Prime minister makes rare Cowichan stop

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a large crowd of party supporters and students at Brentwood College Tuesday afternoon. Harper’s visit to Cowichan was the first by a sitting prime minister in more than 60 years. - Andrew Leong
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a large crowd of party supporters and students at Brentwood College Tuesday afternoon. Harper’s visit to Cowichan was the first by a sitting prime minister in more than 60 years.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Stephen Harper seemed delighted to note he’s the first sitting prime minister to visit Cowichan in the past six decades.

He broke that streak with Tuesday’s address at Mill Bay’s Brentwood College School where students, staff, Conservative party faithful, and MPs welcomed Canada’s national leader.

Security by Mounties was tight as about 150 soggy folks outside college gates protested the Harper government’s drive to build the Enbridge pipeline though B.C.

Inside a crowded Crooks Hall, the relaxed leader touted his party’s record of keeping election promises, and passing economic and social-safety legislation. Harper also took shots at opposition NDP and Liberal parties.

“I don’t count legalization of marijuana as a serious economic policy,” he quipped.

Instead, the tie-less PM noted opposition members don’t talk much about their policies “because they’d scare people.”

Harper enjoyed warm applause by stating his majority government had passed 88 of 100 promises made in the 2011 election.

“Despite the opposition, we’ve delivered,” he said — on freedom of expression and speech legislation, immigration reforms, anti-terrorism, police behaviour reforms, female rights and clean water on Native reserves, a stronger criminal-justice system with more victims rights, lower taxes, more jobs, and Canada’s stronger world ranking.

“We’re right on track to deliver a balanced budget in 2015,” he said of the next election year. “Our plan is about growth, not grow-ops, “ he joked to a navy-blazer sea, including 140 Grade 12 pupils. Several students said they had been instructed not to talk to the press, but one male student said, “We have no political affiliations. This is a good opportunity for the prime minister to use our school for his functions.”

Duncan lawyer Glen Ridgway called Harper’s visit sensational.

“It’s the greatest thing since the federal government started sharing the gas tax with with regional districts and municipalities.”

But gas and oil projects could pollute B.C.’s coastline, said peaceful protestors waving banners and singing songs.

“We want to protect our ocean,” said Shelby McKinnon. “Harper won’t listen; he just needs to go.”

Rod Garbutt urged Harper to talk to the people.

“He stays behind his curtain of silence afraid to have dialogue about anything.”

Cowichan Tribes member Shawna Green agreed.

“Only the elite are listened to.”

The last visit from a sitting prime minister was when Louis St. Laurent visited the Cowichan Exhibition in 1952.

He was preceded by an August 1886 whistlestop in Alderlea (now Duncan) by Sir John A. Macdonald, who was travelling by train with B.C. coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.


Harper announces TC Trail completion funds

The Trans-Canada Trail through Cowichan walked away with federal cash Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the trail’s Kinsol Trestle span with wife Laureen, scouts and local stakeholders.

He pledged to complete the 24,000-kilometre trail by 2017 to toast Canada’s 150th birthday. The feds will toss $1 into the trail hat for every $2 raised by the Trans-Canada Trail Foundation.

“It’s a real passion of Laureen’s,” Harper said of his wife’s enjoyment of the walking and hiking outdoors.

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