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Known for electing right-wing politicians, Mégantic also has its share of dissenters

Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest speaks during a campaign stop in Sainte-Marie, Que., on Aug. 6, 2012.

CLEMENT ALLARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The five red-square-wearing protesters didn't make much noise as they clanged on pots, pans and lids with their spoons and meat tenderizers.

They didn't even grab the attention of Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest as he exited his campaign bus and entered a community centre to warm up a partisan crowd.

"I have the impression that we bothered him more than we managed to send a message," said Denise Grenier, a library worker.

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Still, the quintet feels that it perpetuated the movement that started last spring, in which thousands of Quebeckers took to the streets in various-sized groupings to denounce increases to university tuition fees and Bill 78, designed to thwart street protests.

The movement eventually encompassed a grab-bag of issues, including the sorry state of the health-care system, allegations of widespread corruption and the planned extraction of natural resources in sensitive areas like Anticosti Island.

Ms. Grenier and her friends gathered in groups of up to 50 protesters this spring in Lac Mégantic, south of Quebec City, but the daily event became a twice-weekly and then a weekly meeting.

Shortly before Mr. Charest arrived for a campaign rally on Monday evening, however, a message went out on Twitter and Facebook that the pot-bangers should gather for another session.

"Everything happened so quickly, I wished we could have been more numerous," Ms. Grenier said as she was accompanied by her daughter Justine.

Another student, Félix Bérubé-Larochelle, said he was happy to have made the trip to the community centre, where he banged away under the watchful eye of two Sûreté du Québec officers who wanted to ensure that the protest stayed peaceful. Mr. Charest was never in jeopardy.

"I just wanted to let him know that he is not welcomed here," the high-school student said.

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Marisol Laneuville said she showed up to make it clear that the riding of Mégantic, known for electing right-wing politicians, also includes its share of dissenters.

"Jean Charest has to know that he can't rule as a monarch any more," the community worker said.

When she referred to Mr. Charest as the premier, Mr. Bérubé-Larochelle corrected her, professing that he will soon be the province's "ex-premier."

When Mr. Charest left the community centre, less than one hour after his arrival, the pot-clanging protesters were already gone.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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