Did I hear that right? I craned my neck over the crowd at the anti-coalition rally to see speaker Senator Jerry St. Germain, but all I could see was a black cowboy hat bobbing on the stage.Â I was at Saturdayâ€™s rally at Vancouverâ€™s Library SquareÂ listening toÂ people protestÂ the new coaltioin ofÂ Liberals, NDP, and BlocÂ QuebecoisÂ to topple the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.Â What I heard St. Germain say surprised me.
He said NDP leader Jack Layton had madeÂ statementsÂ admittingÂ that he had been planningÂ a coalition of opposition partiesÂ to topple Harper for some time.Â This was the first Iâ€™d heard of Laytonâ€™s admission made during a conference call with MPs, a call secretly recorded by Conservatives in what a Liberal MP called â€œNixonianâ€ style. Â Layton was taped saying, â€œThis whole thing would not have happened if the moves hadnâ€™t been made with the Bloc a long time ago and locked them in early.â€
Locked them in early.Â So the upcoming non-confidence vote to remove the Harper governmentÂ was not a response to the recentÂ fiscal update HarperÂ had presented, or it’s lack of an economic â€œstimulus packageâ€Â in a time of global economic crisis.Â That was just spin.Â
That spin seemed obvious to Canadians who spoke at the rally, offering, â€œIâ€™m not a politicianâ€, as their credentials.Â One such person was Dave Prelazzi, introduced as an â€œordinary personâ€.Â Prelazzi had been invited to speak at the rally after organizing Canadians Against Coalition Government on Facebook and collecting fifteen thousand names on a petition.Â
â€œIâ€™m not a politician, Iâ€™m not a member of the party faithfulâ€ , Prelazzi told the crowd. But he pointed out that Harper hasnâ€™t yet been given a chance to present his first budget. Harper was â€œnot closing the door to a stimulus packageâ€, just â€œproceeding cautiouslyâ€.Â This was no time for a no confidence vote, in Prelazziâ€™s view, with the last election barely over.Â â€œOur parliamentary system does accommodate these actions, but itâ€™s too soon.â€Â
Harper was governing with a â€œstrengthened mandateâ€ while the Liberals had just had their â€œworst election performance in history.â€Â Prelazzi was starting to sound like a politician.
Elizabeth Patikan, another non-politicianÂ on the stage,Â calledÂ the coalition leaders as “bandits, with their unscrupulous behaviour”.Â She came up with a SpanishÂ label for the leaders which she explained combined the words trespass and bandit: â€œtres-banditas desperadosâ€.Â
As both non-politicians and politicians spoke on stage, a few hundred people –Â the â€œseverely normalâ€ was how this crowd wasÂ described by tp of covenantzone.blogspot when I bumped into himÂ there –Â stood in the intermittent rain listening, waving flags, and chanting â€œHarper! Harper! Harper!â€Â
This No Coalition event was low tech compared to the Yes Coalition rally a few days earlier.Â No gigantic video panels on ballroom walls.Â Just a PA system, a small tent, and a flag.Â Even the speeches seemed less orchestrated.Â You didnâ€™t hear speaker after speaker repeat the same catchy lines â€“ â€œHarper is saving his job, not your jobâ€– designed to push your buttons.Â Not that the No Coalition wasnâ€™t pushing buttons:Â Â
â€œThe separatist Jacques Parizeau is seeing his dream become a realityâ€, said Nina Grewal, a Conservative MP. Â â€œThe Bloc will have veto power!Â Can you imagine that!?â€ Â exclaimed Grewal, who spoke in both English and Punjabi with a nod to French at the end: â€œMerci Beaucoupâ€.
Photo: Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day — “Stock”Â as some MPsÂ call him –Â speaks to the media afterÂ Saturday’s rally.
Fears that the coalition would empower separatists was a recurring theme in the rally.Â Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day explained in his opening speech that the mediaâ€™s persistent use of the label â€œLiberal-NDP Coalitionâ€ was misleading as this is in fact “a Liberal-NDP-separatist coalition and we will stand against this!” At the end of the rally, Day told the media, â€œThe fact that this is a coalition driven by separatists has awakened people across the political spectrum.â€
With or without separatists, there is nothing illegal about the formation of a coalition government in parliament.Â That fact was acknowledged by several speakers at the rally, including former constitutional lawyer John Weston, MP for â€œsea to sky highway countryâ€. Weston told the crowd, â€œIt is technically right to form a coalition, but whatâ€™s technically right doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s right for the country.â€
It was MP Randy Kamp who pointed to what so many Canadians are p.o.â€™d about, the fact that they had no idea when they cast their votes seven weeks ago that an alternate coalition system of government could be installed. â€œHow many of you voted in the last election?, Kamp asked.Â Most people in the crowd put up their hand.Â I even put up mine.Â Many people here probably voted Conservative, some probably voted for other parties, he said.Â â€œI know that nobody here voted for the coalition.â€
For more photos ofÂ No Coalition rallyÂ in Vancouver click on: