Hampton returns to familiar themes in Toronto blitz

Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton pushed across Toronto on Monday, staging a string of events in the city that has become his party’s stronghold.

“This election is about fairness for cities like Toronto,” Hampton told a crowd at an uptown coffee shop during his second stop during an 11-hour blitz across the city.

Hampton had nothing new to say to Toronto voters as he returned to familiar themes like hiking the minimum wage and providing more money for children with autism.

But the leader’s continued focus on Toronto highlights how important the city is to his party. While the Liberals control the vast majority of Toronto seats, half of Hampton’s 10-member caucus represents ridings within the city’s limits.

Furthermore, the NDP has been emboldened by a string of by-election victories since the 2003 vote, including an upset win in York–South Weston. The NDP claimed the seat in February after the retirement of Joe Cordiano, a former Liberal cabinet minister.

The NDP now contend there is no such thing as a safe Liberal seat in Toronto and have begun a push to turn their byelection momentum into long-term growth.

Hampton said the Liberals have failed to support Toronto’s low-income families. He used his first campaign stop Monday to trumpet his party’s plan to hike the minimum wage to $10 per hour, a promise the NDP believes helped them win York–South Weston.

In February, the Liberal government increased minimum wage to $8 per hour, up from $7.75. They also promised to continue hiking the wage by 75 cents each year until the minimum wage reaches $10.25 in 2010. But Hampton said the Liberals are making low-income families wait for relief while also voting to increase MPPs’ salaries by more than $22,000 annually and the Premier’s salary by more than $37,000 each year.

“Dalton McGuinty’s pay hike alone was almost twice as much as the average Ontario woman gets paid in a whole year,” Hampton said.

Most polls show the NDP support has been stagnant since the campaign began, an Environics survey released over the weekend showed the party making gains, with their popular support rising to 20% from 17% in the first week of September. The same survey reported the Liberals had 39% and the Progressive Conservatives stood at 34%.

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