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article imageGuelph anti-proroguing protest: 'Shame, shame, Stephen Harper' Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Jan 23, 2010 in Politics
University student, retirees, the middle-aged and young families all joined together in the heart of Guelph Saturday to send Prime Minister Stephen Harper a message: "Get back to work!"
Guelph, Ontario - This city, boasting a population of just over 100,000 people, hosted one of an anticipated 50 or so rallies slated to be held across Canada Jan. 23 to protest the suspension of parliament. The day had been designated as a national day of action by the grass-roots Facebook group, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP). CAAP had been dismissed by Stephen Harper and other Conservatives as being meaningless. Canadians who said they cared about democracy were keen to show Harper just how wrong he is.
Guelph protest organizers and participants were thrilled to have a turn-out of hundreds of people gathering in St. George's Square, situated in the heart of Guelph.
Herb said he had come out "Because we have a dictator for a Prime Minister. And that's just wrong." Herb said he thought the cross-Canada protests would influence Harper "... because just a few have to speak up and they listen, because so few people participate in democracy." Herb went on to say that "We have to be concerned that our government seems to have been taken over by those who have an agenda that is not Canadian."
The Canadians.
The Canadians.
Those attending the rally were quite eager to be heard, reflecting a growing anger at being ignored by the Prime Minister. but in spite of strong feelings, the overall mood of the crowd was jovial - and there was no police presence.
Sheila said she was there because of CAAP. She had joined the group when it was still small, and watched it grow to over 200,000 rapidly. "But Harper was on television saying that it was too easy to join up to Facebook and he wasn't going to take that into account ... he still thinks it's only a minute elite of people who are really interested in this and he would only take this into account if there were people out. So I am one of those people, one of many I am hoping, of hundreds and hundreds and thousands and millions who come out today and show Harper that this is illegal, that we're their boss -- and they're not working! That's why I'm here."
Sentiment expressed at the protest:  Get back to work!
Sentiment expressed at the protest: Get back to work!
"We're here because we're really sick and tired of Harper calling the shots and it's about time he got told he doesn't have the right to do that," said Paul when he explained why he was attending the protest. His wife agreed full-heartedly.
One University of Guelph student said she was attending with her friends because "Whether we like it or not, government affects us. Stephen Harper has chosen to send the MPs we elected into parliament home for the second time since the 2008 election and it is a bit concerning to everyone in Canada." The fact that we're concerned (students) shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone, I should hope."
Jessica Stark added that Canadians wanted an accountable government. "I feel like proroguing parliament twice within one year shows a bit of shortcoming in accountability which I think should be corrected."
Another sentiment heard was how Stephen Harper seemed to be ruling Canada all by himself - and it s ...
Another sentiment heard was how Stephen Harper seemed to be ruling Canada all by himself - and it's time for that idea to come to an end.
Cole said he was a political science major at the University of Guelph and from his studies he had learned that Harper's behaviour in proroguing parliament wasn't the norm. "It's not good for any government in power to act this way."
Arnie, who said he was with the local CAW, said "I am attending this demonstration specifically because I think that no-one should walk away from their job. I feel they should be back dealing with the business of Canada for Canadians and not avoiding the Afghanistan detainee issue."
The rally was MC'd by Hugh Whitely, and the crowd heard from Frank Valeriote, the Liberal party representative for Guelph. Valeriote is also Guelph's elected MP. The Green Party candidate, Bob Bell and an NDP representative named Bobby all spoke, giving the crowd support and reiterating how much Canadians did care about their country, their democracy and about Afghan detainees. Whitely called for a representative from the local Conservative Party to come forward, if any where there. There was no response. The lack of a Conservative representative spoke volumes to the crowd.
After the speeches, when the cold crowd began to walk over to the nearby Knox Church, one woman stepped forward to voice her support for the Harper government. She was the only one.
The room at the Knox Church was filled to overflowing, and the panel spoke about reforming the Canadian political system. Valeriote said he would be supporting the proposal from NDP to have proroguing become something only parliament could decide.
The room donated to the protest by Knox Church was filled to capacity - plus some! Protesters moved ...
The room donated to the protest by Knox Church was filled to capacity - plus some! Protesters moved indoors for perogies and a hot drink as well as a panel discussion about the state of Canadian politics.
At a press conference given by Stephen Harper on the morning of January 23rd, reporters asked him about the planned rallies. The National Post reported that Harper refused to even refer to the rallies in his replies.
Rallies were reported in at least 40 cities across Canada on January 23, with the largest in Toronto, which saw around 7,000 people turn out. The rally in Ottawa drew an estimated 3,000.
It would seem that the Facebook group, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament just gave a lesson on the importance of democracy to Stephen Harper. The question is, was he listening?
More about Prorogue, Canadians against proroguing parliament, Stephen Harper, Hugh whitely, Frank valeriote
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