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Canada Should 'Feel The Bern' Too

02/22/2016 11:02 EST | Updated 02/22/2017 05:12 EST
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., center, acknowledges the cheering crowd after a rally Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Henderson, Nev. The Democratic presidential candidate has preferred rabble-rousing to the schmoozing required to get bills passed. So it’s not surprising that his 25-year congressional career is defined by what he’s opposed _ big banks, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, tax cuts for the wealthy _ rather than what he’s accomplished. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

On Saturday October 4th 2015, the Liberals had a rally at the Powerade Center in Brampton Ontario. The website for the arena talks about over 5,000 Canadians filling the arena -- the largest political rally since 1980.

The logistics that went into making that happen in the Greater Toronto Area was extensive. Mass emails were sent weeks in advance, chartered buses were rented and riding associations were brought in from all over the area as far away as Hamilton. That temperate October day was still T-Shirt weather. The efforts of the October 4th rally were well rewarded and the commercial that just said "ready" was a major factor of the Liberals sweeping victory. Now I want to tell you about real change.

On February 15, 2016, I went to a Bernie Sanders rally in Ypsilanti, Michigan. There was 48 hours' notice that it would be held in the 9,500 seat arena in the Eastern Michigan University campus. Living in Windsor it was roughly a 45-minute drive from Detroit. The traffic coming into the arena was discouraging, bumper to bumper, and there was not enough parking. Police had to direct traffic onto grassy fields. I dropped my friends off and they were able to get inside relatively quick, I, however, was not as fortunate. The line I faced was daunting, winding around the football stadium at least a mile long. I stood there in -4 Celsius weather like everyone else. It took an hour and a half to get through security; TSA agents from the airport came in for overtime.

Once inside, I could tell for every middle aged and older voter there were five younger people. When I was in line I overheard many of them saying it was the first time they had ever done anything political. This is the new 1963 and I truly believe that the counter revolution at its height of 1968 is yet to come. These young people are learning how to speak up and rally, it was fascinating to see them absorb what was happening. My friends that were already inside informed me that the section of the arena directly behind Bernie filled up first, naturally, and the amazing part of it was that you could see that you could not have placed it better if you tried. All parties at all political events make sure there is a kaleidoscope of ethnicities directly behind the stage, painstakingly placed for the best effect. In Ypsilanti, I saw, a group of like-minded people looking for change that represented all walks of life converged in one area, staffers played no role in this.

I can't vote for Bernie but his message resonated and I truly consider it an honour to have heard him speak in person.

The crowd was raucous and a wonderful woman kicked off the rally by officially endorsing the candidate on behalf of the 11,000 nurses in Michigan. Then she introduced the man everyone came to see, chants of Bernie echoed, the rafters buckled from the noise, and the deafening cries were not for a team that just won a championship but for a 74-year-old man preaching change. He looked flummoxed by all the attention, blushing when the thousands began to stomp their feet and call out his name so fervently.

He motioned for all to calm down and then did something that I never thought would work on young kids. In an age of attention spans that last no more than ten minutes, 22-minute sitcoms are finding it difficult to hold the attention span of today's youth. Bernie lectured for over an hour. It was like attending a class and hearing a professor orate the assigned readings.

Bernie kept their attention; phones were not used for looking at Facebook, they were cameras and video recorders. It was fascinating to watch. Being so involved in the Canadian election any party would have sold their souls for this kind of turn out, and Bernie just talked about corrupt Wall Street, inequality, and promised change. He is a hero to so many, and even if he does not get the nomination he has begun to make others advocate for what is right. He has done what so many other politicians have failed to do, get the attention of the young voter.

It took me over an hour to get out of that campus, but it was worth it. I can't vote for Bernie but his message resonated and I truly consider it an honour to have heard him speak in person. The differences between the Liberal rally and Bernie's could not be further apart. A holistic coming together of over 10, 000 people from all walks of life with two days' notice in -4 degree weather on a work day. There was no food, we got there at noon and did not leave until four. I was starving. There was no swag or vendors selling buttons or trying to make money. There were only people asking you to sign petitions. There were about 10,000 people there ready to listen about a future to believe in. Ypsilanti has a population of 19,000 compared to Brampton's half a million. Metro Detroit has a population under four million, while the Greater Toronto Area's population is over six million.

Yet, two days before in Nevada Bernie attracted 13,000 supporters. He is doing this everywhere he goes, more than doubling the Liberal rally on a daily basis. None of his opponents for both parties are even coming close. I thought this was amazing that so many would spend their Family Day to come see Bernie, and then I realized that Family Day was an Ontario holiday and that it was Presidents' Day in America seemed fitting. Many of these kids took an afternoon of their long weekend to attend a rally, eschewing stereotypes and getting involved in their future. Most importantly of all the major difference between the two rallies lies in the quality of the leader.

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