With TV funnyman Rick Mercer watching from the sidelines and Barenaked Ladies singer Stephen Paige introducing him with a rousing song, NDP Leader Jack Layton leaped to the stage at a rally in Toronto last weekend.
“Tell Liberal voters that Paul Martin’s party needs a time-out to clean itself up and find out what it believes in,” Layton told the crowd of about 1,000 trade unionists, NDP candidates, and other supporters. “Ask them to change their vote to the NDP.”
He added that the Conservative platform released last week was “full of ideas that are wrong for Canada,” noting that the people of Ontario “know exactly what a Conservative government looks like.”
Sharing the stage with CUPE National President Paul Moist and other labour leaders, Layton repeated his promise to work for public health care. That includes pharmacare, long-term and home care for seniors, and more training for doctors, nurses, and medical technicians.
“People are excited because they hear from Jack that public services will be protected by the NDP,” CUPE Local 2484 child care worker Marta Posada said. She also wants to see long-overdue action on pay equity. “Working women like me need to achieve economic equality and we know the NDP supports that goal.”
Layton also repeated his pledge to fight against child poverty and for quality child care. Artists and culture would also get support from NDP MPs, Layton said, as would environmental concerns, and at-risk youth. A cleanup of corruption in federal politics is another promise.
Layton’s support for students resonated with CUPE Local 3902 member Judy Pocock. “We’re in a fight, at the University of Toronto, for better conditions for teaching assistants and for more money for education,” she said. “Our local supports the NDP.”
The previous weekend, Layton and Moist were joined by CUPE B.C. President Barry O’Neill, other B.C. union leaders, and community activists at an enthusiastic rally in Vancouver. Hundreds of trade unionists and other NDP voters braved torrential rains to show their support to Layton and his British Columbia candidates.