By Sarah McGinnis, Calgary Herald, Canwest News Service
About 200 people showed up as Calgarians Against Proroguing Parliament held a rally to oppose Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s move to prorogue Parliament. The Calgary version of the cross Canada rally took place in front of the Prime Ministers Calgary Office on January 23, 2010. Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald
OTTAWA —On a chilly Saturday afternoon around 200 Calgarians gathered outside Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s southwest constituency office to protest against his move to prorogue parliament.
Protests in cities across Canada were held Saturday, sparked by Harper’s Dec. 30 announcement that he would prorogue, or suspend, Parliament until March 3.
Waving Canadian flags and anti-prorogation signs in the light snowfall, Calgary protesters sang the national anthem before chanting “get back to work.”
Teri Posyniak is the mother of a reservist who spoke of her disappointment in Canada’s prime minister.
“Why are you sending our boys over to Afghanistan for democracy when you are trashing it,” she said. “I do not want my son to die for this in Afghanistan when he should probably be fighting with us at home.”
Scott Payne with Calgarians Against Proroguing Parliament helped organize Saturday’s rally. Even though Calgary may be the heart of Tory territory, Payne said this city cares about its government and many people wanted to speak out against what they feel is an inappropriate use of proroging powers.
For many people meandering through the mall, like Nicole Saul, prorogation couldn’t compare to compelling concerns of the economic downturn and the job market.
Demonstrators made their presence felt on a sunny day in the nation’s capital, holding signs with such messages as Democracy Works, and taking part in singalongs, including a rendition of O Canada at a rally that was also attended by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton.
Estimates pegged the turnout at more than 3,000 people.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Dec. 30 that Parliament would prorogue until March, instead of resuming on January.
The decision sparked a backlash, especially online, where a Facebook group opposing the move grew to include more than 210,000 members.
There were questions whether that number would translate into actual bodies at Saturday’s protests, but rallies in Ottawa and Toronto drew thousands of participants.
NDP Leader Jack Layton Layton called on the government to pass a law that would prevent the prorogation of Parliament without the approval of a majority of MPs — later chanting with the crowd “pass the bill, pass the bill.”
“The House of Commons, if you think about that word, is supposed to be the house of the people,” said Jack Layton.
“We are here today, on the steps of Parliament Hill to say, ‘Mr. Harper, unlock these doors.’ ”
Ignatieff also chided Harper.
“The prime minister gambled on the cynical attitudes; he gambled on the disenchantment with respect to politics,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told the crowd, speaking in French.
“Ladies and gentlemen, he lost his bet.”
He said the outpouring of protest following the decision prorogue was “a very good sign of the health of our democracy.”
“You have said loud and clear you do not want Parliament to be shut down when a prime minister is facing questions that he must answer,” Ignatieff said.
Organizers were boasting of rallies in 50 communities across the country, including major centres such as Toronto — where estimates of crowd attendance were also in the thousands — Calgary and Vancouver.
Demonstrations were also planned outside Canadian consulates in San Francisco, Calif., and Dallas, Texas. People were also expected to gather in Costa Rica and London.
Harper appeared unmoved by the rallies Saturday. He was asked several times about the rallies during a morning news conference.
His repeated answer was basically that the government was busy. He did not refer to the rallies in his replies.
“Let me just say the government is extremely occupied these days,” he said.
“The government has a lot of work to do to get ourselves prepared for the upcoming agenda of Parliament,” he said.
“I would obviously simply urge our opposition to spend their time making constructive proposals. I think we’ve obviously had a successful year rolling out infrastructure projects, but we now have to turn our mind to a broader agenda to some of the economic challenges, including deficit reduction, ahead of us. And I would urge all parties to contribute constructively to that agenda.”
With files from Juliet O’Neill, Canwest News Service
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
Note: Tired!… But I done, done did what I done had to do! :-) That’s me in the middle of the picture holding the sign that reads…
You may be the PM
But we’re your Boss
… Get back to work!
John & Jane Q.
UPDATE: CBC National’s news coverage of PROTESTS ACROSS CANADA includes the Calgary protest, along with an excellent clip of my beautiful smiling wife at 2:06 (front and center wearing a green coat (I’m standing next to her but am hidden behind my protest sign :-( :-)). A note of interest, I think, is that the vast majority of people that came out were ‘baby boomers’. That is both interesting and frightening, I’m sure, for the Harpercons, as it should be.
The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive.