Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 New Year’s Day Poor People’s Levee Tour a Success

2011 New Year’s Day Poor People’s Levee Tour a Success
            Another grey and chilly New Year’s Day morning but the ever enthusiastic regulars from year’s gone by were going to ensure the newcomers would enjoy this remarkable journey.  We were about to embark on the 14th annual Poor People’s Levee Tour in Victoria.  And this year has a special remembrance attached. 
            Every year we start at City Hall in Victoria BC at 9:00 AM New Year’s Day.  Most Victorians are sleeping off the celebrations but we’re up to meet the Mayor and City Councilors in the Council chamber.  We’re among about 200 other citizens and we’re making the best of it.  Coffee, sandwiches, tea, fruit, muffins and scones help to get the day started right for low income folk who’ve slept on the street or in shelters.  About 45 have informally signed up for the tour, sponsored by CAW Local 114 and other unions, by accepting a custom designed ID badge and song lyrics.  “Song lyrics,” you ask?  Yes, if the prosperous residents in attendance haven’t figured us out be our style of dress they’ll guess it by the song.  This year’s chosen musical treat is “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum”, not to be confused with that which KD Laing offered at last year’s Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver.
            So we travelled from Victoria to Government House to meet the Lieutenant Governor and his wife, thence to the Oak Bay levee and finally to Esquimalt Municipal Hall.  The long lineup at Government House, the official residence of the Royals when they show up in the Capital, was rewarded with a spectacular view from the balcony over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, plenty of coffee, tea and sweets but also a delightful vegetarian soup.  People may wonder why food is so important to the tour.  Well, along with the political statement about poverty not taking a day off and homelessness one must remember that soup kitchens are closed on holidays.  For our travelers this may well be the only chance to eat on New Year’s Day.  What may be on the menu is critical to choices of the tour’s destination. 
            The levees are public events and some of our riders on the bus have been back several times.  In fact the 2011 tour is dedicated to Steven Stewart who died in December but was on every tour since 1998.
            Thanks again to Local 114 for its generous support of this event. 

Art Farquharson, Tour Organizer 
Member CAW Local 114

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