Hundreds protest budget cuts outside premier's dinner

By Chris Vandenbreekel/CKOM News Staff
April 28, 2017 - 6:59am

Hundreds of people gathered at the entrance of Prairieland Park Thursday evening to protest Premier Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party's budget.

Demonstrators from different unions and community groups blocked the entrance to the parking lot, backing up traffic on Ruth Street all the way to Lorne Avenue at some points.

They waved signs in front of windshields, booing and yelling at the drivers who were attending the Premier's fundraising dinner.

"They're people of very few words. They put their heads down and won't look at you," said Dave Cunningham, who walked up to driver's side windows to engage with attendees.

"Man up with what's going on in our province."

Several of the drivers attempted to force their way through the crowd, with angry yelling matches breaking out after protesters were bumped by the cars.

One incident saw two protesters laid on the hood of a car that wouldn't stop, riding for 20 feet before the car stopped and they got off.

Organizers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees warned both drivers and demonstrators not to make contact with each other to avoid legal trouble.

That didn't stop Bob Stadnichuk from slapping bumper magnets reading "keep liquor public" on dozens of vehicles.

"Hopefully they'll see it and it'll be a nice memento to put in their treasure chest," he said.

Stadnichuk said he's been speaking out against liquor store privatization for two years, and now he's speaking out against Bill 40 which would allow for the sale of 49 per cent of each crown corporation.

"We told people this is what was going to end up happening," he said. "Now they'll go after SaskTel and SaskPower."

"Now we're out here to make sure this government does not do anymore of these cuts."

Signs held by demonstrators addressed several issues including education cuts, the sale of crown corporations, the Global Transportation Hub scandal and health care funding.

But the most common sign slogan was "break the Wall."

The protest began shortly before 5 p.m., with police not arriving on-scene to direct traffic until 6:15 p.m.

They asked demonstrators to get off the road and stay on the sidewalks, but many still tried to block vehicles and hold signs up to drivers.

No arrests were made.

Officers four-strong watched the perimeter of vehicles entering the parking lot, asking protesters politely to move aside. Demonstrators were largely respectful of the orders, choosing instead to yell "shame" at the drivers.

WALL RESPONDS

Premier Brad Wall briefly referenced the protest during his speech at the dinner, noting his wife "made it through the demonstration."

After his speech, he addressed the issue to reporters.

"I said before the budget was introduced that this would not be a popular budget," he said. "We know people are upset. Obviously they're going to express that dissent as they did today."

He said the protests should be encouraged in a free society.

"They're part of politics, and they should be."

 

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