Premier, mayor see fiscal threat in more Montreal unrest

The prospect of continued protests following the breakdown of talks to end the Quebec student crisis has Premier Jean Charest and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay worried about the possible financial impact.
A few thousand people were back in the streets of Montreal on Friday night. Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Premier Jean Charest are worried about what continual protests will do to the city's marquee summer events. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The prospect of continued protests following this week's breakdown of talks to end the Quebec student crisis has Premier Jean Charest and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay worried about the financial impact as Montreal preps for its lucrative Grand Prix race.

Both politicians appealed Friday for "responsibility" on the part of demonstrators, saying protesters should leave Formula One fans alone and not harm stores, hotels and restaurants during the tourist-heavy event next weekend.

Charest accused student groups of "hurting Quebecers" as they take to the streets and expressed concern they would disrupt the Grand Prix, which brings millions of dollars to the province each year.

"It's all well and good to protest against Jean Charest, to protest against the government," Charest said Friday while visiting a suburb west of Montreal.

"But they're in the process of hurting Quebecers and the people from whom they're seeking support. I think they have to examine their consciences when it comes to their acts."

Tremblay told journalists he was "very disappointed, very, very, very disappointed" in the collapse of negotiations between students and the province. With the Grand Prix about to rev up and Montreal's summer-long series of festivals getting into high gear, the mayor called for a smooth running of a "very important season."

"I appeal to the maturity and sense of responsibility" of protesters to demonstrate without "causing harm to merchants, hotels and restaurateurs," Tremblay said.

"I'll do everything I can to ensure these events are a success, but also to ensure the safety of Montrealers."

39th straight night of protests

The latest round of talks collapsed Thursday afternoon when Charest's education minister, Michelle Courchesne, declared the two sides had reached an "impasse."

Around 10,000 people took to the streets of Montreal that night to decry the government's decision to give up on negotiations. A more modest crowd did the same in Quebec City, and smaller rallies were held in other communities.

On Friday, the 39th straight night of protest through the streets of Montreal, a few thousand people were in the streets. A similar demonstration also took place in the provincial capital.

The Montreal crowds were boisterous and joined at times by cyclists participating in a nighttime bike tour. The event was peaceful, with demonstrators occasionally lying down in the middle of the road. People cheered and yelled support from the sidewalk and one construction worker banged his hammer on the scaffold in tempo with the pots and pans as the demonstration passed.

Joining the crowds were mascots such as the cartoon character Scooby Doo as well as the Anarchopanda.

Matthew Larose, a 32-year-old construction foreman, said he'll probably be going to the big demonstration planned for Saturday afternoon like he has seven of the nighttime marches. He's against the tuition increases but also against Bill 78.

"If they can do it in Quebec, they can do it everywhere else. It sets a bad precedent for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of everything. They're going completely against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it's disgraceful," he said.

With files from CBC News