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  • Writer's pictureJohn Cartwright

We’ve seen claims of ‘Common Sense’ before and it wasn’t pretty

Each time I hear Pierre Poilievre repeat his “common sense” slogan, my mind leaps back to the turmoil in Ontario during the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris. 

May 11, 2024


There were closures of hospitals and local health facilities, while homecare services were taken from reputable non-profit groups and awarded to private companies paying poverty wages. People were outraged when the minister of health compared nurses who lost their jobs to workers making hula-hoops that were no longer in demand.

Ontario Premier Mike Harris talks to reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto in 1999.

Memory is a powerful thing. We all have memories of beautiful moments that come back from time to time. But there is also another kind of memory that evokes disturbing events from the past.


Each time I hear Pierre Poilievre repeat his “common sense” slogan, my mind leaps back to the turmoil in Ontario during the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris. It wasn’t pretty.


Harris swept to power in 1995 with the lines “Government isn’t working anymore. The system is broken.” His was a backlash election, riding a wave of discontent about people’s insecurity and government deficits.


It was a tax revolt fueled by business while labour was deeply divided. There had been fractious debate around LGBT rights and racial justice policies. We saw the blatant use of dog-whistle politics against immigrants and the “undeserving” poor.


The Conservatives immediately imposed a truly radical political agenda. Within days of taking office, entire government programs were wiped out.



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