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Hundreds brave cold to protest cuts outside United Conservative meeting


CALGARY — Hundreds braved the freezing cold in Calgary to protest government cuts outside the Alberta United Conservative Party's annual general meeting on Saturday.

The bundled-up demonstrators trudged in a circle in the snow around an airport hotel, while party members debated policy inside.

Organizer Adam Quraishi says he estimates close to 1,000 people showed up, while Calgary police put the number at 700.

He says many Albertans are angry because they feel they aren't being listened to.

Candie Olsen, who receives financial support through the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program, says she felt the need to speak out even though it was a tough trek for her to get to the event.

Under the UCP's budget last month, payments under the program are no longer indexed to inflation.

Olsen said she lives off $1,685 a month and can't work.

"It's freezing cold. It's a long walk for me. I can't walk that far," she said.

"But I can't just sit idly because there's other people on AISH that physically couldn't get here. I was able to get here, so I need to add my voice and say 'No, you can't do this. It isn't OK.'"

University of Calgary undergraduate student Jemie Field said she was there to speak out against faculty layoffs and tuition increases.

"Honestly I have no idea what my future looks like at this point," Field said. "Depending on what the next couple of years bring, I don't even know if I'll be able to finish my degree."

Alberta's nurses union said Friday the province plans to eliminate 500 positions over the next three years, which amounts to 750 nurses out of work when job-sharing is factored in.

Gil McGowan said it was the saddest day in his 14 years as president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Every community, every family in this province, whether they work in the public sector or not, will feel the negative impacts of these cuts."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2019.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press