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Ontario Elections: Howard Hampton plays political hockey

The Ontario Legislature used to be called "the dullest chamber in all of Canada." For 42 years, the Progressive Conservatives and their "Big Blue Machine" ruled the province. But 1985 ushered the PCs out and an age of turbulence in with a Liberal-NDP coalition. In the next three elections, voters handed majorities to all three parties: a sweep for the Liberals, a stunning NDP victory and a sharp right turn with Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution. Dalton McGuinty's Liberals swept the 2003 and 2007 elections and won a third time with a minority in 2011.

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"The Liberals have been exposed as being Mike Harris warmed over," says NDP leader Howard Hampton. And Hampton figures it's about time to sneak in there and take over "the rest of the ice." In this television interview, the CBC's Suhana Meharchand jokingly compares the 1999 election to a hockey game.

Hampton identifies the NDP as the only real opposition to the Harris government.

Harris and Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty are both for tax cuts and workfare -- two points the NDP will forgo in favour of improving health care and education. Hampton says that because of this strategy his party has "gradually taken more and more of the ice." 
• Hockey is not just a political metaphor for Howard Hampton: his skill with the puck earned him a scholarship to Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution in the U.S. He earned a degree in political science and religion while playing for the school's men's hockey team, nicknamed the Big Green.
• Hampton moved on to the University of Toronto for a degree in education, and also earned a degree in law from the University of Ottawa.

• Hampton grew up in Fort Frances, a paper-mill town in northern Ontario. He taught elementary school there and then set up a private law practice.
• First elected to the Ontario legislature in 1987, Hampton served in Bob Rae's NDP cabinet from 1990 to 1995 as minister of natural resources and attorney-general.

• Hampton won the leadership of the NDP in June 1996. A columnist for the Toronto Star described the race as a "referendum on [former Premier Bob Rae's] time in government." His opponent, Frances Lankin, was painted by some party members as a close insider in the Rae government, so Hampton's election was seen as a repudiation of the Rae years.

• Hampton is known for participating in events that draw considerable public attention. In 1999 the NDP leader spent the night on Toronto's streets to see what it was like to live homeless. He toured the city — going from one homeless shelter to another — on a cold January night until 6 a.m. In 2003 Hampton skated 800 laps around Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square to protest the rate of the minimum wage.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: May 26, 1999
Guest(s): Howard Hampton
Interviewer: Suhana Meharchand
Duration: 7:32

Last updated: May 2, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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