Thousands of protesters denounce tax-heavy budget
The public outrage over Quebec's provincial budget spilled into the streets of Montreal Thursday.
Thousands of demonstrators clogged Old Montreal's business district to protest a budget that will pile new costs on Quebecers, including a sales-tax hike and new health-care user fees.
Chanting, placard-waving protesters marched on behalf of numerous causes to denounce a budget that polls suggest is exceptionally unpopular.
The first poll taken after the budget who unveiled says three out of four Quebecers are unhappy with the plan.
"Everyone is united against the government today.
The groups are calling the budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Raymond Bachand profoundly unjust.
At least 40 buses ferried people to Phillips Square from as far away as the Gaspé.
The demonstration was organized by the public-sector employees, whose government-imposed contract is officially over as of Thursday, but thousands more joined their ranks to denounce measures which affect their checkbooks.
"We want to say, ‘No! We don't agree with this.' We want to change something," said one protestor.
They argue the increase in provincial sales tax, hydro rates, as well as the new annual healthcare premium and the proposed charge for each visit to a doctor, are regressive tax measures that will have a greater effect on the poor than on the rich.
"We already have trouble finding a doctor; Now we're going to have to pay more and more for it," said another demonstrator.
But Bachand is unapologetic in his defence of his budget, saying it's time Quebecers accept that public services aren't free.
"People in the last six months told us they want to keep their services, be more efficient, cut costs, but keep your services. If you want to keep your services you must pay for them," he said.
Bachand says he's creating a cultural shift and Quebec taxpayers had better get used to it.
Tuesday's budget hit Quebec's already tax-weary citizens with increases to the provincial sales tax, fuel tax, and tuition fees.
With a report from The Canadian Press.