April 1, 2015

English Edition, No. 4

Two Demonstrations Against Islamophobia

Resounding No to Racist Attacks
Against Communities in Montreal

Two Demonstrations Against Islamophobia
Resounding No to Racist Attacks Against Communities in Montreal 

Quebec Budget
Denounce the Couillard Government for its Attacks Against
Students and Youth! No to Police Brutality!

Leitão Budget 2015-2016: Destruction of Public Services
Resistance to Austerity Agenda Continues

Two Demonstrations Against Islamophobia

Resounding No to Racist Attacks
Against Communities in Montreal

On Saturday, March 28 at 3:30 pm, responding to the call by rights defence organizations, hundreds of people gathered at the corner of Belair and Pie-IX in Montreal in what is called Little Maghreb. Originally planned to counter an Islamophobic demonstration organized by an obscure group linked to the German racist group Pegida, the gathering turned into a broad opposition to any racist attack against Quebec communities, particularly the Muslim community, which is the target of attack by various governments and their media. Racist attacks are organized by the state, said Christine Dandenault, leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec, which had a contingent in the demonstration. "It's not the people who are racist but the rich and their state, and the Harper government today with its anti-Muslim statements and efforts to associate Islam to the Islamic State in order to justify its warmongering activities against the peoples in Iraq, Iran and now in Syria," she added.

After enthusiastically applauding the news that the racist demonstration was cancelled (only three people showed up at the rendez-vous and had to flee from the denunciations of the crowd), the contingent marched along Jean-Talon Street. Warmly greeted by passers-by, residents and motorists, protesters marched to the intersection of Boulevard Saint-Michel, chanting "We denounce the racist laws and those who pass them!" "Elected representatives, party leaders, end islamophobia!" "In the newspapers and on TV, racism is always there!" "Enough is enough, respect veiled women!" and "Austerity is our enemy, that's what unites us!"

Around 4:30 pm a large contingent of the student demonstration against austerity and the Leitão budget, which had left Émilie Gamelin Park at 2:00 pm, joined the anti-racist protesters on Jean-Talon Street in a joyous celebration.

The following day, it was the turn of a small group of no more than 10 people from the "Pro-Charter Collective" (referring to a draft bill for a Charter of secularism and values) who had come to demonstrate against courses given by Adil Charkaoui at College de Maisonneuve, to be greeted by about sixty people, mostly students. The anti-racist rally was organized by the Students' Association of College de Maisonneuve which called on its members to resolutely oppose this manifestation of racism and Islamophobia. The lies and disinformation to the effect that radicalized youth have left for Syria because of Adil Charkaoui's courses and "radical Islam" were opposed by the slogans in defence of the Arab-Muslim community at the college, chanted from the students' powerful megaphone. After less than 30 minutes, the small "Pro-Charter" collective had to pack up and leave.

In this way, the youth and their allies are clearly defending their aspirations for a modern Quebec that defends the rights of all, made up of all who live here, regardless of language, race, skin color, lifestyle, religion, or political opinions.

While Pegida had announced another protest for Friday, April 3, it published an announcement on March 30 cancelling it.

Below is a photo report of the anti-racist demonstration in Little Maghreb.

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Quebec Budget

Denounce the Couillard Government for its Attacks
Against Students and Youth! No to Police Brutality!

On March 26, the same day the Couillard government's budget began, hundreds of students took to the streets of Quebec City to denounce the budget and demand an end to the government's austerity agenda. During the demonstration police charged protesters and a student was severely injured in the face by a projectile, a tear gas canister, launched less than a meter's distance from her. The PMLQ denounces this act as well as other acts of police brutality committed against thousands of students on strike this past week to contest austerity and the destruction of the education system. The PMLQ condemns the statements of Minister of Public Safetey, Lise Thériault, who claims she was affected by pictures of the injured student, but continues to defend her government s law and order agenda. The Couillard government, just like Charest in 2012, has declared that nothing will stop the wide scale transfer of Quebec's social wealth to private interests and that students must "respect the law." Minister Thériault claims that the police are taking into consideration the recommendations of the report of the Commission spéciale d examen des événements du printemps 2012 (Special Commission to Examine the Events of Spring 2012), which blames the Charest government and the police for how they handled the crisis. How then do they explain what happened to the injured student and the far too many arrests and fines for over a week? Because the route was not given and therefore the actions were illegal and this justifies it all? There is no justification for the criminalization of the student actions. This government is full of excuses and when those don't work they find others. This brutality has nothing to do with the fact that the students don't hand over the route of the march to the police. It is precisely because of state repression that the students took the decision not to comply with municipal and police regulations. The despicable response of the Couillard government is an act of desperation as it has nothing other than repression to offer in the face of the just demands of the students and the people of Quebec. Those demands have been part of the public discourse for months now, supported by hundreds of actions of workers across many sectors of society, affirming that austerity is not a solution for Quebec. The path of paying the rich and diverting resources away from and destroying education and healthcare services to serve the rich has been rejected.

No to Police Brutality!
No to the Couillard Government's Austerity and Destruction Agenda!
No to the Leitão budget!

