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Angry farmers storm the city

Rural residents disrupt streets to highlight many problems
Graham Hughes and Kelly Roesler
The Ottawa Citizen                                                                                             Friday, April 09, 2004

  (Rural landowners brought their farm vehicles to Parliament Hill yesterday in a convoy of about 95 slow-moving vehicles and tractors that travelled on the right lane between the Carp exit of Highway 417 and Metcalfe Street). They also brought livestock, including a cow and a horse.
 CREDIT: Rod MacIvor, The Ottawa Citizen

Rural landowners brought their farm vehicles to Parliament Hill yesterday in a convoy of about 95 slow-moving vehicles and tractors that travelled on the right lane between the Carp exit of Highway 417 and Metcalfe Street. They also brought livestock, including a cow and a horse.
CREDIT: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Rural landowners brought their farm vehicles to Parliament Hill yesterday in a convoy of about 95 slow-moving vehicles and tractors that travelled on the right lane between the Carp exit of Highway 417 and Metcalfe Street. They also brought livestock, including a cow and (a horse).
CREDIT: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

   Tractors, transport trucks and farm vehicles stormed city streets early yesterday morning as rural residents protested what they called invasion and interference by the government.
   The "Rural Revolution" was spearheaded by the Lanark Landowners Association, but involved other rural community groups and businesses.
   The OPP reported about 95 slow-moving vehicles and tractors travelling in the right lane between the Carp exit of Highway 417 and Metcalfe Street. The tractors tied up traffic for an hour and a half in the morning and again in the afternoon.
   For the farmers, the issues range from closing the U.S. border to Canadian beef to the "Bambi" sympathies that mean many city residents are more concerned about deer than the crops and livelihoods they damage. The protest included a mock cattle auction held to illustrate the anger and frustration of rural residents.
   Clint Ross, 24, drove a tractor downtown from the Carp-area dairy farm where he works out of concern for the future of farming.
   "It just seems like we're not getting much support, financially or politically," he said. "It seems like we're always getting the short end of the stick."
   The farm has 35 or 40 cows, as well as crops, such as wheat and soybean. One of Mr. Ross's main concerns is that the wildlife in the area tends to ravage the crops.
   "We're not trying to eradicate them by any means," he said.
   But Mr. Ross said that the growing urban presence in the area is making the problem more difficult to control.
   "We're in the greater Ottawa area now," he said. "And there's the gun registry."
   The demonstration began in the Carp area, moved onto the Queensway and cruised through downtown, destined for Parliament Hill.
   Queensway ramps were blocked off by police as the tractors made their way through, but were re-opened as the vehicles passed.
   Intersections of city streets were also blocked off by police.
   Residents stared in awe at the tractors, many bearing signs that read "This land is our land" and "Back off government," rolled through the streets at about 10 km/h.
   Other signs mounted on the tractors read "Canadian farmers are on the extinction list -- does anyone care?" and "Eat today? Plan on eating tomorrow -- support your farmers."
   One passerby became extremely agitated and approached a police car demanding to know how long the vehicles would be passing through.
   He soon stormed away from the police car, muttering "This is unbelievable, just unbelievable."
   The protest was designed to disrupt the city, and illustrate the problems that threaten the economy and lifestyle of rural residents, the Lanark Landowners' Association said.
   However, when the protesters arrived at Parliament Hill, they found the gates chained and locked.
   They soon began to tie three effigies to the gates with red tape. The dummies wore signs with the names of politicians, including Prime Minister Paul Martin, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky.
   Lanark-Carleton MP Scott Reid and Cheryl Gallant, MP for Renfrew-Nippissing-Pembroke, were among the main speakers at the protest, along with Randy Hillier, president of the Lanark Landowners Association.
   The crowd was surprised when Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, arrived for an impromptu speech.
   "While cities may be the engines of modern economy, it is rural Canada that produces the fuel," he said.
   "We've got to get rural Canada back on its feet," he said, to which the crowd cheered loudly.
Meanwhile, across the street from the gates lay several piles of dirt, complete with white signs that served as "headstones" with fake crosses. Each epitaph was to represent the issues with which rural residents are grappling.
One of the epitaphs read Here Lie Family Farms-strangled by government regulation nutrient management.
   Another read Canada's Property Rights-last known whereabouts: Communist China.
The dramatic display included a mock criminal court proceeding where three rural residents told their personal

stories of how the government had invaded and threatened their livelihood.
   Ron Armstrong told the crowd of the sawmill he ran in the Lanark Highlands, that he owned for 28 years.
   His entire life savings were put into the mill, including his retirement fund, he said.
   Last August, he received a visit from the Ministry of Environment, who inspected his entire property.
   After taking several photos of the property, he was told that he would have to completely clean and remove the sawdust, an undertaking that could cost from $50,000 to $100,000.
   "I thought I was finished," he said. The ministry told him he would be paid a followup visit within six weeks. He hasn't heard back yet, and is terrified, he said.
   "I feel like a condemned man on Death Row, wondering when the axe is going to fall."
   Soon after, the three dummies were "sentenced to death" and hung by makeshift nooses.
   Mr. Ross said he considers himself part of the new generation of farmers. Recent issues cause him to wonder about what the future holds for the rural community.
   He brought his boss' eight-year-old son along for the tractor ride.
   "He wants to be a farmer too, so I thought this was important for him," he said.
 The Ottawa Citizen 2004

The Ottawa Sun Farmers right on: Harper  

Tory boss vows to 'get rural Canada back on its feet'

By SEAN McKIBBON, Ottawa Sun                                                                      April 9, 2004

   FARMERS AND rural residents who gathered yesterday to voice fury at laws they say will drive them out of business found a friendly shoulder to cry on in Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. As cows munched languidly on hay in the shadow of Parliament Hill, a convoy of tractors rolled along Wellington St., the final stretch of a protest parade that snarled morning traffic on the Queensway.
   For the protesters it was a chance to turn the tables on a larger urban population they say has more votes and more leverage with elected officials. For Harper it was a chance to do a little pre-election campaigning.
   "There are more than just cities in this country," he said, taking a shot at Prime Minister Paul Martin's promise of a new deal for urban centres.


   Harper's promise to "get rural Canada back on its feet," was met with applause from a crowd which believes regulations such as the Species at Risk Act place an unfair burden on farmers. Many said they felt the government was apathetic to rural concerns.
   "I want to go into farming," said Rosalyn Grusnick, 15, who runs a small 15-head cow and calf farm in Richmond with her mother and brother. "But there doesn't seem like there's much to look forward to."
   Grusnick said the closing of the U.S. border after the BSE crisis resulted in a dramatic drop in the prices for her animals and the feds hadn't done enough to re-establish trade.
   Randy Hillier, president of the Lanark Landowners Association, and the organizer of yesterday's protest, said the demonstration wasn't aimed at any particular party. But it was clear with many of the protesters pushing for the enshrinement of property rights in the Constitution, an end to the federal gun registry and elimination of bureaucratic red tape, Harper had found fertile political soil.
   "Generally, the Liberal Party doesn't have much support in rural Canada," Harper said. "Most of their rural seats are in Ontario and they won those on a split vote -- we're hoping to change that."
   Hillier said federal and provincial ministers were invited but none showed up.

Ottawa Sun


More on the day's events, and related news and events:

Rural Revolution website:  Rural Revolt on Parliament Hill - April 8, 2004

Website for the Rural Revolution's sponsor organization: Lanark Landowners Association

Other related events: Rural Revolution steamrolls across EO - AgriNews - March/04