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B.C. is 'jewel of the Pacific,' PM says. Harper praises province's diversity at 150th celebration at legislature

Tom McMillan, Victoria Times Colonist Published: Monday, August 04, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Gordon helped celebrate B.C.'s 150th birthday yesterday, cutting birthday cake and praising the province's history, diversity and strong First Nations peoples.

Harper was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers from the large crowd as he called B.C. the "jewel of the Pacific."

"B.C. is today is more important to Canada than at any point in our history," he said. "Our Pacific gateway to the unbridled economic opportunities of the 21st century, Canada's future is inextricably linked to the future of B.C."

The legislature lawn was a sea of bikinis, short sleeves and hats as more than 2,000 braved the 23 C heat to fill the shade-less grounds. Children and seniors, tourists and locals watched the ceremonies, with some arriving at 9 a.m. to claim a seat.

Campbell began the ceremonies praising B.C.'s diversity and some of its most famous residents, including Rick Hansen and Terry Fox. He also noted the strong role played by B.C. First Nations and the many events hosted in B.C., such as the current North American Aboriginal Games and the upcoming 2010 Olympics.

"If B.C. was a country, it would have the highest life expectancy in the world," Campbell said, drawing cheers from the audience.

Introducing the prime minister, B.C.'s premier praised the federal government for its assistance in expanding Highway 1, improving Highway 97 and landing the 2010 Olympics. Ottawa also contributed $6.6 million to the B.C. 150 celebrations, which officials estimate cost more than $12 million.

In turn, Harper praised B.C.'s strong economy and multiculturalism. The province has become the third-largest province, boasting one the Canada's highest qualities of life and Vancouver, "one of the country's most cosmopolitan cities," he said.
{MalNote: GGGAAAKKKKK!!! Victoria is NICER!!}

"Her sweet siren song, the mixture of unrivaled beauty and the promise of a new and better life remains the same as on that auspicious day 150 years ago," Harper told the crowd, speaking both in French and English.

A small handful of protesters also attended the event, protesting everything from Canada's role in NATO to health care funding. Two young hecklers shouted at Harper and Campbell throughout the 45-minute presentation, calling both men "traitors."

Emily Dane, 21, said the crowd seemed largely pleased with the event, calling the Prime Minister's presence "an honour." However, she said the heckling angered the crowd around her, with many shouting at the protesters to "go home."

"The two guys were shouting about Canada-U.S. uniting currencies, which is ridiculous," Dane said. "This was a birthday party and everyone seemed quite upset they were ruining it."

The event ended with a flyover by the Snowbirds and an official birthday cake that was wheeled onto a stage on the steps of the B.C. legislature. Harper and Campbell cut the dessert, with the prime minister smiling as he took a bite of a strawberry.

The speeches kicked off a day-long party in Victoria, featuring free performances from Burton Cummings, Sarah McLachlan and Feist.

Victoria Times Colonist 2008