The (Shakespeare) Festival in Stratford, Ontario will be the scene of a demonstration called by the Perth County Coalition Against Poverty. The demonstration is a direct challenge to the opening night gala of the Stratford Festival. The event is a black tie, limo arrangement and will certainly see the Ontario Lieutenant Governor and high ranking Government officials in attendance.
The protesters will be demanding a 40% increase to social assistance rates, a $10 minimum wage and an end to the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement from families on social assistance.
ED: Believe it or not I once attended this festival twenty plus years ago while on a road trip which took me through parts of Canada. I saw Macbeth. The only time in my life I've ever been to see Shakespeare. I was not rich and stayed overnight in a room I rented at a local hospital (that was kinda odd, I thought). I did sip wine during the intermission surrounded by folks dressed one hell of a lot fancier than I.
The following is from the London Free Press (Canada). The statement below that comes the Autonomy & Solidarity website.
Poverty protest targets Stratford
STRATFORD -- A coalition of anti-poverty groups is setting the stage for a large rally Monday at the splashy opening-night gala at the Stratford Festival.
Doug Trollope of the Perth County Coalition Against Poverty said his group will be joined by about 400 supporters from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Ontario Common Front and Ontario Needs a Raise Campaign for a protest at the renowned festival.
Protesters plan to gather on the field below the festival theatre, then march en masse to the theatre to shut it down for the evening, said Trollope.
"We have no intention of hurting the festival and I don't believe one night will hurt the festival," he said.
"This is just the beginning of a number of political targets around the province."
The protesters want social assistance rates increased and the minimum wage raised to $10.
Critics of the protest have noted the annual festival is a not-for-profit organization that provides about 1,000 jobs directly and 2,000 more indirectly.
Trollope said he wasn't concerned that hitting the festival could annoy locals and backfire.
"It doesn't matter where we hit for a target, we're going to step on somebody's toes and somebody will get upset," he said.
Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson said the city expects a peaceful and responsible protest.
Earlier this week, coalition members met with politicians from the federal, provincial and municipal governments to discuss their concerns.
Liberal MPP John Wilkinson agreed that social assistance and minimum wage rates are too low.
He said the province is looking at ways to raise social assistance and said the minimum wage is being increased every year until it "represents a reasonable standard of living."
OCAP: STRATFORD - WHY THE FESTIVAL IS BEING CHALLENGED
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), joined by poor
peoples' organizations from several other cities, will be coming to Stratford on May 29th. We will support a protest at the Festival
organized by the Perth County Coalition Against Poverty.
The decision to hold an action at the black tie opening night in
Stratford has created quite a stir. The local Beacon Herald newspaper
has run front page stories, indignant letters have been written (one
calling for a mobilization of the 'militia' to keep us out of town)
and even the Mayor of Stratford has felt called upon to enter the fray.
We'd like to make clear why we have chosen to support and
participate in this event. As fine as some of the theatrical
productions at the Festival may be, the season of plays in Stratford
is about corporate profits and is, moreover, a showpiece of lavish
consumption that the poor are shut out from. A few free tickets to
low income people and the chance for some seasonal jobs in the service
industry don't alter the basic nature of the Festival.
While affluent people come into Stratford for high class dining
and to stay in plush hotels, the poor must choose between paying their
rent and feeding their families. The present Ontario Government, that
promotes this Festival and whose members will attend it, has chosen to
allow welfare rates to fall, in real terms, to even lower levels than
during the years of the Mike Harris Tories. Poverty, misery and
shortened lives are the results of this for hundreds of thousands of
While wealthy theatre goers sit in the best seats and gather in
specially reserved lounges for cocktails, the poor of Stratford are
expected to suffer quietly on their sub poverty income. The homeless
will not be welcome in the parks where tourists gather. In Stratford,
and throughout Ontario, poverty is supposed to keep a low profile and
stay out of sight.
OCAP is determined that the poverty that Dalton McGuinty imposes
on us will not be invisible or silent. It will be loud and angry and
it will challenge the festivals and the cash registers of those who
profit at the expense of the poor. The Liberals cut the Special Diet
Supplement and robbed tens of thousands of the right to decent
nutrition. They then announced that 760,000 poor people, whose income
has fallen by more than 40% over the last decade, would receive a
wretched 2% increase in their social assistance payments. With this,
they effectively declared war on the poor and they can hardly be
surprised if the poor respond accordingly.
Let it be understood that people going hungry and facing
homelessness have no interest in suffering in silence. It will not be
business as usual, in Stratford or anywhere else in Ontario, as long
as the basic necessities of life remain unaffordable luxuries.
We will be at the opening night to challenge a festival of
injustice and inequality. Poverty will be at the centre of the stage
and the guests of honour in their limos will have to deal with the
poor and their justified anger. If that makes some uncomfortable, we
make no apologies. If we can't have our bread, you can't have your
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (416) 925-6939