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Finance Minister Bachand gets an earful
Article mis en ligne le mercredi 28 juillet 2010
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Anti-poverty protesters gather outside while Finance Minister Bachand hosts post-budget meeting in Cote des Neiges.

Various anti-poverty organizations once again displayed their displeasure with the provincial budget passed four months ago.

About 40 protesters showed up on July 8 under the scorching sun to shout slogans over the noise of ongoing road construction.

The noisy protest was held just outside of Raymond Bachand’s constituency office on Cote des Neiges Rd. while the finance minister was inside hosting a meeting with representatives of at least eight local organizations, including le Centre des aines Cote des Neiges, la Maison Bleue, the Cote des Neiges Job Search Centre, Federation CJA, le Club Ami, l’Organisation d’éducation et d’information logement de Cote des Neiges (OEIL-CDN) and Project Genesis.

The Outremont MLA, finance minister and minister responsible for the Montreal region explained that the meeting was called as a follow-up to pre-budget consultations held in his riding February 3. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity to thoroughly discuss various measures contained in the budget pertaining to public housing, social assistance, francization courses for recent immigrants and job search assistance.
This wasn’t the first time Bachand has been the target of noisy protesters. According to Cyberpresse, one day after the release of his budget the World Trade Centre on St. Antoine St. in Old Montreal suffered some minor damage when more than a thousand people gathered to protest. The rally, organized by union and community groups as well as student and women’s organizations, led to an arrest after a group of about 150 protesters forced their way into the building, overturned potted plants in the lobby and scrawled graffiti on several surfaces, but were unable to access the finance minister’s office.

“He heard about our protest through the grapevine and refused to meet the protesters outside,” said Nathalie Rech, spokesperson for Project Genesis, an organization that defends individuals’ social and economic rights.

Rech says they made requests for 50,000 additional social housing units in Quebec, but will be getting only 3,000 until 2014. Other requests included reasonable increases in social assistance and the minimum wage, as well as no new fees or increases in fees for services such as health care.

“The meeting was pointless because we know fully well that this budget doesn’t work for us. We requested concessions back in February, but they were absolutely dismissed. It’s important for us that it doesn’t go unnoticed,” she explained.

Cathy Inouye of Project Genesis was invited to the post-budget meeting and confided that discussion with the finance minister is never a bad thing. “Bachand did promise one thing: that he will do further research before single mothers and people aged between 55 and 66 are hit with the government’s proposed cuts to social assistance or temporary benefits,” she said.

[Marie Cicchini]

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