Toronto
2 min

Hindsight is a beautiful thing

Give us another shot, begs NDP leader

PAY ATTENTION. Howie Hampton hits the hustings. Credit: Xtra files

New Democrat Howard Hampton says that his party has gotten its act together and the gay and lesbian community should give them another shot.



“Our position on spousal rights has been there for many years and we’re consistent on it,” says Hampton. “We said over and over again that an NDP government very soon into its mandate would introduce legislation concerning same-sex spousal rights.”



Of course, Ontario’s homosexuals have heard this before.



When the NDP successfully campaigned in 1990, then-leader Bob Rae promised to change provincial laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians.



During Hampton’s two years as attorney-general, no legislation appeared. His successor, Marion Boyd (running for re-election in London), eventually did introduce Bill 167, which failed to pass after a free vote was allowed.



Hampton concedes that the NDP dragged its feet, but that they’ve learned their lesson, and this time around, same-sex spouses will get equal rights.



Hampton puts the blame for the loss on the Ontario Liberals.



“[Bill 167] was brought forward on the understanding that we were going to have some support from the Liberal leader and the Liberal caucus,” says Hampton. “That [support] evaporated in less than half a day. If that support, which had been promised, had been there, those benefits would have been in place in 1994.”



But those Liberal votes wouldn’t have been needed if it hadn’t been for the 12 NDPers who voted against the bill.



“I don’t think [the 12] defected. They made it very clear, even before there was a caucus discussion, of their reservations. They made it very clear and said, ‘We think this is the wrong time to do this. We are not opposed to the legislation, but we think it’s the wrong time to do it.'”



Some NDP members were opposed to the concept of equal rights, despite what Hampton says. George Mammoliti (now a Toronto city councillor) made homophobic remarks during the debate, for example.



If elected, Hampton says, the NDP will introduce legislation regarding same-sex spousal rights within the first year, and this time the support is there. Hampton says timing was the party’s biggest mistake the last time around.



“We should have, in the first two years of the mandate, passed legislation that may not have addressed every issue but would have gotten us 85 percent there, and built on that,” says Hampton. “[Then we could have] overcome the homophobia, overcome the people who want to run to the media and cry wolf, show them that this does build stronger, better, fairer communities. I think if we had done that we would have good legislation in place today and I think we would be well on the way to building even more bridges.”



Again, he says, the fact that the legislation was not introduced earlier was not his fault, but rather the will of others in the cabinet who wanted to deal with economic and health matters first.



As for the other important issues affecting the gay and lesbian community, Hampton says an NDP government will ensure nutritional supplements for PWAs will once again be paid for (“Depriving someone of them and then driving them into the hospital becomes very expensive medicine”).



He makes no promises about wresting control of the Wellesley Hospital – back from the Catholic St Michael’s.



“I don’t think those kind of decisions should be made by a bureaucrat sitting in an office tower. I think those kind of decisions have to be made at the community level. I am certainly aware, and other people in our caucus are certainly aware, that some of the services that were available at Wellesley are not as available now through St Mike’s. And those services, frankly, are of great importance to the communities in downtown Toronto.”