Hundreds walk in Montreal austerity protest

MONTREAL – They walked by the hundreds: students, teachers, healthcare workers, even politicians.

“What they are saying to the government is stop lying about balancing the budget, there are other means of balancing the budget,” said Québec Solidaire deputy Amir Khadir.

Saturday afternoon, protesters gathered in Jarry Park to make their message heard: no to austerity, yes to social justice.

The march was organized by the Coalition opposed to the tarification and privatization of public services, an umbrella group made up of hundreds of community organizations.

“Once again, we are in the street to tell the government that we are strongly opposed to its austerity policies,” said Dominique Daigneault, spokesperson for the Coalition. “The government has to stop those cuts.”

The event was one of many demonstrations held by public sector workers and their supporters this Fall.

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“This is one of the major rallies with a number of different groups,” said Sarah Waurchen, a continuing education worker at Dawson College. “It’s not just the Cegep profs, not just the CPE’s. It’s everyone who has a stake in trying to fight against austerity.”

She said that as a continuing education teacher, she has no job security, no benefits, no paid prep time and half the salary of those who teach during the daytime.

“Education is worth investing in,” she added. “If we are going to move into an information economy, we need to make sure that our children are educated.”

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Protesters walked from Jarry Park, through Park Extension to the Town of Mount-Royal, a route organizers say demonstrates the social inequity in this city.

“When the government says that we don’t have any money to invest into those public services and social programs, we say it’s a lie because there is money,” said Daigneault. “There is money in the pockets of the big enterprises, there is money in the tax havens.”

“It’s awful to see how the government is using the money for a lot of other things instead of the kids,” said day care  worker Rachel Marquis, adding that cuts to funding have been detrimental to her day-to-day activities. “We have to cut regarding the food, regarding the formation we have with the kids. And now we are losing some parents because some parents, who have more money, cannot come anymore with us.”

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Protesters are hoping things are about to change, as negotiations between the Quebec government and public sector unions get underway this weekend.

But they say one thing is clear, they aren’t backing down.

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