Tractors block traffic in Ottawa in coalition protest

Convoys of farm machinery slowed traffic into downtown Ottawa and in front of Parliament Hill during Monday's morning rush as part of a protest against the prospect of a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

Convoys of farm machinery slowed traffic into downtown Ottawa and in front of Parliament Hill during Monday's morning rush as part of a protest against the prospect of a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

Before Parliament was suspended by the Governor General last week, the Liberals and the NDP said Prime Minister Stephen Harper had lost the confidence of the House of Commons and proposed to form a coalition to replace his Conservative government .

As of 8:30 a.m. Monday, tractors were blocking a lane of traffic on Wellington Street between Metcalfe and O'Connor streets after trundling in from the city's east and west ends.

The event was organized by the Ontario Landowners Association, which represents farmers, business owners and other rural landowners.

Demonstrators were unswayed by frigid temperatures that made it hard to start their machines or by the fact that a coalition has no prospect of taking power for at least the next month and a half since Parliament has been suspended until Jan. 26.

Nevertheless, Jamie MacMaster, director of the landowners association and one of the protest organizers, was still concerned about the possibility of a coalition. Such a coalition, which was to be led by Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, would have to be backed by the Bloc Québécois, MacMaster said, which would make Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe the de facto leader of the coalition.

"Nobody that I know of in rural Ontario … voted for any kind of coalition," he said. "And I can take it a step further and say nobody certainly voted for a coalition that's going to have a separatist at the helm."

The Liberals and NDP have stressed that the Bloc would not be part of the ruling coalition but would simply provide support on some key votes.

MacMaster added that he thinks the suspension of Parliament was a waste of money.

Ian Cumming, a dairy farmer from Williamstown in Glengarry county who joined the protest, said he understands that the possibility of a coalition government "might have merit" legally but isn't appropriate for a time of crisis.

"So what's being done here is just foolish and childish and downright dangerous, actually," he said.

Last week, Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted Harper's request to suspend Parliament until the release of the federal budget at the end of January. The opposition will have no chance to bring down the current government until then.

In the meantime, the Liberals are expected to choose a new leader and the fate of the coalition is uncertain.