become common for citizens to experience nightmarish situations at hospitals. Chronic care patients and other vulnerable people are often poorly cared for, unless there is a family member present at most times. Emergency ward experiences are frightening for many. Terribly long waits, a lack of personal attention, bureaucratic and often insensitive staff and pressure to leave the hospital too soon after treatment, have almost become the norm. Respect for the dignity and life of patients is declining at an alarming rate. This is setting the stage for the legalization of euthanasia.
Since total health care spending is actually up, some of the problems now being experienced may decrease as the restructuring is sorted out.
Abortion continues to receive full funding and privileged support and protection (See “Abortion” above).

Other moral issues

The premier and the government responded very weakly to the court decision allowing women to go topless in public. The decision remains unchallenged.
Pornography stores and prostitution (escort) ads in newspapers continue to spread and infect most Ontario communities. The removal of most of the censorship powers of the Ontario Film Review Board by the Liberals and NDP has not been reversed and so the Board still approves almost anything.
There has not been any slowdown of the on-going collapse of Ontario’s moral and family culture under the “Conservatives”. Party decision makers do not appear to have any interest in these matters although many PC backbenchers are concerned.


Pro-family Ontarians are very concerned about the negative impact on family and community life of the Tories’ addiction to gambling as a method to increase revenue. Next year, they are expected to bring in at least $2.5 billion dollars in gambling revenue – five times more than the province brought in in 1992 from this source.
There seems to be no shame in the PC’s drive to spread casinos, slot machines and video lottery terminals all over the province. Last June, the Tories struck a deal to install up to 6600 slot machines at 18 Ontario race tracks. They previously attempted to force 44 permanent “charity” mini-casinos on Ontario communities and to spread 20,000 video lottery terminals around the province. Thanks to overwhelming opposition from the public and Tory backbenchers, the charity mini-casinos and VLTs were scrapped.
The PCs are not concerned about the inevitable increase in gambling addictions and organized crime and the powerful influence of the gambling industry that will result from this.

Sunday and holiday work

In another blow to family life, in Dec. 1997 the Tories expanded Sunday work and commerce to beer and liquor stores. LCBO and Brewers Retail employees and their families had to adjust to a Sunday work day and disruption of family and community life. The previous year the Tories okayed the opening of retail stores the day after Christmas, boxing day – another precious family day and time for peace and reflection lost.Steve Jalsevac is a Toronto director of Campaign Life Coalition.