Quebec Games targeted by anti-pension reform protest

Municipal workers upset about proposed pension reforms took their protest to the opening of the Quebec Games in Longueuil Friday night.

Union coalition chose games to highlight inter-generational effect of proposed pension legislation

The coalition leading Friday's anti-pension reform protest offered Quebec Games athletes and spectators water bottles bearing the "Libre Négo" label. (CBC)

Municipal workers upset about proposed pension reforms took their protest to the opening of the Quebec Games in Longueuil Friday night.

The protest outside the Jean-Béliveau Coliseum in Longueuil was organized by a coalition representing thousands of unionized municipal workers from across Quebec.

Launched in 1970, the Quebec Games are held every two years and bring together young athletes from across the province.

Friday’s festive demonstration represented a shift in protest tactics away from an earlier focus on Montreal City Hall in favour of building public support.

The coalition said it chose the venue to inform young people attending and participating in the opening ceremonies about their objections to Bill 3.

“We want to highlight the fact pensions are an inter-generational issue, they concern mothers and fathers and our young,” said coalition spokesman Marc Ranger.

The controversial legislation was put forward in June by the Quebec government and would see municipal employees and cities evenly splitting the cost of pension plan deficits.

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau has put deficits at nearly $4 billion across the province.

The new bill could make city employees pay more, and some retirees may also be on the hook for pension shortfalls.

Organizers of the Quebec Games told CBC News they were not happy with the decision to mount the protest at the opening ceremonies.

“We work for three years [to organize] this event… and today is a big day that kids will remember for the balance of their days,” Martin Fortier told CBC News.

Mayors critical of Bill 3

The coalition was not only the only one raising its voice against Bill 3 on Friday.

The mayors of at least six Quebec municipalities also expressed their concerns for the proposed legislation.

Laval mayor Marc Demers said Bill 3 does not take into consideration the fact that each municipality is unique and should have the power to decide how it applies pension reform.

“There's not one solution for all the province,” he told CBC News.

The mayors of Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Longueuil and Terrebonne also expressed their concerns with the legislation.

That dissent had Quebec Union of Municipalities President Suzanne Roy unhappy.

She told CBC News that Quebec's municipalities should stick together in favour of pension reform or risk leaving taxpayers on the hook for the paying down the deficit.

“We have that obligation,” she said.

Roy said she will seek a compromise position that would allow some power for municipalities.

She will present her recommendations when National Assembly hearings on Bill 3 begin on August 20th.