A group demonstration took to the streets Wednesday afternoon, marching through the downtown core of the city in protest against several of the provincial government’s budgetary decisions. The demonstration started at around 11:30am before proceeding to Ste. Catherine where it was joined by other groups.
Concerns of the demonstrators were diverse, but were largely focused on planned Hydro Quebec rate hikes. Other issues being represented included Plan Nord development, health contribution taxes and student tuition. “We’re a big coalition,” said a demonstrator. “We have some unions here, we have people that work with the sick, we have students, we have people on welfare and people who run shelters, we have environmentalists.”
By noon, the protest had grown to around seventy people and was led by vehicles playing music through speakers. Demonstrators chanted for Premier Pauline Marois to pay attention to their cause, accusing the PQ leader of disappointing her supporters. While the group was marching on the road, traffic on Ste. Catherine was not severely disrupted. Montreal police were also present, with three cars tailing the demonstration without incident. “We’re not concerned about them,” said the demonstrator, referring to the police. “We know they’re just doing their job, and we’re not doing anything wrong.”
Hydro Quebec rates were scheduled to increase by one cent per kilowatt hour in 2014 under the Liberal government. This was part of a plan to increase the cost of electricity from its “heritage pool,” a series of low-cost power generating stations in James Bay, over the next five years. The PQ allowed for a similar increase in their budget for 2013-2014, but replaced it with an indexing system that results in one third of the planned Liberal increase for the average family. This represents a hike of about $220 annually for the average house.
Some of the other causes mentioned were also related to the PQ’s 2013-2014 budget. Marois replaced the Liberal’s flat rate $200 health contribution with a scaled system based on brackets, but some protesters were concerned that there were too few brackets. Additionally, one student said she was unhappy with the PQ education minister rejecting the option of free tuition earlier this week in favour of indexing fees to the cost of living.
When asked whether he expected the government to respond, one man said, “they never listen to us right away, so we have to keep doing this. We’re going to keep doing this until they listen to us.”