One of the most pernicious myths circulating in Ontario’s labour ranks is that the Days of Action – the big protests and strikes against the Harris Tories in the late 1990s – somehow led to the re-election of the Harris Tories in 1999.
This is complete nonsense. Let’s examine why the Tories were re-elected in 1999 before we take a deep dive into the Days of Action themselves.
From recession to recovery, again
The worst of Ontario’s 1990s recession fell under the NDP regime from about 1990 to 1993, but the province’s economic crisis lasted well into 1997. After a strong recovery beginning in 1994 thanks to a recovering American economy, the Harris Tories were elected in 1995 and sent the economy back into recession, raising unemployment and driving growth downward to zero by 1996. Their “Common Sense Revolution” did this by slashing infrastructure spending by billions, decimating labour laws, drawing up massive austerity budgets, and the cutting 13,000 out of 65,000 Ontario Public Service jobs.