Howard Hampton quashed any rumours he might not be running in the newly-amalgamated Kenora-Rainy River Riding next provincial election, saying he “for sure” would be tossing his hat in the ring here.
But local MPP and Ontario NDP leader admitted there would be challenges running in the new riding, primarily with its size.
“It’s unbelievably large," he explained Saturday. "And half the population in this new riding is fly-in native communities in the far north, going all the way up to Hudson Bay.”
And the big challenge as leader, he continued, would be to persuade those who have lost hope under the Conservative government that NDP still is fighting for them—and that they should vote.
More and more, he noted, people were understanding what the “Rae Days” were all about. He stressed they were a way of coping with the economic times, and with federal government cutbacks. He felt it was the best strategy at the time to deal with the cuts without people losing their jobs.
“I don’t think we’d ever have to do that again," he admitted of the "Rae Days.”
Meanwhile, 125 people gathered to at the Ukrainian Hall on Saturday night for chance to toast—and roast, with many chiding the hockey enthusiast for juggling games between appointments—Hampton as he marked 10 years as the riding’s MPP.
“The last 10 years have been like being on adrenaline all the time,” he told the crowd.
Much has changed since he first was elected and Hampton admitted there's been adjustments he’s had to make.
When he was first elected in 1987, Hampton was single and said he spent all his time working. Now, however, Hampton is married to colleague Shelley Martel, has a daughter and another child on the way. He stressed he had to be much more disciplined on how he divided up his time.
The years also have brought extra responsibility—what he refers to as his four jobs: as a local MPP; an MPP in Toronto; in the Legislature; and most recently, as a leader.
On the flip side, Hampton explained with experience came a “bank of knowledge” on how to get things done and felt he was able to accomplish a lot more in a specific time.
“You know how things work," he noted. "You know who you have to talk to in the civil service to put pressure on the minister’s office. You know the kind of information you have to get to the assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers so that that information gets put squarely in front of a Cabinet minister.”
And though he’s carried different titles over the past 10 years, including Natural Resources minister, Attorney General, and now leader of the NDP, Hampton said his most memorable experience goes back to his career’s beginnings.
“The night I was elected for the first time,” he smiled.