There was an enthusiastic group of protestors waiting for Doug Ford on Friday night, as the head of the self-styled Government For the People was in town for a scrumptious and (apparently) secluded spaghetti dinner in Nepean. Several groups gathered at the Walter Baker Sports Centre to rally against cuts to education and autism funding, hoping to make their voice heard to the provincial government.
However, Ford and several of the area’s MPPs, including Lisa MacLeod, Jeremy Roberts, and Goldie Ghamari ducked in a back door, away from any of the protestors, into a spaghetti dinner that was closed to the media.
As protests go, it was a well-attended one, especially given the rather cold temperatures. (Despite the apparent arrival of spring in recent weeks, there was blowing snow on Friday evening.)
As early as 4:30, protestors had lined the streets hoping to get a chance to voice their concerns to Premier Ford. Initially, they had split into two camps: one group, composed primarily of teachers and parents, set up camp along the road, while another composed of students and left-wing activists were stationed at the front of the door.
Vincent Cama, who was in that second camp, discussed his motivations for attending the protest.
“First and foremost, to get the cuts rolled back,” he said. “Personally, myself, I want to work for something more.”
He was there to advocate for students who are affected by Ford’s changes to post-secondary education funding. “I’m a student here who's going to be affected by this stuff,” he said. “It’s personally harmful to me and a lot of other students. I know a lot of other people who’ve had to change programs or drop out of school because they can’t afford it. Is it just going to be education for rich people?”
For all the noise that protestors were making — chants of “no cuts to education!” and “hey, ho, Doug Ford has got to go!” were sustained for around two hours — none of it was able to be directed at any government officials, who did not make themselves available to residents or media. (This reporter attempted to negotiate access to the spaghetti dinner, but was told that if there were questions to be asked, they should have been asked at a media event earlier in the day when Ford was announcing funding for LRT Phase 2.)
Cama said that with this government in power, there will be more opportunities to protest and to build a broader coalition. “I feel more engaged and motivated to come out here and do stuff,” he said. “Things are getting pretty real right now. Not only here, but all over the globe."
While protestors seemed dismayed by Ford's non-appearance, it was not entirely unpredicted: in the lead-up to the dinner, many of the protestors assumed that he would sneak in a back door rather than the front door. This did not seem to dampen their enthusiasm. For many, a show of support was enough.
“There’s not going to be any shortage of opportunities with this government, for a few years at least,” Cama said. “He’s going to keep doing stuff that’s going to p—s people off! And I would hope that everyone who is affected by this would be able to come together.”