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NDP Leader Jack Layton, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe shake hands after signing a coalition agreement in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe shake hands after signing a coalition agreement in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008.

Pro- and anti-coalition rallies planned across Canada

Updated Wed. Dec. 3 2008 3:59 PM ET

The Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Political battle lines drawn on Parliament Hill are being extended from coast to coast with several rallies planned Thursday in support of a new coalition government and counter demonstrations in defence of Stephen Harper's minority Conservatives set for the weekend.

The rallies come as the Liberals and New Democrats, with the backing of the Bloc Quebecois, threaten to topple the government as early as Monday.

The Canadian Labour Congress is organizing pro-coalition events for Thursday in several major cities, with the aim of expressing support for the coalition's stated goal of tackling the economic crisis.

"We were expecting (Harper) to step up to the plate, to act like a prime minister and take care of Canadians, and he hasn't done that," said regional director Kelly Hayes.

"They've had plenty of time... We've waited, we've watched, and they have failed us miserably."

Thursday events are planned for Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Ottawa, London, Ont., Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John's. Others will be held Friday in Yellowknife and on Saturday in Toronto and Montreal.

Governor General Michaelle Jean was expected back in Ottawa on Wednesday and it's widely expected she will be asked to prorogue Parliament.

If she agrees, the Commons session that began less than two weeks ago will come to an end, and a confidence vote scheduled for next Monday that could topple the Conservatives would be avoided.

Canadians opposed to the potential ouster of the Conservatives plan to make their voices heard as well.

The group Canadians For Democracy is organizing a noon-hour protest Saturday in Ottawa, among other cities, and is asking both the opposition and the Governor General to "respect the democratic franchise of Canadians."

"The will of the Canadian people was reflected on Oct. 14... and I want that to continue to be reflected," said organizer Stephen Taylor.

"In a time of economic crisis, we don't need a political crisis."

Taylor, a fellow at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Ottawa, would prefer another election to the proposed coalition.

"Not a single person voted for a coalition government," he said.

Other anti-coalition protests were scheduled for Saturday in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Kitchener, Ont., London, Ont., Montreal, and Halifax.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation encouraged its 60,000 members to contact the Governor General's office to demand she call an election if the government is defeated.

The Liberals and NDP have no mandate for a "grandiose stimulus package," especially after campaigning on balanced budget platforms just two months ago, the federation said in a release Wednesday.

The division of opinion among Canadians over the fate of the government is also evident on the Internet.

A Facebook group started last Friday by high school student Riley Whitelock, entitled "Canadians Against a Liberal/NDP Coalition Gov't," now boasts more than 55,000 members.

It urges Canadians to join in "demanding democracy be upheld," and calls the opposition's tactics a "desperate, blind grab at power."

"I'm completely shocked by the response," said Whitelock, 16, of Killarney, Man.

Whitelock takes issue with comments made during the election campaign by Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, in which he denied he'd form a coalition with the NDP because of their economic policies.

"They never told the Canadian people they intended to form a coalition," said Whitelock, who also favours a new election. "I think it's unethical, not unconstitutional, but unethical."

Several pro-coalition groups can also be found on the social networking site.

Anti-coalition protests planned for Saturday, meanwhile, have upset several women's groups.

Traditionally, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women is held Dec. 6, commemorating the anniversary of the killing of 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989.

That coincidental timing of the rallies is "appalling," said Jessica Notwell of the Canadian Women's CED Council.

"It's so important to recognize and respect (the day)," Notwell said from St. Catharines, Ont.

The Harper government has removed funding for the Status of Women Canada and scrapped a universal child care program, moves which makes rallies in support of them on Saturday all the more offensive, said Notwell.




 

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