Flaherty: Occupy movement has little to protest in Canada
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is defending Ottawa's record on banking regulations and economic equality, as Occupy protesters in Toronto plan a "large impact" event for the coming week.
Flaherty said the situation is much different here than it is south of the border, thanks to what he described as a "very progressive tax system," a "generous social system" and strong regulations in the banking sector.
"It's not a situation where, as some Americans can say, that they suffered financially as a result of the misbehaviour of their banks and the use of tax dollars to assist their banks," Flaherty said Sunday on CTV's Question Period.
"That isn't true in Canada. In fact, just the opposite. The government on behalf of the people of Canada strongly regulated and supervised our banks and we still do, in order to avoid that kind of situation."
Flaherty was speaking from Paris, where he was attending a meeting of G20 finance ministers. Officials at the meeting spoke "informally" about what the protests are about and who is participating, he said.
"It looks like it started off as some people concerned about large income going to some Wall Street people," he said, as well as a "large youth unemployment in the United States, which is accurate and one can have some understating of that."
But since the protests began a month ago, Flaherty said they appear to have grown to include "people with various grievances."
The demonstrations originated in New York and became known as the Occupy Wall Street movement, which counts corporate greed and growing social inequality among its chief complaints.
The demonstrations have spread to a number of cities across the United States and to many other countries, including Canada.
While the demonstrations have generally been peaceful, riots erupted Saturday during a march in Rome, which drew tens of thousands of people. The city's mayor said Sunday that rioters caused $1.4 million in damage, as cleanup crews worked to clear away charred vehicles and broken glass.
‘Large impact' event
In Toronto, Occupy Canada protesters spent Day 2 of their demonstration planning a "large impact" event for the coming week.
Many braved crisp autumn weather to camp overnight in parks in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Estimated crowds of 2,000 took to the streets in Toronto and Vancouver, while 1,000 participated in a similar gathering in Montreal.
Niko Salassidis, who spent the night in Toronto's St. James Park with other protesters, said the focus of the Sunday decision making session would concentrate on plans for a demonstration set to take place when the financial district opens Monday.
"Today's going to be a major day for planning a large impact for Monday as a demonstration for (when) the stock exchange opens," said Niko Salassidis, a 20-year-old who set up the Occupy Toronto Facebook group.
"We plan to make a very large statement."
Salassidis also said protesters and city police have had no conflicts so far.
The demands being voiced under the umbrella of the Occupy Canada movement are numerous. While many have been calling for a stronger economy and more jobs, there have also been demands for stronger environmental standards, less privatization of health care and opposition against local projects.
"People are looking for discussion. There has been a lot said about do we have a goal or a single specific message, but what is far more important than trying to get a single message heard by the government or the world is that we are listening to each other and talking with each other," Ann Grace Hurd, one of the dozens of protestors who spent overnight in a Toronto park, told CP24.
"There are a lot of people who realized that there is stuff that is wrong in our world and we are here to take responsibility for our part of it and talk about what we can do locally and globally to make things better."
The scale and intensity of the protests in Canada, however, paled in comparison with the ones held in Europe Saturday. Thousands turned out in some European cities and violence broke out in Rome, where protesters smashed shop windows and torched a car.
Meanwhile police said 70 people were arrested in New York City during Saturday's demonstrations and 175 were arrested in Chicago.
With files from The Canadian Press