Pubdate: Thursday, May 20, 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star
Page: A14
Author: Caroline Mallan, Toronto Star Queen's Park Bureau


HAMILTON - Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty wandered into yet another
tough audience yesterday morning - teenagers - hundreds of them.

Less than 12 hours after McGuinty was assailed by both Premier Mike
Harris and NDP Leader Howard Hampton during the televised leaders'
debate, his campaign team was back on the road, headed for a 9 a.m.
rendezvous with Hamilton's Westdale Secondary School students.

A good-humoured McGuinty seemed to put his debate performance, rated
lacklustre by most political observers, behind him and fielded
questions on everything from marijuana to education funding to why he
should be trusted in the premier's office.

It was a rousing start to a busy day on the campaign trail that took
McGuinty to a meeting with Hamilton's disabled community, a sit-down
television interview and a campaign rally in Niagara Falls.

At Westdale, he urged the students to stay in school and try to find
career paths that will lead to jobs for the future.

``I'm counting on you,'' he told them in a brief speech, his first to
students during the two-week-old campaign. ``Study hard, play hard, be
sensitive to the needs of your community . . . more than anything
else, you're going to find success in this province, it offers much to
all of us.''

The first question McGuinty fielded, about his campaign promise to
issue a report card for government on funding education, revealed some
underlying cynicism.

``This report card idea, it's very quaint and homey but I'm just
wondering who would be actually putting a report card out about the
government, would it be the government itself because that sounds
biased?'' asked one student.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office will do the job and
will be kept at arm's length from the government, McGuinty answered.

But the skeptical questions continued; McGuinty was asked twice how he
intends to pay for his $2.5 billion in campaign promises.

Mae Nam, 18, said she likes what she sees in McGuinty but wonders how
he will afford so many promises, such as more money for extra help and
2,000 new computers in the school system every month, without rolling
back the 30 per cent tax cut brought in by the Conservatives.

The campaign promises were costed, McGuinty said, and most of the
money would come from the federal government or from money within the
provincial government's budget.

The question of decriminalizing possession of marijuana was met with
laughter and applause. McGuinty said he was against drug use but
agreed with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the RCMP
in calling for simple possession to result in an automatic fine, not a
criminal record.

``I want to make it perfectly clear that it is wrong to use

At his meeting with the Ontario Disabilities Association, McGuinty
renewed his pledge to introduce legislation that will force employers,
agencies and all levels of government to remove barriers faced by the

He accused the Conservatives of failure when they introduced an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act that, ``was hollow, it was shallow, it
was toothless and it was gutless.''

The Tory bill died in the legislative process last
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