One day after Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand tabled the 2010 budget, some 12,000 people gathered at Square Phillips in Montreal to show their opposition to the budget. At least 40 buses from all over Quebec, some from as far away as Gaspé, arrived at the square. This impressive show of strength, happened just two weeks after the massive 75,000 Common Front demonstration, is a sign of the militant mood amongst Quebec workers against the bosses’ planned cuts and attacks.
The backdrop for the march was a sunny April Fools’ Day, but the Quebec government is not fooling anyone with its budget. Youth, workers, seniors, and families, thousands of them, poured onto the streets with indignation over the coming budget. If it passes, it will mean an increase in the sales tax, the fuel tax, electricity rates, and tuition fees. However, what comes as a real blow is the health care “contribution” provision whereby every Quebecker will have to pay an annual fee of $25 this year, $100 next year, and $200 in 2012. “Every adult benefits from the health system, perhaps every adult should pay for the health system. Nothing is free,” said Bachand, seemingly forgetting about the free corporate tax break and bailouts that his government has been giving.
On the same day, just a few blocks away from the demonstration, Raymond Bachand spoke before the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, eliciting a very different response whereby he was applauded upon his budget presentation by the bosses of Montreal. The President of the Chamber, Michel Leblanc, called the budget “responsible”.
The people just outside the comfortable conference room of the Chamber of Commerce surely have a different idea about the budget. A young mother, Lucie Charest from Longeuil, marched with her three children of 3 months, 3 years, and 6 years. “It is for them that I am here, as a young mother. In 20 years, I want them to have the means to study at university.” Emile Ouellet, who was also there, said, “We have to take the money from somewhere, but we’re not taking it from the (right) place. Rich people have more money, so you had better take it from the rich.”
Facing this mass opposition, the Quebec government is unapologetic about their budget. Let it be known that the masses will also be unapologetic to the government should it try to force them to pay for the crisis. A showdown is imminent and the Quebec working class cannot lose this fight.