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At the Dion farm rally in Wallaceburg, Ontario

Ok… so I’m not liveblogging this event as I had planned. As Paddy Torsney found out, (more about her later), I’m Blackberry deficient – I typed a few keys off of her Blackberry that she kindly offered me, and I got frustrated (the weather wasn’t helping matters) so I wrote a few notes on paper (hopefully that doesn’t get my blogging license revoked) and a lot of this is from my memory and impressions of what went on.

A very wet rainy cold damp day here today as I mentioned earlier. The owners of the farm where the farm rally was held had a tent pavilion up, and it barely had enough room to let everyone crowd in under to listen to Stephane Dion and the other speakers speak to them. So, it was a good crowd despite the poor weather, and despite the event not being widely publicized in the local papers last week. I’d say there was probably 100-200 people attending the event.

The MC of the rally was Phillip Shaw, who is on the local radio down here and does podcasts of his shows and does a fair bit of writing and speaking which I found out when I briefly talked to him later after the event. He is a fierce advocate for farmers, (he’s one himself) and a fiery speaker and orator who got the crowd of farmers whipped up. He would make a good populist politician if he ran, in my opinion.

The area candidates were with Dion, as was Wayne Easter, agriculture critic for the Liberals, (who I got to talk to a bit afterwards at the local Tim Horton’s – I don’t know if PEI’ers classify themselves as part of the Maritime provinces or not, but suffice to say I certainly could tell he was from “down East”. A real down-to-earth guy.) He spoke to the crowd, as did Jeff Wesley, the local candidate who is running in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex again, and then it was Dion’s turn to speak.

With regards to Dion’s speech, I was actually not going to be surprised if the candidates and the Liberal leader got a bit of a rough ride – this is a riding that went Conservative after all, and is conservative by nature, and the farmers in the past have let the Liberals when in power know they weren’t always satisfied with some of their policies. At this event however, they were pretty respectful and even when some things where said that they didn’t agree with, there was no heckling – just a slight shake of the head and some comments to their neighbours. I think that reaction was not necessarily for what was said, but for their cynicism and disdain and mistrust with politicians in general. For the most part, however, I think people wanted to see what Dion was like and what Dion would say, and they were willing to give him a listen and consider what he proposed or promised; as I’ve said earlier, the Harper Conservatives have been seen around here by some of the farmer organizations and farmers as not exactly delivering what was promised when they were running.

A lot of their beef (pardon the pun) is with CAIS, or the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization Program, recently renamed AgriStability by the Federal Conservatives. Without getting into technical details, my impression was they believe its too complex, and doesn’t do the job in handing out payments promptly, and often what is handed out isn’t nearly enough for the farmers to get by on in the event of a crisis. They strongly believe it should be scrapped or modified or replaced with some type of supply risk management system, and it sounded to me from listening to some of them that they weren’t very happy with what Harper and Chuck Strahl had done for them (or not done for them) so far.

Dion’s speech on the whole went well; he seemed relaxed in the setting and got laughs from the crowd with some of his humour and jokes he made sprinkled throughout his speech, of which you can find some of what he said here. He made one statement in his speech that was pretty bold and made a bit of an impression. He said that he’s not going to make too many commitments now, because he wanted to be sure he could actually deliver what he promised, and that as a politician for 11 years, he has never broken a promise he made to someone while in government. The farmers, you can be sure, will remember that statement and hold him to anything that he makes as a campaign promise in the next election, but as this local media report initially suggests, I wasn’t the only one who thought he made a good impression; the farmers interviewed by the media seemed to be impressed and felt he was sincere with what he said.

Afterwards, he took 15 minutes of questions with the crowd, and then mingled with the farmers afterwards and took some one-on-one questions with a lot of the crowd – he probably spent a good 30 minutes listening to some of their concerns and what they had to say. Overall, it appeared to go over very well and I think people generally came away with a good impression of Dion, if what I was overhearing in the small chit-chat groups was any indication.

As for the political types, I’ve already mentioned I had a chit-chat with Wayne Easter. I got to meet Susan Whelan, former MP from Essex – daughter of Eugene -and running again against Jeff Watson, he of the infamous claim that implementing Kyoto would lead to an increase in domestic violence and suicides, and I got a ride to the event with Paddy Torsney, former MP of Burlington, running again in the next election against Mike Wallace (he who is most famous so far for leading a filibuster of the opposition parties trying to call witnesses over the Afghanistan detainees scandal) and she is currently the Deputy Principle Secretary in Dion’s office. I’ve chit-chatted with her since she joined up at Facebook at our “Elect Dr. Eric Hoskins campaign in Haldimand-Norfolk”, and we got to talking about blogging and such and how it can be used in politics, and when she found out I lived in this area, she mentioned she was coming down to the event and offered to meet me. We had a real good chit-chat, and I’d like to thank her for the ride and for offering the Blackberry to liveblog, even though I sucked at that. It’s the thought that counts. 😉

Anyhow, if this is the same reaction that Dion’s been getting at other stops in his Summer events, it would explain why his leadership ratings did that SES 29 point swing in Ontario I mentioned last week, where he now leads. If he can carry that over to other parts of the country when he meets with small groups of people, he’ll do just fine.

7 comments to At the Dion farm rally in Wallaceburg, Ontario

  • Allan

    As a follow up to Slg's comment:
    I grew up in Manitoba, went to univeristy in Toronto (Ryerson –  a lifetime ago), have lived and worked throughout western Canada (currently in Winnipeg, but spent the previous seven years living in Calgary – in the riding of Calgary Centre where, for the one and ONLY time ever I voted Conservative – for Joe Clark – in an attmept to defeat the Reform candidate…we did – the only riding in Calgary NOT to go reform that election).  But I digress…

    At Ryerson, in Winnipeg and in Calgary I met many Maritimers. They were (and remain, in my mind) the nicest, most down-to-earth, REAL and, friendly Canadians going. And in all  honesty The Nefoundlanders  win those categories hands down.

    Don't know if its the weather, water, or food – but whatever it is let's hope the Maritimers NEVER lose whatever it is that makes them top of the list Canadians. I've never been to the east coast, and have always regreted that. Maybe soon. I hear the Cabot Trail is something else.

    Oh yeah, screw Harper. 

  • slg

    Interesting about the funding.  I live in rural Ontario (east) and our local farmers have the same complaint – getting the promised funding.

    Harper may think the Easterners (Atlantic provinces) are losers, but I just love them – their so down home and folksy and real.  And, NOT stupid.  In fact they have the best universities according to stats and polls.

  • Nice breakdown Scott, even with the ridiculous SES number included 😉 

  • Lord Kitchener's Own

    "so I wrote a few notes on paper (hopefully that doesn’t get my blogging license revoked)"

    What is this thing you call "paper"?  And what does it mean that you "wrote" on it?

    It all sounds very twentieth century, but I can't fathom for the life of me what you're talking about!

    🙂

  • Islanders are most definitely Maritimers.

    Maritimes = NB, NS and PEI
    Atlantic Canada = those three and Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Scott
    Nice to meet you today. Keep up the blogging and make sure you listen to my podcasts!

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