Harper foes rally in Calgary Tory fortress

Left-leaning labour activists gathered for an anti-Stephen Harper rally Saturday, voicing outrage over "broken promises" by the prime minster and support for another man, Jack Layton.

With only two days before the vote, members of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) protested in downtown Calgary, a city seen as a Tory stronghold, against Harper's policies and "lies."

Holding placards high in the air, and shouting "Healthcare yes, Harper no," at least 100 people, many wearing New Democrat Party buttons, took a break from a convention to have their voices heard at the event.

Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 members, who called Harper a "promise breaker" said the rally was about sending two messages.

"The first was on the eve of the federal election May 2 we wanted to encourage Albertans to think about Prime Minister Harper's broken promises," he said.

"He made a promise to Albertans that his government would fight to keep oilsands jobs in this province but he has reneged on that promise by supporting the export of raw bitumen and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"He has also broken the promise to Albertans and other Canadians he made on support for expansion of the CPP as a solution to what we think is a looming crisis in retirement income."

A year and a half ago, finance minister Jim Flaherty met with labour movement activists at a meeting of the Canadian Labour Congress executive in Ottawa who said he agreed with the call for an expansion to the CPP.

"Six or seven months later when there was an opportunity for the government to put their money where their mouth was ... the Harper government decided to renege on their promise and in the process they left millions of Canadian retirees and Canadian workers who are worried about retirement out in the cold," McGowan said.

Paul Moist, CUPE national president, in Calgary for the convention and rally, said 65% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan.

He also said the recent rise of the NDP, to whom many protestors align their values, is "astounding."

"There is a kind of bouoyancy...they don't believe Harper owns all of Alberta or all of Canada," he said looking around the crowd of supporters.

"Elections are about trust and vision ... it seems Jack Layton has gained the trust of Canadians."

Paul Vargis, NDP candidate for Calgary Centre North, who attended the rally said the surge of support for the party is encouraging.

"We definitely have a chance," he said.

"We are getting senior support, support from environmentalists, improving the health care system."

Calgary Sun, Sat Apr 30 2011

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