If there's one thing you can get a couple of hundred University students riled up for, it's free beer. But if there's two things, the other is Prime Minister Stephen Harper showing up at a political rally at the hotel across the road from your campus.
Somewhere between 200 and 500 students demonstrated in the misty/rainy weather of an April evening outside the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre. Meanwhile inside, a couple of hundred other people had somewhat different political ideas and they were there to help the Prime Minister fill the Guelph-shaped hole in his caucus. In the very humid, tightly packed ballroom of the Delta, Harper hit his talking points and said the right things to get his crowd excited.
“I know this is not what you wanted to be doing right now," said Harper. "We should be doing what Conservatives were already doing: working on the economic.”
Harper explained that the budget announced March 22nd was the next phase of the Economic Action Plan and featured a low tax plan of critical importance to jobs, growth and the financial security of Canadian families. “But as you know, the Ignatieff, NDP and Bloc Quebecois coalition had a different priority," he explained. "An election you didn’t want, an election that the economy doesn’t need, our fourth election in seven years.” Chants of "Shame," then came from the audience.
“So friends, we come to you, the Canadian people, to get our mandate, pass that budget and get on with completing the recovery.”
Harper went on to say that Canadians had said yes to the Conservative budget and that Canadians will say yes to their platform in this election. More than that, Harper continued his message of the day and said that Canadians will also get behind scrapping the long gun registry.
“You know where we Conservatives stand,” he said. “We stand with farmers and hunters while Mr. Ignatieff, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois actually believe that you can tackle gun crime in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver by having a registry of the property of farmers and duck hunters in rural areas.”
He also re-announced from the day before his party's intention to extend the children’s fitness tax credit, double it and expanded to adults.
For Guelph, Harper said, the assistance of his government was meant that investments like the Old City Hall (New Provincial Courthouse), the New Civic Museum at the Loretto Convent and the Hanlon Creek Business Park were amongst the 26,000 projects across the country his government invested in.
Of his opponent, Harper inferred that an Ignatieff government will mean more taxes. Harper said that the Liberal Leader promises in one hand and takes away with the other with increased taxes and fees. Which is why “Canada needs a strong stable national majority.”
“These series of minority Parliaments, in my judgment, is becoming a dangerous game for this country. This election needs to put an end to that political uncertainty and focus on Canada’s security.”
Harper brought the rally to close by saying that he feels the confidence (but not a boastful confidence) of people across Canada, and talked about how Laurier called the 20th century “Canada’s Century” and how this century can be ours again.
“You are here for one thing, you are here for Canada," he said. "And your fellow citizens here in Guelph and throughout southwestern Ontario believe deeply in this country, and they are not going to choose members of Parliament who are going to sign on to Mr. Ignatieff’s reckless idea that he can lose the election and then run the country with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.”
You can listen to the Prime Ministers remarks yourself on these two audio files below. (It's in two parts because I accidentally shut off my recorder at one point, but I don't think I missed much before between the time it stopped recording and I noticed.)
Some random thoughts from the rally:
-Marty Burke didn't say much, which is too bad because this was the first time I heard he speak publicly. But mostly, he just seemed to be there to handle the intros. Noted MPs in attendance were: Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills), Gary Goodyear (Cambridge), Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga), Peter Braid (Kitchener-Waterloo), and Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener-Centre)
-Burke also said that “Under his leadership we’ve brought forward Canada’s economic action plan, and as a result our country’s weathering the recession better than any of our competitors. And from that position we’ve emerged stronger than ever.” - I'm a little unsure about Burke's use of the word "competitors." Are we really competing with other countries in that sense? It may have been a slip of the tongue, but it was something I made a note of.
-Of the long gun registry Harper said, “We need to make the common sense of rural Canada, more common in Ottawa.” And he was saying this to a group of urnbanites and suburbanites in Guelph
-If you listen to the full remarks. you'll hear the phrase “Job killing tax hikes.” Which is more or less borrowed from Republican talking points south of the border.
For images from the rally, check this photo slideshow: