Eves campaigns on Harris’ record, tax cuts

The arrival of Ernie Eves here yesterday marked the last of five stops by the five candidates vying for Premier Mike Harris’ job.
“I believe we need to reach out to the First Nations and open that dialogue,” Eves said to those gathered for the official opening of the Sunset Country Métis Council’s office on Victoria Avenue.
Eves spent much of his speech applauding the efforts of the Harris government, particularly translating a $11.3-billion deficit when taking office in 1995 into three consecutive balanced budgets, tax cuts, and 838,000 new jobs.
“That’s almost one million families who have a job that didn’t seven years ago, that were drawing a welfare cheque seven years ago,” Eves said.
“It happened because we allowed people to keep more of their money and they spent it,” he noted, adding he intends to continue this trend of lower taxes.
When it comes to health care, Eves agreed something had to be done to stem the ever-rising cost of providing services, which he predicted will consume up to 60 percent of the provincial budget within five years.
“Why is kidney dialysis only in hospital? Why not have it at a clinic?” he said as an example.
Eves admitted he’s been criticized for this idea of private clinics, and agrees access should be universal regardless of one’s ability to pay, but that people shouldn’t fool themselves into believing that’s what is occurring now.
As for the northern medical school, Eves said he was the first to commit to having a school in Sudbury and Thunder Bay back in November, something his fellow candidates also have supported during the leadership campaign.
Eves also spoke on local issues, such as reinstating the spring bear hunt.
“I would look at revisiting the decision of the spring bear hunt if they bring scientific evidence,” he said. “If, in fact, that was a mistake, let’s go back and fix it.”
Something Eves views as a definite mistake is current gun registration laws.
“Gun registration does not equal safety. It doesn’t not equal gun control,” Eves stressed. asking if criminals will go out to register their gun before robbing someone.
“It accomplishes nothing but tying up OPP officers and spending millions of dollars making a list. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Eves said he didn’t have any major reforms when it came to education. Instead, he simply intended to make sure every student in the province had textbooks they needed to adapt to the new curriculum, wanted to spend $25 million on improving training of teachers, and advance the early reading program (and possibly start an early math one) for the youngest of students.
“The funding formula has to be reviewed on an annual basis,” he said of the 1997 formula many school boards say is forcing them to close schools.
A three-year contract for staff, and offering a three-year funding envelop for school boards also was on Eves’ education agenda.
Members of the Ontario P.C. party will vote for their new leader—and Ontario’s next premier—on March 23.