Rallies keep focus on federal political powerplay

Supporters of both Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and the Liberal/NDP coalition held rallies yesterday to voice their support for their respective sides in Canada’s most recent political showdown.

Coalition supporters walking north from their demonstration at Nathan Philips Square met people leaving a rally in support of the federal government at the Ontario legislature. The meeting sparked an impromptu debate about Canada’s parliamentary democracy, the state of the economy and the nation’s future.

Mississauga resident Richard Wathen, 55, said yesterday’s rally at Queen’s Park was the fist political demonstration he has ever attended. He felt the event was too important to miss.

“I am very afraid that this coalition is going to break up this country,” he said. “We cannot afford to alienate the west. If we keep this kind of stuff up we’re just going to fracture everything that we believe in in this country. This is no time for a power grab.”

The pro-Conservative protest at Queen’s Park was one of many staged across the country yesterday. The rallies were organized and coordinated primarily through internet sites.

Wendy Goldsmith attended the pro-coalition rally in front of city hall. She made her way to Queen’s Park with a handful of friends to get a sense of the atmosphere there and the support that Harper was receiving in Toronto, she said. She hoped to engage the Conservatives’ supporters in a debate.

“We want people to know that we want a Canada that’s united and supports an economic policy that makes sense, that supports women and supports the homeless, that supports all of the things we believe in,” she said. “It’s not just about Stephen Harper.”

Frank Klees, the Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, spoke to federal Conservative supporters in front of Queen’s Park. He predicted that when Parliament sits in late January, the coalition will either have to work with the federal government to pass a budget that is agreeable to all or face a backlash in another general election.

Andrew Middleton, a sociology student at the University of Guelph, made the trip to Toronto to show his support for the government. While he said he could understand why the opposition parties were unhappy about the Harper government’s proposal to cut federal funding for political parties, he thought their reaction was alarmist. He saw Harper’s move to suspend Parliament as more than a simple bid to extend his political life.

“The politicians need to cool off and think this thing through carefully,” he said. “Yes, we’re losing jobs; yes we need to take steps but we also need to be wise in those decisions. To take our time and to make a good decision for the long run is going to be far more beneficial for this country.”