I’m sure that when Stephen Harper won the election four years ago today, he had no idea that there would be mass rallies across the country denouncing him during his time in office. And yet, the people turned out. Despite an estimate of a turnout of maybe a thousand or fifteen hundred, the final estimate for the Ottawa rally was some 3500. Not to mention, the crowd was quite varied – all ages turned out, and despite the preponderance of orange signs in the crowd (and NDP workers were passing them out), it wasn’t an overtly partisan crowd, as I had feared. That said, every special interest group under the sun turned up, from socialists (passing out copies of Socialist Worker papers), to Fair Vote Canada, to Falun Gong supporters, to the CAW. I didn’t see any rainbow flags, however.
There were some good speakers, and some really not-so-good speakers, with the Raging Grannies and a disabled Nortel worker sucking the life out of the crowd before the Arrogant Worms warmed the crowd back up again.
Toward the end, the political leaders got to say their piece. Jack Layton, surrounded by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton and Wayne Marston, gave a rather plaintive “Unlock these doors!” to the crowd, before talking up his proposed bill to block future prorogation attempts. (I still say good luck getting that passed as Private Members’ Bill). Layton was followed by Mario Laframboise of the Bloc.
Michael Ignatieff had an entourage – Carolyn Bennett, Mauril Bélanger, Marcel Proulx, Glenn Pearson, and John McKay were all with him as he talked about how proud it makes Parliamentarians to see such a turnout, and that Stephen Harper had no idea that they would show up when he called Her Excellency to prorogue Parliament. He also made the point to the crowd that in our system, it is the Prime Minister who is accountable to Parliament – something that Canadians need to be reminded of whenever they get that funny notion into their heads that we vote for a Prime Minister directly in our system of government. Ignatieff also said he wants to work in a non-partisan manner to ensure this kind of prorogation never happens again, and he said that after Tuesday, his party would be coming out with measures of their own to suggest. (Nevertheless, an NDP staffer nearby immediately chalked this up as one more victory for his party).
Elizabeth May rounded out the event. While this may not have had the same scope as the Tamil protests of last summer, this was still a pretty impressive turnout, and maybe vindication for the Facebook Generation™ after all.
(Maclean’s has photos from the Toronto rally here).