Alberta’s public sector needs to band together and fight the government’s budget restraint.
That was the message conveyed during a march and rally held Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.
“If we value Alberta, we value what we stand for, then we need to fight for it, ladies and gentlemen, and we need to do it together,” said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
“We need your voice in every town and every city across this province to stand united.”
A representative of the Edmonton Police Service estimated the crowd at between 13,000 and 14,000.
Organized by the ATA’s Edmonton public and Catholic locals, the demonstration began with a march to the legislature from the Shaw Convention Centre, where the Greater Edmonton Teachers’ Convention took place earlier in the day.
The event followed the government’s announcement of a budget that requires school boards to dip into their reserves, includes a six per cent cut to post-secondary funding and increases health spending by 0.3 per cent, which critics say is far short of the 2.9 per cent required to keep up with inflation and population growth.
Teachers were joined by others in the public sector, including nurses, social workers, post-secondary students and artists. The various speakers were routinely interrupted by boisterous cheering and chants.
Among the chants heard during the event were: “Shame on you! Shame on you!”, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! UCP has got to go!” and “The people, united, will never be divided!”
Many signs were also in full display, bearing messages such as “Stop the Cuts,” “Hands off our pensions” and “Straight Outta Patience.”
Addressing the crowd, former ATA president Larry Booi emphasized the need for a concerted resistance effort.
“Fighting back makes a difference!” he shouted, adding, “it’s going to take more than speeches and rallies.”