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Leitão Budget 2015-2016: Destruction of Public Services

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitão presented the Couillard government's 2015-2016 budget on March 26. Many characterize this budget as one with the lowest spending growth in Quebec history regarding public services and social programs. In response, the government declares itself proud of the budget's "balance" and "financial stability, a crucial condition for economic growth and prosperity."

In fact, nothing could be more "unbalanced" than this budget, or more one-sided. The dismantling of public services will take place at an even quicker pace than last year, which will make the situation untenable with regard to services and for the workers who provide them.

By the government's own admission, during the two years since the 2014-2015 budget, $7.274-billion in budget cuts have been made, $6.095-billion of which are in government spending. Within that, over $2.4-billion in cuts in the budgets of government ministries and agencies have been made, plus salary cuts of $500-million as part of the overall staffing freeze in the public sector, $300-million in cuts to municipal budgets, and $200-million as a result of modifications in the organization and governance of the healthcare and social services network.

Researchers at the Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques demand to know where any stimulus measures are to be found: "For this year, $120-million in new investments. Or, 0.12% of government revenue. Concentrated where? The 'key sectors of the economy.' In short, business subsidies [the Maritime Strategy] represent the largest amounts to encourage the development of the seaway and its surroundings."

For months, healthcare and education workers joined by the entire public sector have been holding demonstrations and strikes, sometimes even outside the legal strike periods, to serve notice to the government that its cuts in the public sector are creating an increasingly unsustainable situation. But the Couillard government is committed to plunging Quebec into chaos because of its fixation on balancing the budget to pay the rich. According to the government, only by transferring more and more social wealth to privileged private interests can prosperity be created. This nonsense must not pass!

Lowest Spending Growth in Quebec's History

Minister Leitão confirmed that the 2014-2015 budget ended with a deficit of $2.350-billion and that the 2015-2016 budget will be deficit-free. According to analysts, the nominal consolidated expenditure growth in 2015-2016 will be one of the lowest in Quebec's history, at 1.5%.

Consolidated expenditures include Ministerial departmental program spending, special funds (Labour Relations Board, Commission of Occupational Injuries Board etc), non-budgetary agencies (Quebec Housing Corporation, National Library and Archives of Quebec etc), healthcare, social services and education entities, as well as debt servicing.

In the fiscal year 2014-2015, the growth of consolidated expenditures excluding debt servicing was 2.9%, and in 2013-2014, 4.7%. From 2015-2016 to 2019-2020, the nominal annual growth will be only 1.5%.

The situation is dire if one considers what is called program or departmental expenditures. For 2014-2015, growth in program expenditures is estimated at 2.1% compared to 3.3% in 2013-2014, and will be 1.2% in 2015-2016, 2.2% in 2016-2017 and 2.8% from 2017 to 2018.

According to the workers in these sectors, the mere continuation of programs from the perspective of fixed and other expenditures demands a nominal annual growth of at least 3-4%. That rate does not include the new and growing needs of the population for which budgets must allocate value or an amount necessary to recover the health of the programs from past cuts.

The 2015-2016 budget revives what the government calls the "safety lever." This neo-liberal trickery, disconnected from the needs of the people or economy, requires any new spending to be offset by an equivalent reduction elsewhere in the system. This austerity gimmick all but guarantees a weakening of the economy, especially programs and services to the public.

The 2014-2015 budget planned a 3% increase in healthcare spending and 2.2% in education, which resulted in a real cut for both sectors given their growing needs and regular price inflation. But the cut is even deeper for the coming year, a record low level according to many, with nominal growth of 1.4% in healthcare, 0.2% in education and a decrease of 1.1% in all other programs. Already workers in healthcare and education have made it clear that their sectors will simply become impossible to maintain under conditions of forced austerity. The government refuses to listen and repeats its mantra that public sector workers, who are already barely sustaining the system and doing so at the risk of their physical and mental health, must continue "their efforts" without additional funding.

Transfer of Social Wealth to the Rich

The main feature of the budget is the full-fledged attack against public services and social programs. The hidden hand behind the austerity budget is the accelerated transfer of the social wealth produced by the workers to the rich. One specific measure in this regard is the acceleration of payments towards Quebec's national debt. The government is on track to reduce Quebec's debt to 45% of GDP for the year 2015-2016. To facilitate payments to owners of the debt the government uses funds from the price people pay for electricity, the tax on alcoholic beverages, and beginning in 2015-2016, the entire government revenue from mining.

Global moneylenders holding Quebec's debt appear dissatisfied with the current return and want their social wealth freed up for investment elsewhere in the world where greater profits beckon. Parking social wealth in government debt is safe and profitable for a time for the rich. However, given the uneven development of global capitalism, paying down the public debt is a way to put funds at the disposal of private interests to invest in various projects that appear more profitable. Both increasing and decreasing public debt are methods to pay the rich given the concrete conditions.

