Tens of thousands of people took to Montreal’s streets Friday to protest austerity measures undertaken by Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government.
CEGEP and university student association ASSÉ estimated that 82,000 of its students participated in a one-day strike as part of the protest. A broad coalition of social groups took part in the march.
“We're here to protest today against austerity, so against decisions of the government that involve cutting public spending, cutting public services,” said Joël Pedneault, a spokesman for the Coalition Against User Fees & Privatization in Public Services.
When the Liberal government came to power in April, the premier promised to review government programs and rein in spending.
“If we have a larger financial room to manoeuvre, it will be in the interest of the employees as well as all other Quebecers,” said Quebec Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux.
Students, workers, union members and other supporters were invited to attend the protest in their Halloween regalia.
Protester Jacob Picard marched along the streets of downtown Montreal in a Santa Claus costume.
“Santa Claus is a sign of sharing and generosity so I think the government should do the same.”
Lukas Fuina, a Concordia University student, attended the protest to denounce education cuts.
“I want to ensure I have the same education that students five years ago did, before these measures,” Fuina said.
The crowd of protesters also included firefighters who are against cuts to their pension plans.
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“We're going to do all the manifestations that we could to go against the government and its austerity policy,” said Ronald Martin, the head of the union representing Montreal firefighters.
Montreal police declared the demonstration illegal shortly after it began because organizers did not submit an itinerary ahead of time.
No arrests were made and police reported no major conflicts.