Pancakes and protests: Politicians met with conflict at several Calgary Stampede breakfasts

Politicians were flipping flapjacks with pride and promising better days ahead as the Calgary Stampede marks Canada’s first major event to fully open up with nearly zero restrictions.

A series of pancake breakfasts on Saturday morning saw thousands gather for the traditional celebration in what Premier Jason Kenney hopes to be a symbol of Alberta’s path to fully reopening.

“I'm glad people are embracing Alberta being open for summer and I believe with the vaccines we're open for good,” Kenney said.

“It's just a great feeling to get back in touch with friends, family and community.”

Although, not everyone is embracing a sense of togetherness.

Several protesters taunted Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro outside of a breakfast at Calgary’s Trico Centre.

Many of them held up signs in frustration of COVID-19 restrictions that halted surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others said their rights were taken away during Alberta’s lockdown.

As the pair flipped pancakes, members from the protest group taunted them and shouted protests.

Politicians like Shandro say those comments have been all too familiar over the course of the last couple of years, but he hopes tensions will calm as Alberta continues to reopen.

“I think COVID has, on both sides of the political spectrum, made a lot of folks anxious and I think we're going to see as we continue to go throughout the reopening of the province, going into recovery moving from pandemic that anxiety will calm down,” Shandro said.

When Kenney was asked about his response to the protesters he said, “they should switch to decaf.”

“It's a democracy, people are free to share their views but these are the same people that attacked Minister Shandro's young children last week.”

'RAGING GRANNIES' FIGHT FOR NURSES AND END TO COAL MINING

While thousands of people enjoyed the taste of buttermilk pancakes and sausages, several protesters gathered outside of a pancake breakfast at Marlborough Mall Saturday morning for a peaceful demonstration.

A non-partisan group called the ‘Calgary Raging Grannies’ sang songs and held signs in protest of pay cuts to Alberta health-care workers.

“It’s despicable,” said group organizer, Rebecca Brown.

“They were heroes a little while ago and suddenly it’s a three per cent payback and a five per cent cut to their benefits and retroactive so they want us to pay it back too?”

Brown adds that several doctors, nurses, and frontline health-care workers have had cancelled vacations, been exposed to outbreaks and lost sick pay.

“A lot of nurses work part-time so the politicians go off with saying they’re earning all this money, but a lot of them are not so a cut in their pay could mean a serious deficit,” she said.

Meanwhile, other protesters fought against coal mining and for the protection of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Benita Estes drove in from High River, Alta. Saturday morning for the protest to send a message to federal and provincial politicians attending the breakfast.

“We still have a huge fight on our hands,” Estes said.

“For the people that live in southern Alberta, they’re going to ruin our water and this is our agricultural lands, something that we rely on for irrigation. People come from all around the world to see these mountains, they're not going to want to see a bunch of coal dusted lands.”

O'TOOLE: 'I WILL HAVE THEIR BACK'

Federal Opposition Leader, Erin O’Toole arrived in Calgary to attend the Stampede Breakfast at Marlborough Mall Saturday morning where he was greeted by several people wishing to take photos with him and share their thoughts on Conservative policies.

O’Toole spoke briefly to the crowd and, upon leaving the event, shared a brief comment with CTV News as a potential federal election looms for Canadians this fall.

“This is the greatest outdoor show on Earth and it's so good to see this province and the country reopening,” O’Toole said.

“I'm really proud of what Albertans have done for this country over the last generation, and will have their back, so it's great to be here.”