February 18, 2015

English Edition, No. 1

Reject Austerity!

The People of Quebec Must Establish
Themselves as the Public Authority

Reject Austerity!
• The People of Quebec Must Establish Themselves as the Public Authority
Bill 10 Sanctioned Through Closure: a Despicable Act
Demonstrations Against Bill 10

The People in Action
Excellent Day of Action in Quebec City
Upcoming Actions

Reject Austerity!

The People of Quebec Must Establish
Themselves as the Public Authority 

Shortly after midnight on Saturday, February 7, Bill 10, An Act to modify the organization and governance of the health and social services network in particular by abolishing the regional agencies was adopted in the National Assembly through the government’s use of closure. The vote was 62 in favour and 50 against.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec expresses its firm opposition to this law which is an attack against the right to health care and whereby the Couillard government is abdicating its responsibility to ensure a modern public health care system commensurate with what a modern society has to offer.

After the vote ended, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Gaétan Barrette said, "I think we have passed the best bill possible within the timeframe given to us. I am convinced of that."

His statement only serves to justify the fact that the law was adopted through closure order and to confirm that the government has its agenda and set deadlines to pursue its anti-social neoliberal agenda. It also reveals that it has no consideration whatsoever  for the committees and consultation mechanisms provided for in the functioning of the National Assembly. Public sector workers and people from many backgrounds are intervening to assert their views and criticisms and do not intend to let the Couillard government wantonly discard them as it is attempting to do with all public institutions.

The Couillard government uses dictate as a means of governance and is destroying the public authority through its neoliberal method. "I just wrote the first letter under my name," Minister Barrette added. "In 2018, people will see the signature in full and they will be the judge. The judgment of the three opposition parties does not matter to me." He was referring to future bills that the government intends to impose by invoking closure if necessary in order to drastically transform the health care system within the deadlines it sets as it sees fit. It plans to continue the destruction of the public health care system for the benefit of private interests with two more bills: Bill 20, aimed at changeing medical practices, including imposing financial penalties on doctors who do not meet the patient quotas and modifying the method of funding of the network of institutions, to be funded per service, and Bill 28, a Harper-style omnibus bill.

The government and its minister Barrette say they have a mandate to act as they wish to divert public funds to pay the rich and destroy anything considered a public service in Quebec. Only the people's resistance can stop them. The order of the day is to intensify opposition to the destruction by finding ways of depriving them of their majority power to deprive the peoples of all control over their health and lives. The people of Quebec must establish themselves as the public authority. The public interest must prevail.

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Bill 10 Sanctioned Through Closure: a Despicable Act

The Couillard government summoned all members of the National Assembly to a special session on Friday, February 6th to force passage of Bill 10, An Act to modify the organization and governance of the health and social services network, in particular by abolishing the regional agencies, in order to invoke closure. Formally, the National Assembly was to resume sitting only on 10 February.

The bill was introduced on September 25, 2014 and was strongly opposed by everyone involved in health care: doctors, nurses, administrators, health care professionals, user-associations and many municipalities across Quebec, particularly the regions. This opposition continued without let-up and took the form of press releases issued by various organizations while throughout the 67 hours of hearings held by the Committee on Health and Social Services to study the bill, it was rare indeed that anyone expressed any support for it.

The bill, which restructures the health care system and gives the Minister exceptional powers to do so, is to be complemented by two other major bills that the government intends to pass quickly: Bill 20, An Act to enact the Act to promote access to family medicine and specialized medicine services and to amend various legislative provisions relating to assisted procreation, and Bill 28, An Act mainly to implement certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 4 June 2014 and return to a balanced budget in 2015-2016.

Invoking closure to ram through the government's neoliberal and anti-social agenda in the health sector is proof that these measures have nothing to do with the needs of the people. Quebecers are calling for a modern, public health care system, which a modern society is capable of offering. To subject the right to health care to an austerity program is a despicable act and a disregard for the people's right to decide.

The now common practice of forcing through laws that the government wants passed exposes the bankruptcy of the system of representative democracy where the parliamentary opposition is supposed to counterbalance the ruling party's arbitrariness. "Democracy is a question of representation, and from the moment you sit in the Blue Room, it is necessary to move things forward," said Minister of Health Gaétan Barrette to justify invoking closure. "It's normal that we study a bill, but it is not normal that we study it for such a long time," said the Liberal whip Jean-Marc Fournier.

Far from defending the national interest, the National Assembly and all the parties it comprises is once again the tool used to pass this destructive bill. The Couillard government's use of closure and Minister Barrette's open arrogance toward all those involved in the health care sector must be denounced with the contempt they deserve.

Printed below are reports of the many protests against the Couillard government's austerity agenda.

Demonstration against Couillard governement's antisocial policies in Montreal November 9, 2014

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Demonstrations Against Bill 10

Over 1,200 Montreal teachers braved the cold on February 9 to protest in front of Philippe Couillard's offices. For over an hour they loudly declared their opposition to Couillard's policies in public education and reaffirmed their determination to defend their demands regarding their working conditions and pay. They firmly denounced the imposition of Bill 10 through closure.

Sylvain Mallette, President of the Fédération autonome des enseignants (FAE), closed the event by saying, "Although we have expressed dissatisfaction over the past weeks, the government persists with its austerity agenda! [...] We will continue to denounce the austerity policies and express our anger at the contemptuous employer proposals tabled in December as part of the renewal of our collective agreement."

