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Protesters express anger at provincial government at 'Enough is Enough UCP' protest

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Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday to express their discontent with Premier Danielle Smith and the UCP government.

The demonstration was one of many in the province, with attendees representing a wide variety of issues including the LGBTQ2S+ community, education, health care, seniors and Albertans with disabilities.

"I think the message that people want to send is that enough is enough when it comes to attacks on our public institutions on health care, education and even just quite frankly our democratic processes," said Bradley Lafortune, executive director of public interest Alberta.

At the rally, demonstrators from different groups shared their concerns with several pieces of legislation the UCP government has introduced.

Those included Bill 22 – firing Alberta's election commissioner in 2017 amid an investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race – and the recently tabled Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, which would give the province more power to strike down municipal bylaws, remove elected municipal officials and change how local elections are run.

"We need to address the demise of democracy in this province," said Peter Ganter, who travelled from Carrot Creek for the event. "The trend that the UCP is setting is disturbing and it will be very difficult to claw back what they're doing."

Other bills cited as problematic and move toward an "authoritarian government" were The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which critics believe was intended to limit protest activity and "silence dissent," and The Provincial Priorities Act, which gives the province more authority to veto deals between the federal government and municipalities or post-secondary institutions.

"The UCP is a different kind of conservative government, they're beginning to display characteristics of an authoritarian government quite frankly, when it comes to democratic processes and respect for their institutions," Lafortune said.

Protesters also spoke out against the Alberta pension plan, pronoun policies and policies aimed at limiting trans health care for youth. While others say they came to defend health care and ask the province to do more to support seniors and Alberatans with disabilities.

"We want to see Danielle Smith leave office, she's not helping health care at all," said nurse and AUPE member Danielle Tang. "We're working short-staffed all the time."

Timoteo Calisto works in seniors' health care, he said short staffing is keeping patients from getting the amount of care they need and deserve.

"We're tired," he said. "We need to make changes."

Christopher Mitchell, from the online advocacy group Alberta Disabilities and Seniors, said his community is feeling "stress and anxiety" over the stability of benefits under the current government.

The province's recent flip-flop on cutting funding for low-income transit passes, he said, is an example of a move making some feel afraid for future cuts.

"The distrust with the UCP right now – I can't trust them as far as I can throw them. I can't, and nobody can," Mitchell said.

Rallies also took place in Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie, Sylvan Lake and Vermillion.

“We always support Albertans’ right to protest peacefully and lawfully," UCP Chief Government Whip Shane Getson said Saturday.

Getson said anyone with concerns about policy is also "free to reach out" to any MLA through their constituency office. 

"Recent polls show, however, that Albertans largely support our government’s efforts to grow the economy, balance the budget, create jobs, attract investment, keep life affordable, and fix the health care system for all.

"We’re staying focused on moving the province forward.”

 

On Monday, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said, "Everybody has a right to protest. We support that right for people to peacefully protest...congratulations to everybody that came out and said what they wanted to say."

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