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The petition criticizes the former Ontario premier for his role in the COVID crisis in long-term care homes
Former Ontario premier Mike Harris is receiving the Order of Ontario, and the online response has been swift and negative.
A change.org petition was launched on January 1 to stop Harris from receiving the appointment, which is Ontario’s highest honour. Three days later, at press time, nearly 31,000 people have signed – just 4,000 shy of the 35,000 goal.
“Michael D. Harris, known to the province as Mike Harris, served as Ontario’s 22nd premier, from 1995 to 2002, and is noted for his ‘Common Sense Revolution,’ which set out to reduce taxes, create jobs and boost recovery from an economic recession,” reads the official announcement of Harris’s Order of Ontario. “He was Nipissing’s most longstanding MPP, serving from 1981 to 2002, and continues to serve his community as a major fundraiser for education and health.”
That last point is where most of the criticism has come. The former Progressive Conservative leader has been head of Chartwell Retirement Residences since 2003. That’s one of the largest operators of privatized, for-profit long-term care homes in the province. LTC homes have faced a crisis of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths and have been repeatedly criticized for their handling of the pandemic.
As of January 4, there have been 11,369 cases in Ontario long-term care homes, 2,795 resident deaths and 8 staff deaths.
Ernie Eves, who took over for Harris as Ontario premier after he resigned, is also on the Order of Ontario appointee list.
In addition to the more-than-30,000 signatures on the petition, Mike Rilstone, who started it, urges people to leave and read personal stories of people’s experiences with loved ones in long-term care homes during the pandemic.
“These comments MUST be recorded somewhere for a long, long time to come so Ontarians and historians know exactly what Harris has done,” he writes.