Former Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee was the Slave Lake and area coordinator for an Alberta Wide Protest on Saturday, February 29.
Despite snow and wind, there was a good turnout, says Larivee. Some people from High Prairie, Faust, and other communities weren’t able to make it, but at the peak, there were around 40 people.
“We were all rallying around a whole range of issues,” Larivee says. “Stop the cuts” was the main message.
Larivee lives in Slave Lake, has nursed here for years, and is the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) first-vice-president.
This wasn’t just a UNA event. There were various union flags and signs held by people at the rally.
“It was a good mix of both public sector workers and local citizens,” says Larivee.
Education and healthcare cuts were two topics of conversation. AISH, which no longer increases each year, changes to seniors’ drug coverage, and the increases to home and auto insurance were also mentioned. Roads were another concern.
Public healthcare is under attack, Larivee says. All of the health unions including UNA and the doctors union Alberta Medical Association (AMA) are talking with each other about next steps.
One major health concern is the money the Alberta government plans to spend to privatize senior care and the impact this will have on Slave Lake and area seniors. Another is the new regulations for family physicians. These will likely make it harder for Slave Lake to keep doctors, says Larivee.
There are a few doctors still practicing under the old model, she says. (They are out of the Swan River Healthcare Centre). There’s been support for a second clinic in Slave Lake using this model. The government changes are the “death toll for the idea.”
Larivee: Alberta has the lowest taxes in Canada, if this was increased to the same level as the next lowest – Ontario – there would be enough money to pay for all of the public sector. The $4.5 billion corporate tax cuts the government made haven’t resulted in new jobs, she adds. It also hasn’t kept companies in Alberta, as some have taken the money and left.
The rally was in front of the provincial building in Slave Lake. This building also houses the Town of Slave Lake offices and library.
There’s no set plan for future rallies, but there is some preparation. For example, there was a paint-your-picket sign event for all of the unions in the area on March 9.