"The government should realize if agriculture 
goes down, the whole country goes down."

 
The Ottawa Sun Farmers fired up for rally  
 

Protesters burn tobacco bale, blast Grits  

By MEGAN GILLIS, Ottawa Sun                                                        Tue, May 17, 2005
 

HUNDREDS of farmers boarded tractors to take their anti-government and anti-Liberal message to Parliament Hill yesterday.

They hanged Prime Minister Paul Martin and Premier Dalton McGuinty in effigy and scuffled with police, who couldn't stop them from torching a bale of Ontario-grown tobacco.

"We stay right here," Alfred farmer Joseph Haefele said while he was eye to eye with an RCMP officer during a brief shoving match in which tempers flared along with the tobacco.

Haefele raises chickens and cash crops but got out of beef after losing $130,000 last year. He fears there will be nothing to pass on to his three children.

"There is real frustration here," Haefele said. "We work our butts off and we have a hard time to make a living on the farm. The government should realize if agriculture goes down, the whole country goes down."

'NO FARMS, NO FOOD'

Farmers hung signs from the tractors that jammed Wellington St. "We feed you, why do you starve us?" said one. "No farms, no food, no future," said another.

Organizers from the Lanark Landowners Association handed out signs reading "This land is our land -- back off government" and "Honesty is not in the Liberal platform."

 
 
"People who ride buses should not be governing people who ride tractors," said Bob McKinley of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton. "They're completely unwilling to listen or pay attention to the fact that we have rights. The longer they fail to listen, the more militant the response will be."

 
 

President Randy Hillier said that as an election looms, it's time for farmers to force urban politicians to commit to fixing rural ills.

Hillier wouldn't say why he called farmers to Parliament Hill yesterday on two days' notice.

"We have a culture of corruption on Parliament Hill, we have a culture of whining and deceit at Queen's Park," he said. "We have liars and cheaters running our country. Rural Ontario has been silent. We've allowed them to destroy our livelihood.

"We found support from all parties -- except the Liberals."

INCREASED REGULATION

Farmers complained about low prices, competition from subsidized foreign producers and governments that offer nothing but increasing regulation.

The landowners association's demands range from enshrining property rights in the constitution to scrapping provincial regulations on how to handle manure.

Rural Ottawans are joining the revolution. They'll take their tractors to City Hall June 8 to protest new ward boundaries that they say will reduce the rural voice.

"People who ride buses should not be governing people who ride tractors," said Bob McKinley of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton. "They're completely unwilling to listen or pay attention to the fact that we have rights. The longer they fail to listen, the more militant the response will be."

megan.gillis@ott.sunpub.com


 

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