News Local

'Get back to work'

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

In a turnout surprising even the organizers, more than 220 people lined the sidewalks outside the Orillia Opera House on Saturday to protest the prorogation of Parliament.

"I was hoping for 40 at best and this is certainly a lot more; I'm proud," said organizer Dan Switzer. "It shows them that not everyone agrees with what (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) has done and we say no."

Protesters were against Harper's recent proroguing of Parliament -- a decision that shuts Parliament until March 3.

Attendees held their handmade signs to the roadway and received honks and shouts of approval from many passersby.

Because of the prorogation, 37 bills have been thrown out and up to $100 million has been wasted, said Doris Middleton president of the Orillia Muskoka and District Labor Council.

"All of us have a contract with our employer which means we need to fulfil it," she told the crowd. "Is Stephen Harper fulfilling his contract?" she asked.

"No," yelled the supporters.

Middleton says Harper doesn't want to answer the "embarrassing questions" relating to the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, the lack of action on job creation and lack of action on climate change.

"He needs to be there to answer those questions to average citizens like us," Middleton said. "Get back to work Stephen."

A representative from the Green, NDP and Liberal parties spoke to the growing crowd during the rally.

Simcoe North's NDP candidate, Richard Banigan, said he supported NDP leader Jack Layton's recent call for prorogation rules.

"In the Parliamentary system, we don't really have rules until there is a problem and now we have a problem," Banigan said. "One of the (issues) in the next election will be proroguing; you can't just let anybody do it whenever they want."

Simcoe North's federal Liberal candidate Steve Clarke says he attended not only as a politician, but as a concerned citizen.

"I believe we're here to protect the very thing that is a fabric of our Canadian society and that is our democratic principles," he said.

He says that needs to start with the voting system.

"We need some sort of proportional representation such as instant run-off voting," Clarke said.

Rallies were held in 60 different Canadian cities on Saturday.

As the local rally came to an end, protesters repeatedly chanted 'Back to work' and sang 'O Canada' together before departing.

"I hope every single person here writes to their MP, writes to the prime minister," Switzer said. Stephen Harper "has embarrassed us many times on a national scale and we will not stand for it."

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