Nationwide Pro-Co Rally Signoff
I spent about two hours shouting with 2,000 other freezing Torontonians at Nathan Phillips Square this past Saturday afternoon. Four times larger than the anti-coalition rally at Queen's Park, the Toronto Rally for a Progressive Coalition featured speeches by Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, and performances by Broken Social Scene. Leslie Feist was there, so was Bob Wiseman. The best the no-co staffers could manage was John Tory. Dorks.
The air around City Hall was high-energy even before we arrived. Walking from Osgoode station we were getting honks and thumbs-up from passing motorists, and we didn't even have signs at that point. We just looked like people who were ready for some change.
There were volunteers handing out bilingual signs by the skating rink, the blue or red ones you see above. We grabbed three each and dove into the crowd. It was an elbows-needed kind of crowd.
The turnout was equal part hipsters and union labour. Canadian Auto Workers was there, alongside representatives from CAW Local 222 Youth. So was United Steelworkers. And with good reason - the day before GM announced it would lay off 700 more workers from its Oshawa plant.
I enjoyed both Stephane's and Jack's speeches, and the crowd laid on the "SHAME!" whenever Harper came up (which was often). Lots of photogs, lots of cheering and chanting, lots of cheering for both the NDP and Liberal leader, which you would not have expected even two weeks ago, having worked on Gerard Kennedy's campaign in a tight NDP-Liberal race (full disclosure is an important journalistic practice). Canadians, some of us, really can work across partisan lines in ways we haven't seen for 90 years. This is as much a coalition of unity as it is a Coalition for Change.
"Coalition for Change" wasn't the only Obama-ism being thrown around. I was rolling my eyes every time some new schmuck would start chanting "Yes We Can," and I wasn't the only one. Former This Hour Has 22 Minutes star and rally emcee Mary Walsh was quick to turn this in to "Yes We Can-ada," which you have to admit has some charm, but I mean really - are Canadians so far gone we can't even be Canadian when we're progressive?
Overall, Mary was a fantastic choice for emcee, but I was saddened to see her taking partisan barbs at Stephane Dion at a time when over 2,000 Canadians had come together in unity. It's like this - when you introduce Bill Clinton, adultery, cigars, and "depends what your definition of is is" are fully out. Serious faux pas, Mary.
See more photos and video of both opposing rallies.
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