mike harris effectively left the premier's job the same way he started -- under siege. Eerily reminiscent of that spring day six years ago when protestors stormed the legislature as Mike Harris was being sworn in, Queen's Park was locked down and protected by riot police Tuesday as the Tory premier offered up scripted sentimentality about "autumn colours" and "time to stop and reflect" as the contextual cloak for his abrupt "I ain't gonna work on Maggie Thatcher's farm no more" resignation.
Despite all the demonstrations and scandals that have swirled around his government since that inaugural day, Harris governed the province on his own neo-conservative terms -- giving outstanding service to a very narrow group of monied interests. And in return, the money loved him like no other Ontario premier in history.
We can only speculate about why he's decided to hang up his tax shears.
Was it the estranged little missus calling from North Bay -- the autumn leaves of reconciliation blowing in after a Lennon-like lost-weekend affair with former broadcast journalist Sharon Dunn? The downturn in the economy? The pending deficit the government will be running any day now? Ipperwash? Walkerton? The polls at 38 per cent? The fact that arbitrary rule just ain't fun without his old pals Al Palladini and Ernie Eves?
Or is it that he's already done more than one man has ever done before for so few rich people? You know the list:
Gutted labour laws
Gutted environmental protections
Gutted local democracy
Created a crisis in education
Created a crisis in health care
Privatized vital government services.
Maybe Harris read the autumn leaves and found that, while he could have stuck around to feed mushy Dalton McGuinty his lunch and squeak out a third consecutive term, it wouldn't have been any fun to govern through a recession. Take it from Bob Rae, leading through tough times only makes you bitter.
But before you get all misty-eyed at the thought of our beer-lovin' Nippissing boy leaving politics for good, there's that matter of the dysfunctional right wing in Ottawa that's only good for re-electing Grits. They desperately need a leader with half a brain who can carry Ontario.
Queen's Park scuttlebutt has it that the provincial government's full-page newspaper ads calming Ontarians' security concerns have more to do with boosting the premier's profile on a national issue.
While a jump to the federal scene can't be ruled out, there are definitely those within his party who believe it was time for him to shove off. In fact, there was an anonymous letter campaign to registered Tories not so long ago focusing on the premier's shortcomings.
Certainly, his lieutenants have been quietly plotting their leadership runs.
Last August, Harris conveniently blamed the media for starting rumours that he was about to step aside. And he delivered a firm notice to his caucus to lay off the leadership aspirations and concentrate on their jobs because he planned to lead them into the next election.
As much as he may have lost his revolutionary zeal, up until a couple of weeks ago Harris was still showing signs of his old stubborn self, deftly swatting away question-period attacks from the opposition parties. But we knew something was up when finance minister Jim Flaherty turned up like a fish out of water at the Marcus Garvey Centre gala last month.