June 24th, 2024

Protesters call for change at anti-UCP demonstration

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on May 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

Armed with signs depicting the premier as ‘Pinocchio’, the government fostering hatred and destabilizing democracy, hundreds of people gathered on the steps of City Hall Saturday afternoon to protest the United Conservative Party.
This rally was part of a larger organized demonstration taking place in eight communities across the province. Common complaints included LGBT treatment, education, healthcare, pension concerns and government overreach.
“I think it’s incumbent about any responsible citizen to hold their government accountable,” said Kevin McBeath, a teacher and former NDP candidate. “I think this is a great time, after a year of the UCP, to let everybody know that things are not going well.”
The protest had speakers including former Lethbridge mayor David Carpenter and Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips. There were also songs performed by the “Raging Grannies” and speeches by other individuals.
One of the Raging Grannies, Barb Phillips, who is also the mother of the MLA, accused the UCP of damaging democracy in Alberta.
“We are, like many Albertans, protesting enough is enough with the current UCP government,” said Phillips. “The policies we’ve seen in the past year are not taking us in direction of democracy, which we have voted for.”
She singled out Danielle Smith as “eating away our democracy”, rather than having the interests of the people.
“Because they have a majority, (any bill the UCP wants) will become law, and it affects, in Lethbridge, our water, our coal mining, our healthcare system, our CPP… and enough is enough.”
Rob Miyashiro, another former NDP candidate, as well as a former city councillor, says the protest is about vocalizing concerns and informing the government of discontent.
“That’s what this is about… why these things they are doing are detrimental to us and to Albertans,” said Miyashiro.
He also accused the government of intentionally swamping the Legislature so lawmakers would not be able to effectively vet all bills.
“We had over 20 bills introduced in this session, that’s a lot for one session,” said Miyashiro. “Are we going to have 80 bills by the end of this government?”
He says he wants to see the government focus on what is important, rather than introducing “things that don’t need to be changed or worked on.”
“Focus on what’s best for Albertans, don’t focus on your ideological crap.”
He, like Shannon Phillips also made comments about the police presence at the protest, calling it unnecessary.
However, LPS sergeant Ryan Darroch, in charge of the public order unit, says the police presence was no larger than normal.
“Our public order unit responds to all permanent and non-permanent events, like this,” said Darroch. “It doesn’t matter what the cause is.”
Furthermore, he says the police are there to keep the protesters safe.
“Sometimes there can be a counterprotest that shows up… some of those have gotten a little difficult, so we just want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Darroch.
During the event, officers stood on the outskirts and did not interfere with the protest in any way. On the other side, the protest remained peaceful throughout the afternoon.
Even if it was peaceful, frustration certainly flowed through the veins of many in attendance.
One man, Avin Gokarn, had a sign listing off over a dozen complaints he has with the UCP government. One such issue he brought up was the UCP’s stance on safe injection sites.
“What (the UCP has) done hasn’t worked because we’ve had the highest level of opioid deaths that we’ve ever had and will they change tack? I doubt it,” said Gokarn. “They don’t like to change tack; they don’t like to admit that they’re wrong.”
He says even if the UCP changes its stances on pretty much every concern he has, it will not be enough to change his vote in the future.
“It’s a long list of things to admit you’re wrong about, so would it change my mind? No.”
Gokarn does say he would “love to see that level of humility” from the UCP, but he does not expect to.
“I don’t think I’m going to, even in a small measure, but certainly not on a level that would change my vote.”
The Lethbridge Herald reached out to the office of Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf and the UCP for a statement, but no response was received by deadline.

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