More than 850 Conservative supporters showed up to the prime minister’s invitation-only appearance at the Dynamic Windows and Doors factory in west Abbotsford’s warehouse on the evening of Sept. 2 — the party’s largest rally on the campaign trail so far.
The venue was a fit for a Stephen Harper rally, as it reflected many of the major issues used to frame the Conservative campaign: value-added manufacturing, sustainable economic growth, and aid to refugees.
Harper gave a long speech focusing on his party’s plans for the economy and Canada’s military involvement abroad. Dynamic Windows and Doors received a federal grant of $900,000 this July to build and market ultra-energy-efficient windows, modeled on a design developed in Germany. At the event, Abbotsford MP Ed Fast highlighted how the company’s products add value to Canadian lumber while promoting environmental sustainability — exemplifying the sort of business he’d like to see grow Canada’s economy. The company also employs nearly 100 refugees from Iraq and Syria, which gave a jumping-off point to discuss refugee policy and Canada’s involvement abroad against ISIL.
“On October 19, Canadians will make a choice,” said the Conservative leader. “It is a real choice about the direction of this country; it’s a choice with profound implications for our economy, for our security and for our families.”
Canada’s economy officially entered a recession as of this month, according to Statistics Canada, which has become a major point of discussion for all parties’ campaigns.
In Abbotsford, Harper didn’t use the word recession, and instead focused on the signs of growth for the economy in June, including a 0.5 per cent uptick in the GDP. His repeated pledges for a “low-tax” economic plan were met with hearty applause, as were promises of tough sentences for violent criminals.
When he told the assembled crowd about his party’s commitment to maintaining the state of Israel, supporters rose in a standing ovation.
Joining him was a large contingent of candidates and MPs from throughout the Fraser Valley and the eastern Lower Mainland, including Fast and new Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Valley candidate Brad Vis. Both said the event’s record turnout was heartening, though not surprising given the region’s long-standing status as a Conservative stronghold.
“I’m very pleased to be able to host such a large rally for the prime minister here in Abbotsford,” said Fast.
“As you know, we have a very strong Conservative family within our community…we’re going to do everything we can to re-elect a member of parliament for the Conservative government in this election, and also help the ridings around here, within the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.”
A small group of protesters had gathered outside the venue, but were not allowed inside.