By phone, email and by attending a rally at Tom Davies Square, city residents are showing they oppose the temporary closure or proroguing of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper, said local opposition politicians.
The rally was originally to be held at Hnatyshyn Park at Notre Dame Avenue and Elm Street, but police were concerned too many residents would show up, and asked organizers to move to a larger venue. About 250 attended.
But Fred Slade, Conservative candidate for Sudbury riding said if the proroguing of Parliament was a really big issue, more would have attended the event. “The average voter was not there. They were busy shopping, at the hockey rink or spending time with their loved ones. That is important to them,” Slade noted.
“I was not present but if I was there I would have seen the speakers preaching to the already converted,” he said.
Federal NDP members of Parliament were present at the rally as was John Fera, United Steelworkers Local 6500 president. “I have had more calls on this issue than even the Vale Inco and Local 6500 labour dispute,” said Nickel Belt NDP MP Claude Gravelle. “This means government bills, such as reforms to the unemployment system, have stopped. People are angry,” Gravelle noted.
Olga Popovich, a senior, said it was about time the Prime Minister got back to work. She held up a sign indicating her opposition to the move by the prime minister.
Glenn Thibeault, Sudbury NDP MP, said he too had been getting a lot of calls on the proroguing of Parliament. “My office has been getting a significant number of phone calls and emails on this issue. People consider this a snub. Sudburians are angry at what the Prime Minister has done.”
Slade said he has not had the same experience. “No one has brought it up to me. The average voted is concerned about the economy. Unemployment here is an issue people are concerned about,” Slade mentioned.
Thibeault said a private members bill he had initiated concerning credit card companies was now stalled. The bill was to address high fees consumers and even charities were having to pay on their credit card transactions. “I and other parliamentarians have worked together for almost a year on this bill. Even the government was supportive but a report on it has been delayed. It was supposed to be done in the fall. Then it would have gone to the House of Commons for scrutiny,” Thibeault said. With the act of proroguing Parliament all bills in development have stopped and have to be started all over again, said Thibeault. Some may be dropped, he said.
Carol Hartman, Liberal Party nominee for the Sudbury riding, said 37 bills have died because of the closure of Parliament and money wasted. “Proroguing of Parliament has cost taxpayers $48 million. After all parliamentarians are still getting paid,” Hartman said.
Slade said Conservative cabinet members are all working very hard on the next budget and that federal MPs can use the opportunity to do work in their constituencies. Hartman said even the prime minister's former colleague, Tom Flanagan, said in a media interview recently that the action was wrong. “Flanagan said he (Harper) prorogued Parliament to shut down the Afghanistan inquiry (about the torture of detainees). So his own former campaign manager sees through him.”
Steelworkers Local 6500 president John Fera reminded the crowd, many of whom were striking Vale Inco workers, that the federal Conservative government had wronged the city by allowing the selling off the area's rich nickel deposits to foreign multinationals like Vale Inco. He pointed out that both major mining companies had laid off workers. “We were told the deals with both Xstrata and Vale Inco would be good for the city. Look where we are now,” he said to the crowd.
Cathy Orlando, a Laurentian University climate change educator, said the closure of Parliament meant that Bill C311, a private members bill by NDP leader Jack Layton, meant to require Canada to take more aggressive action on climate change, was also stalled. “It would have required all future Canadian governments to use science to guide their policy on this issue. It would force them to act instead of just talking about acting, she said.
But Slade said a lot of people were more concerned about taking advantage of the home renovation tax credit of $1,350 that was set to expire Jan. 31 than federal politics. He said the tax credit can be claimed on the 2009 Income Tax Form. It applies to expense of more than $1,000 but not more than $10,000. Slade sent a press release out to media outlets recently to inform the public they had to act now to receive the credit if they had not already. “I advise people to at least buy their material before the end of the month and for more information go to the website of the Canada Revenue Agency. It has very clear directions about how to take advantage of this government program and other matters dealing with taxation.”