Premier Harris labelled murderer
Tories met with protest in London
By Chris Lackner
London's Convention Centre was the scene of two colliding worlds on
Inside the building, Ontario Premier Mike Harris hosted the annual Premier's
dinner in front of 330 Tory politicians and supporters.
Outside, a group of protesters greeted the party faithful with their
own boisterous message — that the party's policies have been detrimental
to the under-privileged of Ontario.
“Murderers” some yelled, concerning the perceived damage the Tory cutbacks
have inflicted upon the poor. One sign stated: “Ontario — open for business,
closed to the people.”
Jeremy McNaughton, a member of the London Activist Network, which helped
organize the protest, said the group of approximately 150 protesters came
to express their growing frustration with the Harris government.
The protesters were made up of union members, students, concerned citizens,
anti-poverty organizations and members of the local chapter of the Council
for Canadians, he explained.
Inside, at the $275 a plate dinner, Harris delivered a speech to the
audience which praised the Tory's success in making hard decisions, which
he claimed has put Ontario back on its feet.
“Before 1995 [the Tory's first electoral victory], government measured
success by how many people we've hired and the amount of money they spent.
We were elected to change the philosophy of big government.”
The premier said it has been the Tory philosophy of fiscal accountability,
cutting taxes, balancing budgets and creating jobs which has saved Ontario
from economic ruin.
Jesse Greener, VP-external for Western's Society of Graduate Students,
said those upset with the Harris government are not divided interest groups.
“We are united in fighting the cuts we have seen across society,” he said.
“There needs to be a severing of the corporate interests within politics.”
“I'm here because I'm a mother currently on welfare and I don't have
enough to feed my son,” said Karen McCaffery, a London resident. “[Harris]
has been attacking teachers, union members and the lower classes.”
The large influx of police officers, who surrounded the entrances of
the Convention Centre, were present to protect the safety of both protesters
and delegates, said Mark Lemon, staff sergeant for the London Police. “We're
here to keep the peace,” he added.
“There are those who continue to oppose us,” Harris said during the
dinner function. “We want the first priority of companies to be paying
wages, not paying taxes. There are those that don't understand that.”<
Earlier in the day, Harris announced a $32 million donation to the City
of London towards infrastructure costs. At the press conference that followed
he said the expected protesters were more a by-product of partisan politics
than a sign of dissatisfaction with any particular Tory policy.