Hundreds protest Bill 1 in Calgary, Edmonton
CALGARY -- Hundreds gathered in Calgary and Edmonton to protest the provincial government and a controversial new piece of legislation Saturday.
Chants of “Kill Bill 1!” rang out outside of Calgary’s City Hall and the Legislature in Edmonton as Albertans spoke out about a new bill they believe could make it more difficult to protest.
They’re worried about Bill 1: a piece of legislation passed through the United Conservative Party government in mid-June.
“A lot of people are quite worried,” organizer Adam Quraishi said. “When you have the entire system of democracy being torn apart, where do you go from there? A protest is a starting point.”
About 200 Calgarians held signs and chanted for part of the afternoon.
The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act implements tougher punishments on protesters who set up blockades along or near "essential infrastructure”.
It allows the UCP government to levy heavy fines and possibly imprison anyone unlawfully interfering with things like pipelines, highways, utilities and oil and gas production facilities.
It was tabled following a series of rail blockade protests in support of the Wetʼsuwetʼen hereditary chiefs in British Columbia and their opposition to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project.
But since being announced in February, it’s been a lightning rod for controversy.
“Bill 1 is against democracy,” NDP MLA Joe Ceci said from Calgary City Hall Saturday. “It tries to silence dissent in our province.”
It’s not just opposition party members who oppose the bill. Both the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) and Alberta Federation of Labour have spoken out against the passed legislation, the latter’s president calling it “undemocratic” at the protest in Edmonton on Saturday.
“Albertans have to read the fine print of this legislation,” Gil McGowan said. “(The provincial government) has defined almost every public space that you can think of as critical infrastructure for the purpose of this act.”
McGowan believes it’s a way for the UCP to quiet opposing viewpoints.
AUPE has asked the courts to throw out the legislation altogether.
But the province argues the bill is needed, saying it will keep Alberta’s projects moving without interference.
In a statement, the premier's press secretary Christine Myatt points to “a number of public gatherings on public spaces since Bill 1 passed, showing...concerns are unfounded.”