“Who can you trust to do the things that make a positive difference in the average person’s life?”
That’s the question Ontario NDP leader and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Howard Hampton is asking voters to think about when they go to the polls Oct. 10.
“For people all across Northern Ontario, this is going to be a very important election. For the last four years under the McGuinty government, Northern Ontario’s been devastated,” said Hampton, who’s represented the riding since 1987 and been party leader since 1996.
“What this election’s going to come down to is this: Dalton McGuinty will make any promise. He’s out there promising millions of dollars for this, millions of dollars for that,” noted Hampton.
“He’ll make any promise to get people’s votes.
“I think what people have to ask themselves, based upon his broken promises in the past, is can you trust anything this guy says?”
Hampton, 55, who resides in both Toronto and Fort Frances, said the most important thing to the riding right now is fairness for working families.
“That means working hard to ensure that there are good-paying jobs in Northwestern Ontario, so that our children will be able to stay in their home communities and raise their own families here,” he noted.
“It means a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work, so that everyone has a chance to get ahead. It means fair taxes so that Ontarians aren’t overly burdened with an unfair, regressive health tax that hits those with moderate income most of all.
“It means fairness for working Ontario families who play by the rules.
“A vote for me means a vote for standing up for the north and putting hard-working families first,” he added.
“It also means a vote for an MPP who is on your side, who shares the values of Northern Ontario families, and who puts them first in everything he does.”
Other issues include co-operation with the forestry industry to sustain jobs and keep mills open, as well as lowering hydro rates.
Hampton also said McGuinty is on a dangerous road to privatized health care—and Ontario has to get off that path.
“Everybody cares about health care, especially if we’re trying to look after our kids or when we get older and we realize we’re not indestructible,” he remarked.
“Everybody wants to maintain the medicare system we have. It’s a very effective system. It means everybody’s covered at a reasonable cost in term of taxes,” he said.
“People need to realize the path the McGuinty government is on is not going to be good for rural and Northern Ontario,” Hampton charged. “Their so-called LHIN [Local Health Integration Networks] is a complete misnomer.
“If ever there was name that didn’t fit. ‘Local’ for us means everywhere from Manitouwadge to the Manitoba border, from the Minnesota border to Hudson Bay—that’s larger than most European countries.
“And from what I can see so far, what these LHINs mean is concentration of more and more of these health services in one centre, in this case, likely Thunder Bay.”
Hampton said it also means more privatization and contracting out of health care jobs.
“I ask people this, people who have their mom and dad in Rainycrest: Do you want some private contractor who’s paid very little in wages, who may be at Rainycrest working one day and may be somewhere the next, is that the level of care you want for your mother or dad?”
Hampton also stressed rural Ontario must be heard, saying in the past four year, he’s actually seen farmers from rural Ontario get on their tractors and come to Queen’s Park because they feel they’re being totally ignored by the government.
“I’ve never seen that under any other government. It illustrates to a degree that this seems to be a government that’s not only out of touch with life in Northern Ontario but life in rural Ontario, too,” Hampton said.
“The people who are trying to make a living farming are having a really rough time, and yet people want safe, healthy food.
“And with a lot of the food we’ve been importing, there’s been growing evidence it’s not all safe. People need to think about that, too.”
Hampton added there also must be more co-operation with First Nations to develop mining in the region.
“Northern Ontario has some of the best mining potential in the whole world, because most of the area from the 51st parallel up to Hudson Bay has never been explored.
“It would important for all of us to work out the rules for mining exploration and potential mining. And that requires us to sit with northern First Nations and work out some basic agreements for environmental protection, land use planning, sharing the resource revenue, and job training so people can get jobs,” he remarked.
“Over the last four years, the McGuinty government has completely dropped the ball on that,” Hampton charged.
“So you have First Nation communities having to go to court, and we all now how expensive that is, to dispute things that should have been, and could have been, settled at a discussion table if the McGuinty government had taken a more thoughtful approach,” he argued.