Just about the time MPs had settled in Wednesday for a marathon session in the House of Commons, about 50 protesters settled in for a noisy rally in downtown Penticton.
They and others at 70 sites across Canada mounted a last-ditch effort to persuade the federal Conservative government to split up its omnibus budget implementation bill, C-38, to allow fuller scrutiny of it and the changes it will bring to 70-plus separate pieces of legislation.
Voting on 159 discreet packages of amendments proposed by opposition MPs began Wednesday and was expected to go non-stop until late Thursday or early Friday. The Conservative majority means the government’s members simply need to show up to get the bill through.
“This is probably an exercise in futility, us being here, but I want to be able to at least say to my kids, ‘I tried,” said Kristin Staley, who brought her five-year-old son, Oliver, to the protest outside Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas’s office.
“I don’t want my son to think his vote, his opinion, doesn’t matter, and I’m here trying to fight for that.”
The stay-at-home mom said the loosening of environmental protections contained in Bill C-38 forms the basis of her concerns.
“I’m here to remind Dan Albas we won’t forget his support of this,” Staley said. “This will come back to haunt him. That’s a guarantee from a mom and son.”
Brien Strong, a first-time protester, took issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s priorities.
“If Harper can spend billions on military equipment, and then cut back a few million here and there for the Coast Guard and whatnot in B.C., it’s not right,” he said.
The protesters were organized here and elsewhere by political action group Leadnow. They waved signs, chanted, banged on pots and pans, and elicited a few honks from motorists in the Nanaimo Square area.
Passer-by Darryl Stein was pleased to see the late-afternoon demonstration.
“I like to see democracy at work,” he said.
The retiree and self-described “NDP kind of man,” described the omnibus budget bill as “kind of a chicken shit way to go.”
Candis Davis, a winery manager who looked on from a nearby coffee shop patio, empathized with the protesters.
“I’ve been those people across the street, and it’s tricky. You get the odd honk from people driving by, but you don’t get the attention of Dan Albas,” she said.
“But what do you have left? This is what people can do.”