TORONTO - Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton says a provincial election may still be eight months away but the campaign is definitely on.

Hampton delivered an hour-long speech to enthusiastic supporters at the party's biennial convention in Toronto and said he has high hopes for the vote on Oct. 4.

He said it's the best opportunity for the NDP to succeed in 20 years, in large part because John Tory is not a "scary" Conservative leader who is likely to trigger a lot of strategic voting.

Hampton said Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals are in trouble, because they won't be able to campaign on fear and scaremongering.

Hampton called for a raise in the minimum wage to $10 an hour and repeatedly attacked the Liberals for pushing ahead a pay hike for politicians in the legislature while denying an increase for the province's poor.

The NDP revealed a new look at the weekend convention- dubbed Fresh Ideas, New Energy -- with a modernized logo and a bright colour scheme to go with its "Get Orange" campaign slogan.

"Our message to Ontarians is clear," Hampton told convention delegates. "If you're seeing red because Dalton McGuinty hasn't delivered the change he promised, if the thought of Conservatives catering once again to the well-connected has you feeling blue, don't get mad, get orange."

He said the immediate focus will now be on winning upcoming byelections in the ridings of Burlington, Markham and York South-Weston on Feb. 8.

The three seats were vacated late last year when Liberal cabinet minister Joe Cordiano left politics, and Conservative Cam Jackson and Liberal Tony Wong resigned to run for city council in Burlington and Markham.

Hampton says the NDP has momentum since Cheri DiNovo won the Parkdale-High Park seat in a September byelection, which was vacated by Gerard Kennedy when he decided to run for leadership of the federal Liberal Party.