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#StopHarper rally in Truro draws hundreds

by Miles Howe

TRURO, NOVA SCOTIA - On May 14th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with a team of high-profile Conservatives in tow, visited the Cobequid Education Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia. Ostensibly, the purpose of his visit was to shore up the upcoming campaign hopes of incumbent Cumberland – Colchester – Musquodoboit Valley Minister of Parliament, Scott Armstrong.

Security for the event was tight, with Truro Police operating in unison with plainclothes RCMP, along with several armed individuals who refused to identify their affiliation.

Outside the Centre, in the virtual echo chamber of the enclosed front entrance, about 350 protesters, screamed, played drums and saxophones, and shouted anti-Harper slogans. The roar was at times deafening, and the upset over the Prime Minister's visit was palpable.

“Why not Harper in 2015? Because there will be nothing left,” said Toni McAfee, education and organization officer with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (Atlantic). “This country will be destroyed.

“To postal workers, he's continuously stripped away our rights. That goes from bargaining, our right to strike, and now we're under full attack. He's destroying our jobs in rural and urban and coming after our public service. By the time they're done, I would not doubt that it's up for sale, sold off to their friends.”

The assembled crowd was overwhelmingly union affiliated, with sizable representation from the CUPW, the NSGEU, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

A contingent of Indigenous folk, drums in hand, deftly reminded those in attendance that they were assembled on unceded Mi'kmaq territory, upon with Harper was not welcome. The crowd roared in approval.

“Why not Harper in 2015? That's a question for all Canadians,” said Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association. “I don't think it's just an Aboriginal question. But I think all Canadians are starting to ask themselves that same thing.

“The reign of Stephen Harper, other than ignoring the loss of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, is that he's destroying what's so vital to us, and that's water and our relationship to water.”

Under near-continuous protest, scandal and controversy, in the lead-up to the election it is unlikely that Harper will be visiting many ridings without a guaranteed audience. If 2011 election results are any indication of what is to come, Truro remains something of a Conservative stronghold, and, to be sure, several busloads from around the region brought the Conservative party faithful to the Cobequid Centre, despite the protest.

Of the four federal Conservative seats in Nova Scotia, Armstrong's, along with Central Nova's Peter McKay's, are the two most 'secure'. In 2011, Armstrong won his seat handily with 21,041 votes, or 52.5 percent of the vote. The chairman of the federal Conservative Atlantic caucus, Armstrong is a Truro-ite by birth and prior to his career as an MP – which began in 2009 – he was an elementary school principal.

The battle to unseat Scott Armstrong, noted Rick Clarke, of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, is one to which he promised his personal commitment.

"I wore this tonight," said Clarke, pointing to his orange-coloured golf shirt, "so that they'd know I wasn't going in there.

"We've got to stay angry!"

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