Thousands of protesters flooded the streets in Montreal and Quebec City Saturday to speak out against the government’s austerity agenda.
The protest was organized by the group Collectif Refusons L’austerité (“Collective Against Austerity”), which includes Quebec unions, students, and several civil society groups.
They were protesting the very austerity measures that are steamrolling over social programs stemming from the more European-style social-democratic “Quebec model.” The reforms are being enacted by Philippe Couillard's government. These include fee restructuring for the province's subsidized daycare program, and healthcare cuts, as well as tightening the belt on social services and education.
“I’m marching to protect our safety net in Quebec and to show solidarity against cuts in health care and daycare and education and pensions. We all have to realize that all of these things affect us as human beings as we go through our lives, and we need to show solidarity with each other,” Philippe Dugas, a municipal worker, told the Montreal Gazette, while pushing his toddler along in a stroller.
In Montreal, protesters departed Place du Canada early Saturday afternoon and marched along René-Levesque Blvd., la Montagne St. to Ste-Catherine St. and then east to the Place des Festivals at Jeanne Mance St. The protest in Quebec City began at the Plains of Abraham and headed to the National Assembly.
The Liberal government plans to axe CDN$4billion out of its government operations to balance Canada’s budget by 2015-16. Premier Philippe Couillard is backing the austerity measures as necessary in getting the country’s economy on track. But many experts in the field appear to disagree.
On February 14, 2014, about 70 leading economists in Canada signed a statement appearing in the Progressive Economic Forum, where they wrote “We believe that such austerity policy is terribly misguided. Not only are cuts in government spending completely inappropriate in the current context, but also the primary macroeconomic concern of the federal government ought to be the achievement of high levels of incomes and full employment for all Canadians, rather than the attainment of an elusive political target of budgetary balance that condemns the Canadian economy to remain stuck in a state of long-term stagnation.”