For the second time in a month, Premier Dalton McGuinty managed to slip past protesters waiting for him at a Hamilton appearance.
More than 100 protesters were on hand for the premier’s visit Monday night to a Liberal fundraising dinner at Liuna Station, but they didn’t see him arrive.
The protesters were made up of members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), who are upset the government has frozen wages for two years, and Wind Concerns Ontario, who are upset at the proliferation of wind turbines across rural Ontario – including Haldimand and West Lincoln – without any study of health effects and community input.
The premier made an announcement in Hamilton earlier this month about a provincial government investment in a solar assembly plant and ducked locked-out steelworkers from U.S. Steel.
The premier did not take questions from local media last night, but had previously said his security staff had made the decision for him to avoid the steelworkers.
He, however, talked about the protesters before the 600 people at the well-heeled dinner and said their presence “speaks to a healthy democracy. I respect their commitment to their cause.”
Joe Mancinelli, vice-president of Liuna and local Liberal, also made a reference to the protesters. One of three co-chairs of the dinner, he extolled the party for spending $60 billion on infrastructure and creating 600,000 jobs.
“Those are the statistics I look at,” said Mancinelli. “Not polls … not placards and signs.”
Representatives from OPSEU and Wind Concerns Ontario vowed the premier and his party had not seen the last of them. An OPSEU worker, dressed up like a circus ringmaster, spun a roulette wheel, but all the prizes were corporate tax cuts.
“We’re having demonstrations at all their fundraising dinners, when we can find out where they are,” said Mike Grimaldi, vice-president of OPSEU region 2, which has 23,000 members between Tobermory and Niagara.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said 70 municipalities across Ontario have passed resolutions calling on the Liberal government to place a moratorium on the development of wind turbines.
“We’re not going away,” said Laforet. “The issue isn’t going away and we are going to fight him everyday until he is out of office. We’re going to make sure Dalton McGuinty gets used to us when he’s travelling the province.”
The fundraiser was one of a series of Trillium Dinners the party stages around Ontario. Tickets were $300 per person and Bobby Walman, president and chief fundraising officer of the Ontario Liberal Fund, said organizers sold about 650 tickets, meaning the dinner raised close to $200,000. In other years, the Hamilton dinner has raised between $120,000 and $180,000.
The party might have been trying out some of its campaign themes as it is the last Hamilton dinner before the Oct. 2011 election. Speakers such as Mancinelli, local cabinet minister Sophia Aggelonitis and MPP Ted McMeekin praised McGuinty’s leadership abilities.
“He can make tough decisions and he’s a great leader,” said Aggelonitis, the MPP for Hamilton Mountain.
McGuinty spoke about his government’s achievements, such as creating a green energy plan.
The dinner was attended by numerous cabinet ministers such as Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley and cabinet chair Gerry Phillips. Mayor Fred Eisenberger attended as did Mayor-elect Bob Bratina, plus St. Joseph’s Healthcare CEO Kevin Smith, Hamilton Health Sciences president Murray Martin and McMaster University’s new president Patrick Dean.
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