According to Minister Leitão, the anti-social budgetary measures should be looked at as part of the restructuring of the delivery of services. In addition to cuts, one method is to privatize public services and sell off public assets. If one could closely follow the money from paying down the national debt, undoubtedly one would find some of it used by private interests to buy and gain control of public services and assets.

What "Balance?"

Minister Leitão says he is proud of the return to "balance" in the budget, as are most neo-liberal politicians across Canada, including Harper's finance minister. Leitão also enjoys speaking of a return to "stability," another generic term grossly manipulated for self-serving purposes.

The Oxford Dictionary provides several general definitions of the word "balance." Here are a few:

"A situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions; A counteracting weight or force; Harmony of design and proportion; Establish equal or appropriate proportions of elements; Remain in a steady position."

What balance is Leitão referring to? With regard to the budget, he is talking about balance between two columns of figures, between the expenditure column and the revenue column. To obtain balance, Leitão says he has two different elements of the budget in equilibrium: revenue and expenditures. The balance reveals that two different elements are equal in some third way, in this case not weight or volume but money.

This delirium about balance when dealing with such complex issues as the national public revenue and expenditures makes a mockery of government and on this issue alone proves the Couillard Liberal Party unfit to rule. Reducing the public budget to seeking a balance between complex aspects of an economy through an expenditure column and revenue column is to carry out disinformation aimed at covering up the damage being done to the economy overall and the attacks on the well-being and security of the people under the banner of austerity to pay the rich.

Reducing investments in public services and social programs is profoundly anti-social, for which the Liberal government must be held to account. Public services and social programs are crucial building blocks of a modern economy. Public sector workers create enormous social wealth from which all can benefit and affirm their humanity.

Opposition to the anti-social austerity agenda will inevitably continue to grow amongst public sector workers, students and the population at large. The Couillard government and its austerity agenda to pay the rich are in contradiction with the needs of Quebec society. The March budget shows that the system of cartel parties allows powerful private interests to impose their will in defiance of the popular will. It also shows that it is up to the working class of Quebec to constitute itself as the opposition and mobilize everyone around a pro-social alternative. It can be done!

Stop paying the rich!
Increase Funding for Social Programs!

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Resistance to Austerity Agenda Continues

Since March 21, weekly demonstrations have been held at 2:00 pm beginning at Place Emilie-Gamelin to protest the Couillard government's austerity agenda. The weekly demonstrations are called by Printemps 2015 (Spring 2015), a coalition of action committees of various sections struggling against the austerity agenda and the subjection of the economy to the monopolies, including oil monopolies. Workers, families and environmental groups have been walking shoulder to shoulder with students in the thousands in addition to many other marches, student strikes and other actions over the past two weeks against the austerity agenda as a whole and the devastating effects it has on Quebec society.

Also on March 21 in Alma, Philippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec and MNA for Roberval, was greeted by nearly 500 people, mostly workers, who rallied to denounce the austerity agenda in front of Complexe Jacques-Gagnon where the Liberal Party forum was being held. Around 30 demonstrators managed to enter the complex chanting "Stop Couillard" to the forum delegates before being removed by police. According to the press, the 50 or so participants at the forum were then locked down in the room for "their security," while the Sûreté du Quebec (SQ) police, aided by their Roberval counterparts who had been called in on an emergency basis, attempted to silence the protestors outside.

The police, out in full force, have been quick to declare all demonstrations illegal as their itinerary is not provided by the organizers or if protestors walk against the flow of traffic, and to invoked the P6 municipal bylaw to detain protestors wearing masks. Several hundred arrests have been made at the various actions and many fines have been issued. A student was seriously injured when a tear gas cannister was fired from point blank range at her face at the Quebec City demonstration on March 26 to protest the Liberal government's budget. Nine UQAM students were brought before the university's executive on March 20, and face suspensions or expulsion for disrupting classes and demonstrating on campus during the 2012 student general strike.

Just like the Charest Liberals in 2012, the Couillard government is pursuing it's anti-social, destructive austerity agenda come hell or high water. For months the public sector and other sections of society have been in action to defend their working conditions and the public services they deliver. Just as in 2012 school administrations are intimidating students and the police are brutally repressing the right to dissent and freedom of assembly. Just as in 2012 the Liberals are refusing to account for their anti-social and anti-national agenda and the students, workers and people are calling for political accountablity. 

In 2012 the PMLQ wrote:
"To be political is to defend the individual and collective rights and harmonize the individual and collective rights with the general interests of society. It is to take up the social responsibility to decide the political, economic and social affairs of the nation. To be political today is to defend the public good against the sell-out of the nation's resources for private interests and to defend the social programs and public services against privatization in the service of private interests. It is to fight to restrain monopoly right and defend public right on all questions. To be political is to stop the backward motion of society to medievalism when everyone was forced to fend for themselves. To be political is to push society past the crisis-ridden welfare state towards a modern society that recognizes that all have rights by virtue of being born to society and that the responsibility of the state is to guarantee these rights."

Since 2012 the Couillard Liberal government has intensified its anti-social, anti-national agenda. The people must step up their actions and participate in wide discussions on what kind of Quebec is needed and which direction for the economy.

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