After Harris

Although the sudden resignation of Premier Mike Harris yesterday may change the battle field, the fight at Queen’s Park will continue for NDP leader Howard Hampton and other opposition members.
“The real step for us is to move from third place to first place in the polls and do it before the next election,” noted Hampton, who also is the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River.
Hampton also said Harris’ resignation will only show voters that issues troubling them under the Tory mandate will not disappear when the premier steps down.
“I think it’s good news because what it is going to show people across Ontario is even if Mike Harris goes, the agenda is going to be the same,” said Hampton. “As much as some people don’t like Mike Harris, it will show it’s the agenda of the party.
“The fact that Mike Harris goes, I don’t think, is going to change the agenda of the government,” Hampton stressed. “This is a party that has taken a corporate stance.
“I think it’s pretty clear I oppose almost every element of the agenda but what I think about Mike Harris is he was very direct, he wasn’t wishy-washy,” he added.
“He wanted to lower taxes for corporations and cut services and he did.”
While the fact Harris would step down was officially announced yesterday, Hampton noted his plans were expected long beforehand at Queen’s Park.
“I wasn’t surprised that he was stepping down,” said Hampton. “With the Ipperwash incident and the Walkerton tragedy, it was becoming increasingly clear those issues had been attached to Mr. Harris personally.
“If you look at the whole issue of the death of Dudley George, every time some new issue becomes public, it has had to deal with Mr. Harris,” he added. “In fact, he has had to change his responses on [several] occasions.
“You could see over the last six months a number of cabinet ministers had really already launched their leadership campaign.”
Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, who accompanied Premier Harris and Hampton on a visit to “ground zero” in New York City later yesterday, released a statement on the resignation.
“As Mr. Harris prepares to return to private life, I wish him well,” said McGuinty. “Mr. Harris has often talked about the toll public life takes on one’s family life. I particularly wish him and his family all the best.
“My vision is a very different vision from that of Mr. Harris and those who will seek to succeed him, but this is a day for the personal, not the political,” he added.
“As Mr. Harris culminates 20 years of life in politics, we wish him success in his future endeavours,” McGuinty said.