Citizens take to streets to protest

Citizens and union members carry signs during a Peace River protest Feb. 29 against the provincial budget. Above, they gather outside Peace River MLA Dan Williams’ office. Photo is courtesy of Robin Barnes.

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

A wave of protests against the provincial budget swept as far as Peace River and Slave Lake on Feb. 29.

Protests were held in major centres like Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton, as well as in many smaller rural communities.

About 30 people from different unions as well as a few supportive citizens walked through downtown Peace River and to MLA Dan Williams’ office, where the group stopped to take photos.

“We were very happy on a very cold miserable day that many people came out,” says protest organizer Wanda Laurin.

Laurin says she thinks Albertans are in for “three dark years.”

“One thing we can do they cannot control is form community,” Laurin says. “This is forming community, staying together as a community, and looking after each other.”

Unions including the Alberta Teacher’s Union, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, and the United Nurses of Alberta, were all represented at the protest.

“All unions are involved because all Albertans are being hurt,” says Sarah Craigen, a nurse for 32 years.

She adds nurses like her also worry about their children and grandchildren’s educations, and in return teachers worry about being able to access healthcare.

Craigen says there is already a nursing shortage, and she is worried how funding that doesn’t keep up to Alberta’s growing population will affect the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and anyone else in the rural Peace region who will need healthcare.

“It’s not a problem of spending, it’s a problem of revenue, but the revenue has been purposefully not collected in a misguided effort to keep big businesses in the province,” she says.

Danielle Larivee, former cabinet minister and MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, and current First vice president of the United Nurses of Alberta, was at the protest.

“We came together despite the snow and wind because we wanted the government to know that we are standing up for our friends and neighbours and asking them to stop the cuts: Stop the cuts to education, to healthcare, to seniors, to AISH. We came together in the blowing snow to tell Pat Rehn and [Premier] Jason Kenney that we stand with our doctors, teachers and their students, and healthcare workers and their patients,” Larivee says.

“It’s time to stop the attacks on the services our communities rely on, and to start investing back in Albertans and their families. And we will keep on saying that in the months to come until they show they have listened!” she adds.

According to Calgary columnist Rick Bell, Kenney says no matter how many people protest, “We’re not going to blink.”

Kenney says his government is not trying to cut pay for public sector workers, but wants a wage freeze, and is trying to make healthcare more efficient while cutting wait times for surgeries.

More protests are being planned in coming weeks.

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