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Harris Site Sparks Controversy

[Toronto, CANADA] Only a Web site launched by Premier Mike Harris could generate accusations of misleading the general public and attempting to polish an "increasingly tarnished image."

The venture seemed innocent enough. The Premier's Web site at www.kids.premier.gov.on.ca is designed to help young students learn more about the Ontario government and their province. With the assistance of Max the Moose, the site's mascot, students can take a virtual tour of the legislature, learn about famous people from Ontario, read interviews with students who have served as legislative pages, and take a trip across Ontario to find answers to the site's online quiz. And the Premier's Kid Zone supports Ontario's curriculum by appealing to students in Grade 4 and 5 - when they are beginning to learn about government in school.

"Many children spend a lot of time on the Internet so this is a great way to reach them with important information," said Harris. "This new site uses games, quizzes and interactive tools to capture children's attention as they learn more about government and Ontario."

Not so, says Leona Dombrowsky, MPP for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington, who charges in a press release, "Ontario school children are being mislead and misinformed by Mike Harris' self-serving 'Kid Zone' on the Ontario government Web site."

Criticisms of the site include the fact that there's no mention of Harris' poor attendance record in the legislature, no mention of the opposition or the role it plays in Ontario's parliamentary democracy, and kids are invited to contact the Premier by e-mail, but not their own members of provincial parliament.

"Ontarians of all ages, including kids, should have access to complete and unbiased information on the government of Ontario Web site, but this is just another attempt to make the Premier seem caring and concerned about kids, similar to his cynical offer to play Santa and find a toy for every needy child in the province just before Christmas," said Dombrowsky.

"This is just another example of how Mike Harris and the Tories are picking taxpayers pockets to polish their increasingly tarnished image."