Several hundred protest prorogation of parliament
Chilly winds and blowing snow didn’t deter several hundred anti-prorogation protesters from gathering Saturday outside Stephen Harper’s constituency office in southwest Calgary.
The Calgary event was an offshoot of the 218,000-strong Facebook group called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, which sponsored protests in cities across the country.
“(The rally) was very much a grassroots movement,” said Scott Payne, one of the organizers of the local event. “People organizing the Calgary rally are just a bunch of citizens who are upset about this decision and want to do something about it.”
The protest came just two days before the parliament session was originally scheduled to resume after its holiday break. Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean prorogued Parliament at the end of December, at the prime minister’s request, until after the Olympics, with the new session beginning March 3.
Calling the prorogation “routine,” Harper’s spokesperson Dimitri Soudas told the media in December that suspending Parliament would allow the government to consult with Canadians as it prepares its next budget. The decision has aroused a wave of anger from voters across the country, especially in online forums, culminating in last weekend’s protests.
David White attended the Calgary rally, Canadian flag in hand. “I have the feeling that it’s pretty necessary for the electorate to come out and speak up,” White said. “It’s a slippery slope and I think I’m fearful of future actions. This is the second time that (prorogation) has happened under Harper. It’s happened under other prime ministers, but Canadians are out here to say that it shouldn’t happen under any prime minister in the future.”
Under the watchful presence of two Calgary police patrol cars, the protesters sang the national anthem, chanted slogans like “yes, we care” and displayed handmade signs calling Harper a “rogue” and urging Parliament to get back to work.
Rally organizer Payne was happy with the turnout of about three hundred people, especially given the wintry conditions. While he acknowledged that the Calgary group was smaller than others across Canada, Payne said that it was important that their dissenting voices be registered.
“I want (the protesters) to feel empowered, like they do have a voice,” Payne said.
Payne said that the protesters will deliver a petition with more than 300 signatures to Harper’s constituency office on Thursday.
In the meantime, the Liberal and NDP parties returned to work on Monday, both declaring an intention to seek changes in the House of Commons rules on prorogation.