To the extent that provincial liberal leader Dalton McGuinty looks good, it's because of how bad current Conservative premier Ernie Eves is. The best candidate, and our choice, for premier is the NDP's Howard Hampton. Unfortunately for the people of Ontario, he won't win. But for the kind of province we all aspire to, we need his party to make a strong showing in next week's election. It needs to maintain its official party status (at least eight seats) and return an impressive popular vote.
With the Liberals likely to win, it's important they get the message that Ontario is a province with a conscience, that Eves's and Mike Harris's cruel rule has been an aberration not embraced by a generally more compassionate populace.
And that Ontario is committed to public control of quality health care, decent education and a healthy environment - not deregulation, contracting out and disastrous tax cuts.
The Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right. Once elected, they will court conservatives, not the liberal NDPers and left Liberals who, they know, could never support the Tories. They'll talk tough and show right-wingers they can be just as "fiscally responsible." All the Liberals' promises are premised on a fiscal structure similar to the Tories'. How can they balance the budget and still pay for services - as McGuinty promises - without raising the taxes of the rich and the corporate sector? And MPP McGuinty voted for the Tory tax cuts.
Under the Liberals, tuition rates will not go down, user fees will not disappear, hospital lineups won't end - and forget about any new cash for Toronto. When pressed on issues like tuition cuts, which he once touted, McGuinty now says, "It's a different time." And it will be a different time once Dalton is installed in Queen's Park's best corner office. The first words from post-election Grits will be, "There's less cash than we thought. Things are worse than the Tories said. Sorry we can't keep our promises.'
The only party of real change is the NDP. Their program outlines a province where no citizens are dispensable, the environment is nurtured, the sick are cared for and everyone is offered a second chance. And they have the means to do this, a clear plan to return corporate taxes to 1999 levels and a strategy to make sure those earning over $100,000 pay their share.
The NDP knows that quality of life is also important in making the economy run and attracting investors. And if their brief turn in power was such a disaster, why has the right brought back former premier Bob Rae to put out so many of their fires and mediate crises, from the tainted blood supply and the troubled Toronto Symphony to the long-mothballed Opera House?
There's lots to do - and only the NDP is prepared to do it. A strong NDP showing will put pressure on a feint-hearted Liberal government burdened with huge debts to its corporate sponsors. A vote for the NDP is not a wasted vote, it's a commitment to a better Ontario and a tangible means of getting there.