Protesting 'good business' in Quebec
Jun 7, 2012 / 6:54 am
In Montreal there are shortages of red felt and Maalox. Demand is high for security guards and frying-pan repair. In the downtown core convenience stores will suddenly swell with lines of thirsty protesters.
Much of the city's business community blames the ongoing student unrest for a steep drop in sales. With Grand Prix events getting underway Thursday, many are anxious about the daily protests will disrupt the lucrative festival season.
But for some lucky merchants, the protests have actually been great for the bottom line.
The potential for protest-related business was made evident last month when stores selling fabric reported running out of red felt.
People have been using any available bit of red cloth to reproduce the iconic square that has come to represent the protest movement, one seen dangling from myriad balconies, windows and jacket lapels. That red square, which is now being worn by protesters in other cities, is a play on the French phrase for being "squarely in the red," or broke, thanks to rising fees.
Then there's the run on a certain heartburn remedy.
When Montreal police began using pepper spray to disperse the growing demonstrations, pharmacies reported shortages of the remedy Maalox. The pinkish substance is used as an eye rub by activists looking for quick relief from the burning effects of pepper spray.
There is also a rising demand for private security. The head of a leading security company described the situation in Montreal as a "positive" for his company.
"Naturally, when there's unrest somewhere, the Egyptian election or some disruption here in Quebec or a labour disruption somewhere, unfortunately it's usually good for business," said Stephan Cretier, the chief executive of Garda World Security Corp.
There hasn't been so much window-smashing lately at downtown commercial buildings, which had been a frequent feature of unruly nightly protests in Montreal.
Some of the recent credit for a more festive, less aggressive, atmosphere is being given to a novel idea by a college professor.
He encouraged Quebecers to adopt an old Latin American protest tactic, and bang on pots and pans to express their displeasure with the government.
Every night, thousands of Montrealers fill the streets with off-tempo clanging.
By day, they have been wandering into kitchenware stores wondering if it's possible to smooth out the dents caused by the percussion.
"That's the one thing we can't fix," said Cynthia Couture, who runs the Clinique de la Casserole Delmar, a store that specializes in selling and repairing kitchenware.
"So I tell people to bring me your old pots. I'll recycle and offer you a discount on a new one."
Many local businesses are less enthusiastic.
The Montreal Chamber of Commerce recently estimated that business overall is down 15 per cent at retailers and restaurant owners in the downtown core and that protests have cost several million dollars in economic damage to the city.
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