Opponents of Conservative agenda gather in Calgary

While federal Conservatives hammer out new ideas in Calgary’s BMO Centre their opponents are holding a series of protests and counter summits this week.

Things kick off at 8 a.m. on Thursday October 31 with Wake Up Canada — The Canada We Want summit at Community Wise Resource Centre in the Beltline. Wake Up Canada is offering workshops on labour environmental human rights and aboriginal issues at Community Wise Resource Centre and the Central Library until November 2 as well as two protest rallies outside the BMO Centre where the Conservative Convention is taking place.

The non-profit social advocacy group Public Interest Alberta is holding its own counter-summit on November 1 at the Central Library where conservationists David Suzuki and Andrew Nikiforuk Council of Canadians head Maude Barlow labour union representatives Jim Stanford and Paul Moist Attawapiskat First Nations chief Theresa Spence Alberta aboriginal activist Crystal Lameman and “rogue page” Brigette DePape will all be speaking at a sold-out forum entitled Pros & Cons: Policies for People and the Planet.

“The Harper Conservatives are going to be dispensing a lot of public policy issues setting the policy stage for the next couple of years. We want to present alternative positive policies” explains Bill Moore-Kilgannon the executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

“It’s important to connect with the broader public and to recognize there are real alternatives and real positive things that we hope all political parties would look at and commit to. We just had the Wildrose party here in Alberta finally admit that climate change is an issue and that we need to take steps to address that. They didn’t come to that I think of their own volition” Moore-Kilgannon says.

“The Conservative party convention is so important to watch… [because] they’re our government and… those internal debates within the party will shape the kind of country we’ll be living in for the next couple of years” he says.

Pros & Cons moderator Rev. Bill Phipps says the lineup of speakers should convince people this is a legitimate effort to oppose Conservative Party policy. However he says its messages won’t likely reach Conservative ears.

“It’s not going to have any effect on the Conservatives but I hope it has effect on people not just in Calgary but beyond” he says.

The list of grievances with the Harper government is long. Phipps says he is most troubled with the Conservative government’s elimination of independent advisory bodies what he calls a “war on evidence and science” and a disrespect for the democratic process.

Barlow says she is concerned with policy changes that weaken environmental protections and leave Canada’s fresh water vulnerable to commercialization.

“I worry more about his policies than anything that’s happening in the Senate right now” she says.

“The government won’t be receptive to us at all…. We’ve tried and tried and tried to talk to the Harper government to get to them and there’s no way. They only care about [their] base…. What we have to do is work to expose the opposition parties as to what their position is… and we have to just continue to assert that the majority of Canadians did not vote for this agenda” Barlow says.

“The list of grievances is significant” agrees Wake Up Canada organizer Grant Neufeld. “The endless hypocrisy the deception towards Canadians… I don’t see [the Conservative Party] as redeemable” he adds.

The last Conservative Party convention was in 2011 in Ottawa shortly after the party formed a majority government with 39.6 per cent of the popular vote. That convention saw protests as well.