Pipeline protesters disappointed MLA a no-show for rally
About 130 protesters gathered at noon Wednesday on the sidewalk outside Ida Chong’s constituency office to voice their concern regarding the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects.
The rally was part of an ongoing series of protests co-ordinated by a group known as Defend Our Coast – the same group who organized the much larger protest on the grounds of the legislature on Monday.
While some protesters were affiliated with groups like the Dogwood Initiative and Victoria Paddlers Against Pipelines, most were simply concerned area residents.
The crowd was made up of seniors and children, and one placard waving mother came with an infant child strapped to her body in a carry harness.
Petitions were circulated and, at one point, protesters linked arms to demonstrate their solidarity.
But to the frustration of some protesters, one person who did not show up to the rally was Ida Chong, MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
Her staff cited previous cabinet business in Vancouver as the reason for her absence. Staff remained sequestered in their locked second floor offices at 3930 Shelbourne St.
Maureen Halstead-Rogoza, Chong’s constituency assistant had no comment other than to say that the protest was not planned to respect Chong’s previous schedule.
The situation was further aggravated when the Shelbourne Street building manager locked the front entrance of the two story office building and stood in the foyer preventing access by any protesters through the unlocked back entrance.
That move angered Ray Zimmerman, one of the area residents who had come out to make his voice heard.
“For her (Chong) to hide behind the fact that she’s on private property is disgusting,” said Zimmerman, who gained access to the building after entering with a television crew in tow.
“The leg building is closed, this office is closed ... and they’ve disappeared. It’s outrageous,” he said. “How can we express our concerns? It’s like we’re talking to ourselves.”
It was a sentiment shared by many of the demonstrators.
Emma Gilchrist held a sign that read “Dear Ida, Thank Christie (Clark) for the tough talk. Now it’s time for action.”
Gilchrist was also disappointed that Chong had failed to attend a protest for which she’d been given advance warning.
“It’s not like this is a surprise to her,” said Gilchrist. “You’d think she’d want to hear from her constituents.”
Andrew Weaver, Green Party candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said that Chong or a representative of her office should have come down to the protest.
“An MLA’s most important role is to listen to constituents,” he said. “This is about dialogue. It’s an example of how this government has lost touch with the people.”
Later, Chong said she felt the criticisms were unwarranted.
“I’ve believe I have been accessible,” she said. “I’ve responded to many letters and made my position clear. If there’s a problem (with access) I haven’t heard about it.”