Prime Minister Stephen Harper was welcomed to a rally at Brutus Truck Bodies in Penticton on Sept. 13 by an enthused crowd of 700, though a handful of political opponents also showed up to express their disapproval.
Upon conclusion of the event, a demonstration was being held on the other side of the street from Brutus, where three pairs of protestors amassed into a group of six.
Two of the protestors identified as members of the Okanagan Nation and drew attention to their demonstration with drumming and singing. One Conservative supporter, Ken Sorensen from West Kelonwa, tried to open up a dialogue but with limited success.
“The government is going to be overturned – you might as well accept that,” demonstrator Skyaka said.
“There will always be a government – don’t you want to be a part of it?” Sorensen asked.
Sorensen was told that just like Harper’s rally, their demonstration was not an opportunity for the other side to have a voice.
“I think they need a lot of help and I think the Conservatives can give it to them, but they have to remember, they have to get the people on their side,” Sorensen said.
Another demonstrator, Shannon Rasmussen, said she was standing up against many aspects of the Conservative mandate – climate change, women’s rights, a fair electoral system, and cuts that have been made to the CBC.
“I don’t agree with Harper’s politics and I think he should no longer be running our country.”
Had the event been open invite, Rasmussen said she would have attended in a respectful manner.
One Conservative supporter facetiously asked the protestors why they weren’t at work.
But there didn’t seem to be any dissenting views among those in attendance.
“We need conservative values for the economy,” said Cheryl Berkey. “I follow news around the world, so I know how the global economy will effect Canada – we cannot run a deficit we can’t. We can’t fall into the same trap as the other countries have. I have granddaughter and I don’t want to pass that on to her.”
Attendee Pat Martinson enjoyed the format of the event, especially compared to that of a debate.
“You hear more about how he really is thinking when it’s just him instead of trying to get his words in with other people, that’s kind of ridiculous.”
Reverent Anthony Wookey said he and his wife are fully behind Harper.
“He’s accomplishing all that we had hoped. And he’s exactly the same as me. I’m a born against Christian.”
Harper’s ability finding time to find time for a stop in Penticton amid a hectic campaign didn’t go unrecognized.
“I know he’s a busy man and we really appreciate that he did come here to see us,“ Lee Pixley said.
“He’s taking the time to go around and speak to the people that are going to vote for him – and that’s important,” said Pat Martinson.
Prime Minister Harper, as the centrepiece of the rally, delivered a 25-minute speech which was largely focused on the economy. The event opened with a brief remarks from Marshal Neufeld, the local Conservative candidate. Also at the rally were nearby Conservative candidates Ron Cannon of Kelowna-Lake Country and Dan Albis of Central Okanagan-Similkameen. Other delegates included Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, councillors Helena Konanz and Judy Sentes, and Karla Kozakevich, Area E director for the RDOS.