The country was mostly watching the door of Government House. The heavy, wooden doors opened, then closed, then opened again and Stephen Harper emerged.
On his advice, Governor General Michaëlle Jean prorogued Parliament until Jan 26, 2009. That means Harper and the Conservatives will not face a confidence vote next week which would have surely toppled Parliament and replaced it with a Liberal-NDP coalition.
Minutes after Harper stepped away from the microphone, Parliament Hill erupted with the shouts of thousands of pro-coalition supporters.
The demonstration was planned earlier in the week — the first of two dozen pro-Liberal-NDP coalition rallies being held in the next three days.
The timing of the Ottawa rally gave opposition leaders a chance to address throngs of supporters about the latest development, news that had just started circulating among supporters, many of them on their lunch breaks from downtown office jobs.
Stephane Dion spoke first.
“For the first time in Canadian history,” he says, “the Prime Minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada.”
NDP leader Jack Layton echoed the sentiment.
“Stephen Harper just put the locks on the House of Commons so that we can’t vote him out of office,” says Layton. “I call on all of you not to give up for one second.”
The event was hosted by former Rabble editor Judy Rebick. Rebick says that the Conservative government has to be held accountable for its economic update, a document many have criticized for being overly partisan.
“What we’ve seen in the last few days is the return of the Reform Party, their anti-feminist policies, the anti-worker policies, the vicious anti-Quebec policies,” she says.
Jean’s decision ends days of speculation about the immediate future of the government.
Turnout at Ottawa protests are often tepid compared to the outpourings at sister rallies in Toronto, Vancouver, and smaller Canadian cities like Hamilton and Halifax. But with more than 2,000 supporters turning out for the daytime rally, every indication is that subsequent demonstrations will be even bigger.
For a list of demonstrations over the next three days, go to makeparliamentwork.ca.