By LAURA FRASER
They’re organized. They’re miffed.
About 30 Alliance Against Atlantica supporters showed up to resist the idea outside the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a conservative think-tank and the trade concept’s main proponent.
The grassroots coalition geared up Monday for a week that will be filled with picketing, rallies and seminars to challenge the Atlantica notion for a united trade zone in the Atlantic provinces, the New England states and parts of Quebec.
The protests will coincide with an Atlantica conference to be held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax from Thursday through Saturday. About 500 people are expected to attend, ranging from politicians and business owners to community members.
Monday’s protesters stood outside Cogswell Tower in downtown Halifax for about 30 minutes, chanting and drumming on plastic buckets painted with the coalition’s slogans.
Some carried banners with the single word Resist while others had more colourful signs.
The Atlantica concept is primarily the brainchild of the marketing institute. The protesters gave it a list of demands to amend the proposal, and a petition with about 140 signatures last Friday.
Critics argue Atlantica would only benefit big business rather than Nova Scotia’s ordinary workers.
Sandra White, who took part in Monday’s protest, said the institute’s directors stand to personally profit from the plan.
“Their board of directors represents some of the biggest corporations in Atlantic Canada,” she said. “This plan has nothing to do with benefiting the people of Atlantic Canada, it has to do with benefiting the Irvings and the BMOs and the Sobeys.”
Ms. White said she is particularly concerned the concept could reduce minimum wages and threaten union power.
But Charles Cirtwill, the institute’s acting president, said the idea promotes overall economic growth.
“If your average industrial wage moves upwards then your minimum wage will follow suit,” he said. “Of course, the interesting thing is, the stronger the economy is the less tendency there is to worry about the minimum wage because most people are earning so far above it that it doesn’t matter to them anymore.”
Mr. Cirtwill said Monday’s protest was peaceful and that he supports the right to voice dissent.
“But I just hope that their friends . . . will follow their example.”
This week’s protests will reach a crescendo at noon Friday. The coalition hopes up to 1,000 protesters will gather in Victoria Park and march to the trade centre to lend their voice to the Atlantica conference.