On Friday, February 6, hundreds of workers held a vigil outside the National Assembly in Quebec City to denounce the passing of Bill 10 through closure. The law concentrates decision-making powers in the health care system in the hands of the Minister to abolish regional health agencies, reducing the number of network facilities from 182 to 33, whose boards are appointed by the Minister and may be removed by him. The workers proudly represented the thousands of people in Quebec who oppose the bill. "This is an all out attack on our public health care and social services system. By complicating things rather than addressing the underlying problems the government is promoting privatization. We built that public network for more than 50 years. We must raise our voices to defend it!" said Jean Lacharité of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN).

The President of the Fédération interprofessionnelle  de la santé du Québec (FIQ), Régine Laurent said, "This is a sad day for our health care system and for democracy in Quebec. First, because our health network is seeing structural reforms imposed that further damage it and that don't not even improve access and quality of health care for Quebecers. Second, because we have a government that shamelessly fundamentally revamps it's largest ministry, which alone accounts for nearly half of the Quebec government's budget, by suspending the rules of the National Assembly and muzzling the democratic debate."

Louise Chabot, president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) said, "What is the urgency to act with such a reform? The only urgency for the Couillard government to implement its zero deficit ideology at all cost. Such a reform should have as its only aim to improve care and health services to the public. Not to reduce the role of the state. This government was not elected for that purpose."

"This government is destroying what we have taken years to build – the Quebec model – in favour of extreme centralization of power which will give no additional service to the public," said the President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-Québec), Lucie Levasseur.

"A reform of this magnitude cannot be achieved by muzzling everyone and taking shortcuts," said Diane Francoeur, President of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, adding "people who work in the health care network cannot all be wrong."

"They promised us details, but it's giving a blank check to someone who gives themselves unlimited powers and does so by gagging the National Assembly," added Louis Godin, President of the Fédération des omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ).

On January 29, the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue held several protests against the Couillard government's austerity agenda. According to organizers, the coalition Touche pas à ma région, nearly 5,000 people attended, about 1 in 30 residents in the area. There were actions in the four regional county municipalities including Abitibi, Abitibi-Ouest, Témiscamingue and Vallée-de-l'Or, as well as the municipal regional council-city of Rouyn-Noranda and in other several cities, including Ville-Marie, Val d'Or, Amos, La Sarre and Senneterre.

The demonstrators denounced the Couillard government's austerity agenda, especially the cuts in education, the antisocial restructuring of the health care system and the abolition of or funding cuts to such organizations as the regional conference of elected officials, regional health care agencies, local development centres, youth centres and others. They surrounded educational, health care and community institutions and said that they need these institutions for services to the public and that the Couillard government has no business scrapping them in complete disregard of the opinions of those who live there.

"This here is the expression of the human consciousness of the people of the region," Donald Rheault, Chairman of the CSN central council for Abitibi-Témiscamingue-Nord-du-Québec told Chantier politique. "The people are saying this is not how we want to develop our region. We want to be able to develop it ourselves. In terms of education, for example, we posses all educational services up to the university and they have just cut the budgets of the university and colleges, there are fewer programs. With fewer programs the youth will leave to go to programs that exist in the city centres. We had created organizations in the region to attract these youth. These organizations no longer exist. This will have a negative effect on the population."

Touche pas à ma région was set up in several regions of Quebec to unite people and organizations from all backgrounds in opposition to the Couillard government's austerity agenda.

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The People in Action

Excellent Day of Action in Quebec City

Qucbec City February 12, 2015

On Thursday, February 12 a rally was held in Quebec City as part of a day of action against the Couillard government's austerity agenda, followed by a protest in the late afternoon in front of the National Assembly. Organized by the collective "Refusons l'austerité," about one thousand people participated including unionized workers in the public and private sectors, representatives of pensioners' associations, community organizations, student associations, all in the present struggle to defeat the government's anti-social austerity agenda. The day included presentations on the nature of the austerity agenda, interventions on the impacts of the attacks on living and working conditions and quality of services, the reading of a draft statement, a discussion on the continuation of actions in the coming period and the protest.

The issue of austerity as a fraud committed in the name of restoring prosperity was very present in the minds of the participants. Several speakers said that by impoverishing the people and cutting services the austerity agenda is an attack against the economy. "Cutting services, slashing pensions, layoffs -- doesn't that disrupt the economy?" asked a worker. The fact that Premier Couillard has no mandate to impose austerity on the people was also a much-discussed topic. "He was elected under false pretences and with false promises," said one worker. "He lied about pensions and he is lying about austerity," said another.

A draft statement was read. It calls for an end to austerity measures and proposes the adoption of a sustainable development policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and social inequalities, as well as promote regional development and quality jobs. The draft statement also calls for a review of the tax system aimed at ensuring adequate funding for public services and social programs through greater business participation in State funding.

Several actions have been announced for the coming period to increase the pressure on the government to abandon its anti-social path.

The same thousand or so people then held a lively protest outside the National Assembly.

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Upcoming Actions

Following the rally against the austerity agenda in Quebec City on February 12, the following actions were announced:

February 22 to 27
Week of Protest: Fight Against Austerity!

February 28 -- Montréal
Demonstration Against Cuts in Education

Organized by the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ)

March 8, International Women's Day
"Women March for Equality, Solidarity Against Austerity!"
Activities around the launch of the World March of Women

April 2 -- Montréal
No to Another Austerity Budget!

Organised by l'Association pour une Solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSE)

April 11 -- Quebec City
Demonstration for meeting of Council of the Federation on the Effects of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Organised by environmental groups

May First, International Day of Unity and of the Struggle of the Working Class
Actions across Quebec Against Austerity

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