BARRHEAD- "Alberta Strong."
That is one of the chants Benita Pedersen encouraged the crowd of between 80 and 100 mostly unmasked people to recite repeatedly at the Feb. 18 Enough is Enough protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Barrhead.
The protest was the second in what she plans will be a series of protests in the region as the first was in Westlock on Feb. 11.
Pedersen, a Westlock business owner that specializes in DJ and karaoke events, said she created the chant to encourage people to send a strong message to both the provincial and federal governments that they are opposed to what they feel are "unreasonable" COVID-19 restrictions.
"We expect immediate change. We want the end to all lockdowns and we want to be open for business," she said.
In addition to Pedersen, the event featured five speakers mostly from Westlock, Calgary and Edmonton and included Will Dove, a Calgarian who created a website aiming to stop the lockdown and Larry Price, an 83-year-old Westlock man — two others did not give their last names.
The only Barrhead-area speaker was Floyd McKeever from Fort Assiniboine who spoke about the impact restrictions were having on his oilfield service business. He also told the crowd about the negative impact the visiting restrictions at seniors living facilities were having on his mother.
Although she admits that people are dying from COVID-19, Pedersen noted the death rate is less than one per cent and the province's statistics show that the virus isn't as "scary" as they are making it out to be.
To emphasize her point she used statistics of the number of Albertans from various age groups who have died because of the virus starting with those under 20.
"(In Alberta as of Feb. 6) zero people died and yet they want your children to go to school and wear masks and social distance because they are afraid of some germ sharing," she said.
Pedersen then went on to say that the only age category with any significant deaths due to COVID-19 was the 80 plus category at more than 1,100.
"And the government will make it sound like a big deal, but the last I checked, people over 80 die," she said, noting her father died at 83.
She added that all the people she has talked to that are under 70 and do not have any underlying health conditions are not concerned about the virus.
"They think Alberta should open up for business as usual," Pedersen said.
She also encouraged people to sign petitions online and hard copy petitions urging the province and the federal government to relax COVID-19 restrictions. She noted that the hard copy petition going to the federal government was especially important.
"For every 25 signatures we collect our MP Arnold Viersen will get to speak for 25 seconds in the House of Commons," Pedersen said. "That is another way to get our voices heard."
She also urged people to campaign for the release of Grace Life Church pastor James Coates who’s been charged with two counts of contravention of the Public Health Act and failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking.
Pedersen also voiced her displeasure about premier Jason Kenney clamping down on dissenting UCP MLAs during a Family Day meeting. The meeting (which has not been confirmed) was reported in Rick Bell's Feb. 17 column.
"I implore you to get a hold of your courage and be the voice of change. Write to your MLAs. There is a reason Jason Kenney is feeling frightened right now. If you don't believe it look at the comments on every one of his tone-deaf Facebook Live posts to see how out of touch he is," she said.
Pedersen ended the protest by urging everyone to defy provincial COVID restrictions.
"Open your businesses, go to work, visit with your families and friends, play sports, sing, dance, workout at the gym and go bowling," she said. "You've got permission from me you don't need Jason Kenney ... I encourage you to push back."