Saturday, 9 April 2011

Battleground: Hamilton 2011 Part 1

Yesterday, both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff graced Hamilton with their presence and words. I wish I could say they both blew away the citizens of Hamilton, but in doing so I would be telling a lie. The reality to yesterdays events is that both rallies were essentially...night and day! That is the best way I can explain what I experienced in words.

I will begin with Harper's rally first, but before I do that I want to clear some other stuff up mainly because Harper was my first stop due to the 5:30pm show time. I will explain later why show time was the best way to explain Harper's rally.

People at both rallies had one main thing in common regardless of their political differences, I heard people from both talk about how if this rally was in the United States...there would be 100,000 people as opposed to a few hundred. It felt good hearing this in a way, mainly because as Canadians we are constantly forced to explain how (UN)American we are...ALL THE TIME! Also, the demographics between both rallies were much different, Harper had more middle class/seniors mixed in with very business looking folks. Ignatieff on the other hand had a more diverse crowd consisting of middle class/lower income/seniors and a fair amount of visible minorities, which made me very happy. I could barely see any visible minorities at Harper's rally, there were a few, but of the ones I spoke to they were mostly there to keep an open mind and see the other side's argument.

Another positive that I simply loved was the amount of young people there. Young people and politics are often seen as an impossible combo, but this is simply a misconception and last night helped prove that statement wrong.

Prime Minister Harper's Rally:

Upon entering the convention centre, I was greeted by Conservative volunteers who asked for my name and information. I had not previously signed up for the rally and explained to them that a computer malfunction made it impossible for me to formally register. The first thing you see is a line of protesters outside making as much noise as possible to distract people coming in. They were quickly surrounded by Hamilton police and escorted far from the property. Not to mention, anyone who blatantly made public that they were not conservative were given either an escort out or asked to wait in a line to the side. Luckily, last nights organization was very poor, meaning many people who initially registered didn't get their names on the formal entrance sheet. So, like myself they were forced to wait with other individuals who had to register and provide their personal information at the side.

Holding Cell err waiting area for non-registered citizens.
 The atmosphere from the beginning was very controlled and quite awkward for me. Mind you, I am probably very biased since I do not have a lot of trust in Harper and he is the current Prime Minister, yet I felt to much pressure was put on filtering those there to ensure that the "bad apples" did not burst Harper's bubble. By bubble, I mean the type of area that all politicians have to a certain extent with which they can call their comfort zone. Harper knows there are certain topics that will make him look like a fool, so this filtering would be necessary to make everything look clean and professional. This would be alright, if the reality were not that in doing so important issues become ignored.

 Once inside, I made it a point to observe my surroundings and was surprised to see a very large number of undercover RCMP officers. Again, Harper is the Prime Minister, yet the whole thing really reminded me of a rally held by a dictator, almost like an illusion of "freedom to assemble", since people were allowed to gather, but only under strict surveillance. I heard many people comment on how this was one of the most heavily guarded rallies they have ever been to, making Harper add another notch to his record belt!

Once the PM showed up, the place went wild, with the classic rock playing in the background and the banners and little kids accompanied by their parents and grandparents, not to mention some very attractive political aids, who were not afraid to show it off. It was seriously one huge propagandist party! This is normal for rallies since these politicians need to show off their muscle, but Harper made sure it was big, a huge Canadian flag was used as the backdrop as Harper spoke of all the good things Canada has achieved and how important the economy is and how the coalition was the only thing standing between Canadians and what they really want. He continued to talk in this tone until it was time for questions. I was unable to get his questions on video since I had to leave for the Ignatieff rally and was about to puke with the amount of propaganda that had filled my head and stomach.

See the video of the rally opening. I am sorry for the low quality, my camera had a lot of interference from screaming fans around me who had to make sure Harper knew they loved him! Let the video load and fast forward to the 6 minute mark to see Harper. This is the first of 2 videos I was able to grab, but gives you a quick glimpse of the patriotism Harper spills out about the Conservative party and his economic action plan.

Luckily though, one of the protesters got in and began questioning Harper about recent factory closures and large companies who were paid very nice incentives, leaving the country free of charge! Immediately, Harper supporters and RCMP moved in to remove the man, but as if a miracle occurred to ensure that what was being said had to be said, the cameras got to him first and spent a good 15 minutes on him, making it impossible for Harper's guys to remove him without giving the camera guys physical evidence of the crowd filtering that we have been hearing only by word via the news. I mean Harper even apologized for the accidental removal of people and still this was going on! After this I got my stuff and headed out, after witnessing a Prime Minister who did not only seem like someone running from the police, but also desperate to maintain a perfect image as he disregarded the fact that a fundamental freedom was being infringed upon. I did not learn anything from Harper's rally, as it mainly reinforced his attack ads and consisted of 90% bashing the other parties and 10% of promoting how much of a good state Canada was in. As I mentioned earlier, I felt that Harper's rally portrayed more of a show for followers, like a preacher praising God as his followers spill forward with love and money in an attempt to bask in his influential, but fabricated leadership.

I just have to question how true this statement really is though...can we say Canada really is in a good position regardless of the economic recession? What do you think? I know we weathered the recession fairly well, but are we really safe enough to say that our country cannot fall into a recession still or begin a decline into stagnation as other countries begin their recovery?

I will create another blog today to add in my review of the Ignatieff rally, I figure that with the pictures and added video, this blog has become one packed little sucker, so in order to risk explosion due to the immense data in here, I will organize it better this way. I am also sorry for posting this so late, I wanted to find the right words to use for what I have seen.

I hope my eyes were able to portray what many of you missed and give you an idea of what went on.

Parked right outside the Harper rally! Sneaky Mr. Ignatieff, very sneaky!

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