Canadian first: Crowd wearing red cheers Conservative Prime Minister!
There was a big turnout on Parliament Hill today to show support for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan and around the world. I have no skill at estimating crowd sizes, but I'd say it was 'lots and lots'. The CBC instead claims 'thousands' were there, but I'll stand by my assessment.
The speeches were preceded my a march to the front by a collection of veterans. I can be pretty cynical at times, but seeing these old guys was very moving and reminded me of the tremendous sacrifices made by earlier generations. Not to take away anything from those serving in our current commitments, but the difficulties overcome by these men are almost unfathomable today.
The joke that titles this post was the Prime Minister's as he opened his speech. He made a good speech, and it's clear he's a true believer in our mission in Afghanistan. There was no waffling at all from him. He said, "Canadians do not start fights, but we finish them, and we don't leave until we are finished." He also had some words for the press, saying that journalists should not be afraid of defending the Canadian Military, and that the freedom of press they enjoy was created by the Armed Forces.
Steve Madely from CRFA was the MC, and he made sure he credited everyone who helped organize the rally. People clapped and cheered for each. But one of those introduced was an MP from the NDP (I can't remember his name) who was standing on the stage. I'm sure the press reports will say that the crowd booed when he was announced, but I wouldn't quite say that. There were boos mixed in there to be sure, and very little clapping, but it was more of a surprised and sustained hoot. It was a very strange sound that I've never heard before. In a moment or two though, the crowd game him some applause as well. The event was supposed to be non-political, but the guy with the SUPPORT SOLDIERS, NOT THE NDP sign probably didn't get the memo.
Hamid Karzai was in town, and there was an expectation that he might address the crowd. But it didn't happen, probably due to security concerns. The guy must live in a security bubble. But a representative from the Afghan-Canadian community gave a short speech to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for the work they're doing in Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan is shaping up to be a big issue for the next election. The Conservatives have chosen their ground and have given themselves no route to retreat. And I think it will work to their advantage because there's more support for continuing this mission than conventional wisdom suggests.