OT Health bill protestors locked out

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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Health bill protestors locked out

By BOB WEBER -- The Canadian Press

EDMONTON -- The doors of the Alberta legislature were locked Tuesday night against its own citizens trying to get in to hear a debate about the government's private health legislation.

"I think it's bloody ridiculous," said Clara Marks. "They've never done this before."

Marks was clutching one of the 200 passes being given out by security guards to allow citizens into the public gallery. Normally, no such passes are required.

The Alberta government increasingly has come under fire for Bill 11, legislation which has the potential to change medicare and is being closely watched by other provinces and the federal government.

On Monday night, about 300 people had filled the legislature rotunda for a noisy but peaceful demonstration against the bill. The protesters promised they'd be back Tuesday.

And on the weekend, about 8,500 people gathered in rallies in Calgary and Edmonton to protest the legislation.

Ralph Klein's Conservative government says the bill is necessary to regulate private clinics in the province. But the bill's critics say it will open the door to two-tier private medicine.

On Tuesday, security guards said they were told at about 6:30 p.m. that the doors would be locked. Only those with passes were admitted, which the guards handed out to people lined up outside.

Security guards were posted at every door. A sign at the front entrance informed would-be attendees of the locked doors.

By 8 p.m., the public gallery was full and another 200 people had gathered on the legislature steps, singing, chanting and carrying signs.

One guard was slightly injured when a number of protesters tried to enter through an open ground-floor window.

At least two protesters who managed to get in were thrown out bodily by the guards.

"If we lived in a true democracy, we'd have a vote," said another protester, Merle Rusnick. "That's all we want. Accountability."

Health Minister Halvar Jonson, going in to the evening session, said he knew nothing of the decision to lock the doors.


-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), April 18, 2000

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