ELECTION 2015: Support and anger during Harper's Kamloops stop

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Kamloops Sept. 14.

KAMLOOPS - In a Kamloops warehouse filled with roughly 200 supporters and Conservative Party staffers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke of the economy under his government, touting the latest auditor general results from this morning as proof his government is the right one to be leading our country.

The Conservative Party rally kicked off around 10 a.m. today, Sept. 14, about an hour late and under heavy police presence, with Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo candidate Cathy McLeod introducing the Prime Minister. Harper spoke of affordable long-term investments, creating growth in the economy and lower taxes in keeping with the party’s economic action plan platform.

Today's release of the 2014/2015 annual financing report of the Government of Canada showed a $1.9-billion budget surplus a year ahead of schedule, according to a party release handed out to media at the beginning of the event.

“Security and protection of our economy is job number one,” Harper said to the crowd of mainly middle-aged to senior adults.

Also in attendance were North-Okanagan Shuswap candidate Mel Arnold, senator Nancy Greene-Raine, B.C. Chief Shane Gottfriedson and Kamloops city councillor Pat Wallace.

Beyond speaking about the economy and budget, Harper took several opportunities to mention his opponents in the race, specifically the New Democratic Party. Drawing ‘boos’ from the crowd, the prime minister spoke negatively of the province’s history with an NDP government.

“The other parties would have to explain why now is a good time to throw us in the deficit,” he said.

Harper answered only a handful of questions from the media, the majority of which were from national media members following the campaign trail, yet one local made mention of the fact that within the last year Horizon North, which owns the warehouse where the rally was held, laid off nearly 50 employees.

"I am certainly aware of the negative impact that the falling oil prices have had on the businesses dependent on that sector,” Harper said, noting his government was committed to making affordable investments.

Supporter Helen Burmatoff woke up at 4:30 a.m. to bring her two daughters from 100 Mile House to see Stephen Harper speak.

“I was impressed with how many supporters there were,” Burmatoff said, adding that seeing the Prime Minister was akin to 'seeing the queen.'

Protesters including First Nation groups, postal workers, students and Muslims waited outside the Horizon North Warehouse during a campaign stop by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Protesters including First Nation groups, postal workers, students and Muslims waited outside the Horizon North Warehouse during a campaign stop by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In spite of cheers, smiles and standing ovations for Harper inside the building, outside was a different story. Around 25 First Nation protesters, students, Muslims and postal workers picketed near the lineup of Harper supporters entering the warehouse.

“Harper needs to be voted out,” postal worker Loretta Kos said. “Everyone needs to get out and vote and save our jobs."

First Nation protesters created a drumming circle outside the building, chanting ‘never forget our missing sisters’ and ‘you say Harper, we say... no’. The First Nation group later gathered around Greene-Raine and told her the government was a corporation. 

Following the rally, few Harper supporters paid much attention to protesters except one woman who yelled obscenities at a man carrying a ‘Stop Harper’ stop sign. She was later escorted by a Conservative handler through the parking lot.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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