Police keep protesters from disrupting Harper speech

Stephen Harper. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

Stephen Harper. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

MONTREAL - Scores of police and security guards, and very discreet travel plans, kept protesters from getting anywhere near Prime Minister Stephen Harper at an economic conference Monday.

Harper was a last-minute addition to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, where he delivered a brief speech to delegates before making a quick exit under the noses of anti-capitalist protesters outside.

A few dozen demonstrators showed up at the hotel Monday morning, but their numbers had dwindled by early afternoon.

Police officers outnumbered them by a wide margin and a police line prevented them from approaching the entrances to the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel.

That didn't stop hecklers from shouting at Quebec Premier Jean Charest as he entered the fortified hotel to spend part of the day meeting delegates.

Later in the day, Harper made no mention of the protest movement as he touted the role of Canada's stable banking system in helping the country weather the economic crisis.

He said the Canadian economy continued to create jobs even through the crisis despite fiscal belt-tightening, a message he plans to take to a G20 meeting in Mexico later this month.

"Economic growth and fiscal discipline are not mutually exclusive," Harper told several-hundred delegates.

"We (don't) desire to impose our views on the world," Harper continued. "But Canada can demonstrate, through our actions, a model that works."

Harper left as soon as he concluded his speech and took no questions from journalists.

His office had announced his itinerary with very little notice and protesters told journalists they weren't even aware he was inside the hotel.

Security was far tighter than last year's event at the same venue.

Every door to the massive downtown complex was manned by police officers and private security agents, and anyone who wanted to enter the convention floor was scanned with metal detectors.

Police and a large dog thoroughly examined all journalists' equipment prior to Harper's speech.

The anti-capitalist group CLAC planned to stage demonstrations throughout the week to coincide with the four-day economic forum.

Featured speakers include Charest, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

brian.daly@sunmedia.ca


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