Albertans First speak out against perceived slights by NDP government

Bernard “the Roughneck” Hancock joined hundreds of anti-NDP protesters at an Albertans First rally at the provincial Legislature in Edmonton, demonstrating against the provincial government’s proposed carbon tax, deficit budgeting, and farm labour legislation.

Hancock has become known as “Bernard the Roughneck” after an interview with The Rebel that went viral on YouTube. The original video, in which he discusses his support of the oil and gas industry, has received over a half million hits, and has sparked numerous follow-up interviews.

At the Mar. 8 rally in Edmonton, which started at noon ­– three hours before the government set out its agenda for the coming months in the Throne Speech ­– Hancock stressed the importance of participating in protests and demonstrations because they allow citizens’ voices to be heard.

He said he believes the NDP’s decision under Premier Rachel Notley to expand the government during a recession is not a smart move, and that they should be held accountable for their mistake.

Albertans First leader George Clark gets anti-NDP-government protesters pumped up as he leads chants at a Legislature grounds rally in Edmonton. Photo by Michaela Binda“The Carbon Tax that Miss Notley proposes to implement is a tax on everything,” Hancock said. “It’s been calculated that for the average family of four, that it’s more than 1000 extra dollars a year that they’re paying in taxes. In a time of economic downturn we can’t have that.”

Hancock said there are many people in Alberta’s small towns who are poor enough that they struggle to feed their children. He said those people, faced with another $1,000 annual bill for a carbon tax, would be seriously hurt.

His remarks echoed the opinions of many others at the rally.

Dressed in cowboy hats, boots, or oil patch coats, the anti-NDP crowd, mostly farmers and other rural Albertans, cheered and chanted while the sound of cowbells rang out across the Legislature grounds.

The rally was led by Albertans First, a grassroots organization spearheaded by self-described, passionate Albertan George Clark.

The organization has worked towards collecting signatures on petitions opposing the NDP’s proposed carbon tax and Bill 6, legislation putting farm labour in Alberta under provincial labour standards and worker compensation rules.

Children hold up the number 164, 683 at a Legislature-grounds rally against the Notley government to show the number of signatures Albertans First says it has gathered on anti-government petitions. Photo by Stephanie BabychAlbertans First’s goal is to gather enough signatures to push the government into holding plebiscites for both pieces of legislation. Clark said at the rally he believes the government should hold plebiscites because of the clear opposition through the rally and over 160,000 signatures on petitions the organization says it has gathered. A recurring theme during Clark’s speech was what he described as love for Alberta, something he said the NDP is lacking.

“We gather today because of love,” Clark yelled through his megaphone.

“There are people here today, people that come up to us to sign and apologize for doing what they’ve done (voting NDP). And I tell them, you did what all the rest of Alberta did. You voted, not out of love, but because of anger and hatred which will always give you exactly what you don’t want.”

The crowd responded to Clark’s words with loud chants of “Rachel Notley has to go,” and “Kill Bill 6.” The crowd’s favourite song, “Naughty Notley”, sung to the tune of the children’s song “Old McDonald,” rang out as farmers placed their cowboy hats on backwards to mimic Notley’s infamous “hat error” at The Calgary Stampede. Signs reading “Stand up for Alberta” and “You can’t fix stupid but you can vote it out” were hoisted proudly into the crisp winter air.

Clark said he was motivated to lead Albertans First because during the last period of his mother’s life, she told him to use his voice. Clark said he has been using his voice to lead Albertans who disagree with the NDP’s legislation and budgeting. He said his goal is for Albertans to “have participatory democracy restored,” and he hoped the rally grabbed the New Democrats’ attention.

Emotional Albertans come from all across the province to protest at the Legislature grounds in Edmonton against the Notley government’s proposed carbon taxation, farm labour legislation, and budget deficits. Photo by Stephanie BabychAs his speech came to a close, Clark asked his audience, “What do we want to end with?” Crowd members yelled out the word “Love.” Clark shouted through the megaphone, “Love Alberta enough to stand up.”

Lifelong Nanton, AB farmer Leanne Habraken said she was at the rally because she believes the NDP government is not listening or being representative, and are just forging ahead with an ideology.

“Bill 6 has already impacted our life,” Habraken said in a brief interview during the rally. “We’ve had to consider letting go our employees, seeing if we can do more ourselves, which puts us more in danger.”

Shelly Burnstad, a hobby farmer from Big Valley, AB, said that Notley is “not listening to what the people of the province are saying. We don’t want a Bill 6, we don’t want a carbon tax, we do want jobs.”

Alice Sinclair was at the rally with a sign reading, “No to wind power. Save our birds and bats.”

“I don’t like the way Notley has treated the farmers,” Sinclair said, “and I don’t agree with the way that she is running the province.”

Adrian Gerritsen, a machinist from Edmonton, said he was at the rally “to crush the NDP.”

Gerritsen held up a sign that read “Orange is the new broke.” Orange is the NDP party’s colour.

Charlene Stevens showed up at the rally from Edson, AB, to “support Alberta in a good way.” She said if there was something demonstrated through the rally, it was that Albertans want to be heard.

An anti-NDP protester holds a bright sign high above the heads of fellow protesters at the Legislature grounds in Edmonton. Photo by Stephanie Babych“Notley has been placed in a position of power over this province,” Stevens said. “The people need to know they have a voice, and that she has a listening ear.”

John Kress, a mixed farmer from Vauxhall, AB, said he believes Bill 6 is being used to “make examples out of Alberta,” and that the proposed carbon tax is a “hidden PST.”

Despite the cold weather, the large crowd that was gathered in front of the steps of the Legislature building was highly energized, and demonstrators expressed a general consensus that things need to change in the province, and that if the government won’t “stand up” for the province, Albertans themselves will.

“We’re coming here to have our voice heard but we don’t feel that the NDP really cares what we think,” Roughneck Hancock said. “They have an agenda and they have four years to do it, and they’re going to do it. It’s unfortunate because we’re going to be dealing with the after-effects for years to come.”

mbinda@cjournal.ca 

sbabych@cjournal.ca

Thumbnail photo by Michaela Binda

The editor responsible for this article is Jodi Brak, jbrak@cjournal.ca