Friday's event in Royal City Park, a combination rally/fundraiser, would have been the perfect cap to a hard fought and successful campaign for the local NDP, but instead it might as well have been a kick-off to the Guelph election sequel currently scheduled to premiere Sunday.
But back in Guelph though, it was a rainy, sort of dreary kind of day. Nothing better to liven the spirits than some music, some dancing, some drumming, and some political rallying. The event was billing as "Four Great Canadians in Three Great Events," unfortunately though only three could come: Tom King, Jack Layton and Naomi Klein. The forth, Stephen Lewis, had a family emergency. As the others made there way to Royal City Park from the Bookshelf, the crowd was entertained by the Celtic-folk-stylings of Loretta Reed.
After four songs, a Native drum was set up in front of the stage. The five man drumming team included King, Layton, and emcee James Gordon. They began with a traditional song for travelers in honour of Lewis' ailing family member and the man that drowned in the Speed River a few nights earlier. King said that they'd play this more solemn song and then get into some more "kick ass songs."
The emcee for the evening's gathering was James Gordon, a local singer/songwriter, co-founder of the Wellington Water Watchers and noted King supporter. Gordon said that the rally was really more of an "inactive audio event" rather than a bunch of political speeches, but without too much fanfare, he turned the mic over to the guest speakers.
King was received very warmly by the crowd, elevating him to rock star status almost. He said that it's tough spending weeks campaigning in a by-election only to have to turn around for a general, but he said he's ready to go. He talked about getting rid of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America so that Canada won't be used by the US as "a resource mall." He called himself a realist and then talked about what some people say is impossible: "Nothing is stopping us from going to Ottawa as [the next] government. [...] We can control our destiny, right here in town." As he wrapped up King said, "vote early, vote often and evidently in this election, that's true."
Next up was Naomi Klein, who said that this was her first political rally that she appeared in as a speaker and she was drawn to the opportunity to support King as an "obsessive" fan of the Dead Dog Cafe. Klein called it a "national issue" for Guelph to send King to Ottawa, adding that "so much of what we're proud of is under siege." In particular, Klein talked about the Harper government's cut to the arts and how a lot of people in the arts are afraid to speak out lest they find their own funding taken. Klein also talked about the coming of a "Back to Basics" movement in that we, the citizens, are going to have to dig in to fight for the things we care about, like the recently formed Department of Culture based in Toronto.
Finally, that brings us to Layton, and I'm almost afraid to say that this may be the last be see of the NDP's moustached leader in our abode given that his attention will be drawn to the other 304 ridings in Canada if we're having that aforementioned general election. Layton seems to think so anyway, he said that "Mr. Harper intends to quit his job on Sunday morning, and for a moment we can be celebratory. [...] I'm going to be putting in my application shortly after he quits." Layton also said that he feels that a lot of people are being left behind, and that Canada runs the risk of electing a government beholden to the oil companies before everyone else. He added that if Harper is elected again then, "By golly, those champagne corks will be popping," in the board rooms of big oil. He wrapped up by saying that he wants to take the concerns of people around the kitchen table and see them take precedent to the issues being discussed around the board room table.