Word quickly spread Friday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was staying on an entire floor, approximately 30 rooms, of the Westin Trillium House at the Village at Blue Mountain. His son, Ben, is playing in the Ontario Winter Games, which brings the Harper family to the Collingwood area. The townspeople’s initial general reception to him and his excessive entourage of security occupying a floor of the Westin was unwelcoming. The story had it that he left Friday morning after the opening ceremonies on Thursday night.
His son played volleyball on Friday morning at the local public high school. It was a normal weekday for the students, except their gymnasiums were being used by the Ontario Winter Games, with security in suits preventing student interaction. It would have been a perfect opportunity to have a school assembly for the Prime Minister to address the students with his son at his side and some of the 2000+ athletes standing behind them.
The story of Stephen Harper leaving was true, however it would have been around seven in the morning on Friday for a three hour commute, on some of Ontario’s worst roads for winter driving, venturing through a wickedly-wild winter spell that hit the Collingwood region Friday through to the afternoon. While investigating Stephen Harper’s departure to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, information was received about how he is keeping his visit discreet at the Westin from even the hotel staff, and that his security agents in suits were still roaming the Westin. Later information trickled in that he was back having dinner at Boston Pizza in Collingwood that night.
Saturday morning a group of people with some from as far as Caledon, Ontario, gathered in the Village at Blue Mountain to protest Stephen Harper’s extravagant vacation and other issues the PM is under fire for such as the robocalls. Morgan Ian Adams, managing editor of Collingwood newspaper The Enterprise-Bulletin, was also there to note and follow the quickly assembled protest. Under the assumption that there would be no interaction with the Prime Minister himself at the Westin or Village, and with wind of him attending his son’s games hosted at the local Catholic high school, the majority of the group wanted to seek interaction with the Prime Minister.
Following the group into the doors leading to the gymnasium we were stopped when the head of security for the Winter Games requested to see the signs before entering the venue. Jim Bertram, an independent security and investigations professional hired to head security, explained it is for the integrity of the players to not allow the protest inside. Ian Adams immediately briefly rejoined the group outside to take a photograph. At that time the Prime Minister wasn’t there, however his wife was seen exiting the venue, and his security agents were on us outside.
An audio clip of protesters:
At first the agents just came out and stood there in their suits with their ear pieces. After one of the protesters asked if they are the Prime Minister’s security, they disbursed staying within sight with more arriving. After a short while Sgt. Rob Graham of the Collingwood OPP paid a short friendly welcome indicating the condition of staying out of the way. The Sargent returned to record the signs on a hunch everyone at the detachment will want to know what they said; small town excitement. Upon a joke of a protester’s previous comment of placing the Prime Minister under citizen’s arrest, the local Sargent had a chuckle while begging the group not to because he is “off the road” in a couple of weeks and retiring in a few months.
At one point the security in the suits changed into civilian clothing, but they all had their lapel pins on.
The protest group stayed at the Catholic high school Winter Games venue until the winter wind blew them for a coffee warm-up, followed with a short protest at the intersection of Highway 26 and Hume Street outside Simcoe–Grey Conservative Member of Parliament Dr. Kellie Leitch’s office before calling it a day.
Ian Adams reported on his twitter of Stephen Harper’s post-protester arrival for the early afternoon game.
Aside from the protesters, reports kept coming in and people were becoming more annoyed with Harper’s presence.
Simcoe–Grey is an interesting riding to itself. Helena Guergis, the last Member of Parliament was kicked out of the Conservative Party of Canada by Stephen Harper for very harsh allegations. From the Mega Quarry to healthcare, almost everyone has some bone to pick with Stephen Harper over something.
Some people are so disgusted by Stephen Harper that they became upset. People expressed they don’t think very highly of him. A local chef said he wouldn’t want to cook dinner for him. One of Stephen Harper’s voters via Leitch expressed his disappointment in Harper’s handling of internal governmental affairs.
One person reported that upon casually entering Boston Pizza he was ordered to remove his hands from his pockets by security in suits. He had no knowledge the Prime Minister was present at the time.
Instead of a Prime Ministerial visit positively boosting Stephen Harper’s image, it is doing the opposite for the constituents in a Conservative riding. Maybe he expects protest wherever he goes, which could explain the secrecy of his visit and keeping inside his shell. More and more rallies for causes turn into protests against Stephen Harper, at home and abroad. However, where is the grandeur of being Prime Minister? Should he not be the one hitting the streets? He had a chance to win over students at the public high school, and other area schools and colleges. He could have won some support from businesses, just by visiting. Not everyone will agree with him on everything, but he could at least try to salvage his image instead of letting it run stale.
This vacation has been expensive, and damaged the Prime Minister’s public relations. If he were to reduce the amount of vehicles in their fleet by carpooling in their large SUVs and vans, and bring only a few guards to reduce on boarding, not only could they cut on cost, but also emissions. Then the PMO can spin it to make him the next lowercase letter “g” green Prime Minister.
As for Ben, his Region 6 team is doing well and has only lost once as of yet; the early afternoon game, but it was close: 25-23, 25-23.