The collective political conscience stirs as election time approaches for Canadians. As a hallmark of this opportunity to exercise our democratic rights, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped into Peterborough for a rally as part of his campaign, as well as in support of local federal Conservative candidate Michael Skinner on September 21.
According to local news sources, Harper did not address any issues regarding the economy, the controversial Bill C-51, Bill C-24.
Nor did he care to talk about former Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro.
Del Mastro was found guilty of falsifying election documents and exceeding the election spending limit.
He chose instead to focus on issues of fiscal conservatism including less social spending and
cutting back on pension funds as well as employment insurance.
Prime Minister Harper also refused to take any questions.
Harper’s commitment to fiscal conservatism and target demographic became clear to the unwitting observer as an army of Mercedes, Audis, Rangers, Bentleys, and an assortment of other high-end cars rolled out of parking lot.
Manned by upper-class white men. They were met with a small but vocal group of protesters who compensated for the rally’s lack of dialogue on hard-hitting social issues with chants and posters.
The protest signs ranged from issues of shutting down women’s shelters and resources, the use of unsanctioned pipelines on indigenous land, the treatment of refugees, the blatant lack of concern regarding missing and murdered indigenous women.
The silencing of scientists on climate change, and the lack of a conservative presence at Toronto’s Pride week this year were also subjects of protest.
The contrast between the Conservative supporters and protesters was palpable.
“I was stopped about halfway between the protesters and the entrance to the rally,” commented one protester, Evan Nelson.
“I was told that the event was private and that I would not be allowed inside despite the fact that I had registered online.
I asked why I was being refused and one of the security guards gestured to my appearance and said, ‘What do you think?’ in a sarcastic tone.”
The protesting group displayed much more diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, ability, and age.
This juxtaposition between normative identities and minorities that span and intersect a wide range of identities speaks to the tension that was felt at the event.
While protesters were vocal in the opposition of specific bills, policies, and values of the current Conservative government, the Conservative reporters stepping out of the (apparently exclusive) rally retorted with obscene hand gestures and personal jabs towards the appearances of the protesters.
This event was a particularly salient reminder as to what the Conservative government’s priorities are, and who they stand for.
It was made clear that it was not women, poor people, racialized minorities, the aging, the unemployed, students, or the LGBTQ+ community.
If a society is only as strong as its most at-risk and marginalized members, Canada will have to watch out in the case of another Conservative government.