Hampton outlines his Plan B for a minority gov't
WATERLOO, Ont. - If voters elect a minority government on Oct. 10, the premier will have to adopt the NDP's six campaign commitments to get the party's support in the legislature, New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said Monday.
Hampton said he's not giving up on the election yet and believes his party's support is growing, but he's prepared for Plan B if he holds the balance of power in a minority government situation.
"The reality -- if a minority government (is elected) in Ontario today -- is you'd have to deal with New Democrats, and we're going to insist on a progressive agenda,'' Hampton said.
"Our task in this election is to raise the issues that we think will make a difference to the majority of modest- and middle-income families, and the six commitments we've outlined address those issues. That's what matters to us.''
The NDP has focused its campaign on reducing the health tax, increasing the minimum wage, better protecting the environment, better education funding, reducing tuition fees, and improving the health-care system with better senior care and more doctors and nurses.
Bringing in those policies would cost about $9.1 billion, the NDP estimates.
Other jurisdictions have implemented the commitments or are in the process of doing so, and it could also be done in Ontario, Hampton said.
"They're affordable, they're workable, they're practical and they'll make an immediate difference in peoples' lives.''
Speaking at a campaign stop in Oakville, Ont., Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said it was too early to talk about making deals if a minority government is elected.
"I'm not starting to predict outcomes of the election or starting to discuss matters that would be discussed between any group of party leaders if the election turns out a certain way,'' he said.
Hampton campaigned Monday at the campuses of the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto, pushing his plan to freeze tuition fees at 2003 levels.
He has already highlighted the tuition plank of his platform a few times and signalled he's seeing growing support for his party among young voters.
The Liberals have offered students only $300 to pay for textbooks, while the Conservatives have made no mention of tuition in their campaign platform at all, making the NDP's education policies the most attractive option for young people, Hampton said.
"What we're finding as this campaign has developed is there's more and more interest by students, there's more and more interest by young people generally,'' he said.
Hampton compared today's cost of a higher education to what Premier Dalton McGuinty would have paid back in 1975, and said the price has risen out of control while the minimum wage has been held back.
In 1975, the minimum wage was $2.40 an hour, and it would have taken a student 6.4 weeks of full-time work to pay for tuition.
Today, it would take 16.2 weeks for the average student to pay for tuition, Hampton said, and the rising costs mean too many young people are being priced out of a post-secondary education.
"You should never be faced with a decision of pursuing or abandoning your studies because of your inability to pay,'' Hampton said, noting that Ontario students are graduating with an average debt of about $22,700 -- the highest in the country.