Quebec Students Rejecting Tuition Deal
IN QUEBEC, OVER 167,000 STUDENTS ARE STILL ON STRIKE AGAINST THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT’S PLAN TO RAISE TUITION FEES BY 75% .
QUEBEC STUDENTS HAVE BEEN STRIKING FOR THREE MONTHS. AMIDST A BACKGROUND OF ONGOING PROTESTS, STUDENT DIRECT ACTIONS CREATING ECONOMIC DISRUPTIONS AND HARSH POLICE REPRESSION, THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN REFUSING TO RECONSIDER THEIR PLAN FOR TUITION FEE HIKES. NEW NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE WEEKEND THAT MANY HOPED WOULD END THE STAND-OFF ARE NOW UNRAVELING.
170,000 students remain on strike as assemblies vote to reject government offer
ON FRIDAY STUDENTS TRAVELED TO VICTORIAVILLE, QUEBEC WHERE THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT HAD MOVED ITS GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING TO AVOID PROTESTS. THE DEMONSTRATION TURNED VIOLENT, WITH ONE PROTESTER LOSING AN EYE, HOSPITALIZATIONS AND OVER 100 PEOPLE ARRESTED. STUDENT LEADERS FROM THE FOUR GROUPS THAT REPRESENT STUDENTS IN QUEBEC AND QUEBEC GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS CAME TO AN AGREEMENT ON SATURDAY AFTER ALL-NIGHT 22-HOUR NEGOTIATIONS IN QUEBEC CITY ATTEMPTING TO END THE ONGOING STRIKE AND GET STUDENTS BACK IN SCHOOL THE AGREEMENT INCLUDES AN OVERALL TUITION FREEZE FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS, SLASHED FEES TO OFFSET TUITION HIKES AND A COMMITTEE TO EXPLORE SAVINGS IN UNIVERSITY BUDGETS. BUT AFTER THE 6 MONTH FREEZE, THE GOVERNMENT CAN STILL GO AHEAD WITH ITS PLAN TO RAISE TUITION FEES OVER THE COURSE OF SEVEN YEARS. STUDENT UNIONS VOTE ON THE DEAL THIS WEEK. MANY STUDENTS ARE OPPOSED TO THE AGREEMENT AND ARE CONTINUING TO PROTEST. AND NOW STUDENT LEADERS WHO NEGOTIATED THE ARE SAYING THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT CHANGED SOME CRUCIAL DETAILS OF THE PROPOSAL AND THE FINAL AGREEMENT IS NOT EXACTLY WHAT THEY THOUGH THEY HAD SIGNED. VOTING HAS ALREADY STARTED AND MOST STUDENT ASSOCIATIONS ARE VOTING OVERWHELMINGLY AGAINST THE OFFER.
TWO WEEKS AGO, NEGOTIATIONS BROKE DOWN BETWEEN QUEBEC’S EDUCATION MINISTER LINE BEAUCHAMP AND THE THREE MAIN STUDENT GROUPS BEHIND THE STRIKE, WHEN THE MINISTER KICKED ONE OF THEM -- CLASSE -- OUT OF THE TALKS. THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT THEN MADE THE STUDENTS AN OFFER TO PHASE IN THE TUITION INCREASE OVER SEVEN YEARS -- RATHER THAN THE PREVIOUS PLAN OF 5 YEARS, WHICH ACTUALLY RAISES THE OVERALL TUITION HIKE BECAUSE OF INTEREST FEES. CLASSE UNANIMOUSLY REJECTED THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT’S OFFER. ON MAY DAY, THE OTHER TWO ASSOCIATIONS, FEUQ AND FECQ CAME UP WITH THEIR COUNTEROFFER. MARTINE DESJARDINS IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT UNIVERSITY FEDERATION IN QUEBEC, THE FEUQ.
First of all we are creating a commission to evaluate university management in making sure we have a management that is very transparent. THE STUDENT FEDERATION PROPOSAL INCLUDES A TWO-YEAR MORATORIUM ON ALL NEW UNIVERSITY SPENDING, WITH WHAT THEY CALL AN 'ESTATES-GENERAL' OR PUBLIC FORUM AN EXPLORATION ON UNIVERSITY SPENDING AND FINANCING, A FIVE YEAR MORATORIUM ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES AND A FREEZE ON TUITION HIKES FOR TWO YEARS. SOME STUDENTS EXPRESSED THEIR DISCONTENT WITH FEUQ AND FECQ’S COUNTER OFFER. JEROME CHARAOUI IS A STRIKING UNIVERSITY STUDENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL WHO DISAGREES WITH NEGOTIATING WITH THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT: I think it’s not the time, to be entering into any sort of negotiations. We’ve seen the government is on the defensive. The liberal party has decided not to hold its meetings in Montreal. They announced that earlier this week. I think right now is simply the time for the student movement to push forward, continue with the strike, continue protesting and demonstrating in the streets, I think that’s the way we are going to win our fight against the tuition hike. THE STUDENT ASSOCIATION CLASSE PRESENTED THEIR COUNTER-OFFER ON THURSDAY AT A PRESS CONFERENCE.THEIR PROPOSAL PRESENTED FOUR SHORT TERM MEASURES TO SOLVE THE CRISIS, INCLUDING REDUCING MONEY SPENT ON UINVERSITY RESEARCH, PARTICULARLY RESEARCH TIED TO COMMERCIAL AND PRIVATE ENTERPRISES, AN END TO COMMERCIAL PUBLCITY, WHICH INCREASED BY 20% IN THE LAST 5 YEARS, AN IMMEDIATE SALARY AND HIRING FREEZE FOR ADMINISTRATORS AND A MORATORIUM ON THE BUILDING OF SATELLITE CAMPUSES. GABRIEL NADEAU DUBOIS IS THE CO-SPOKESPERSON FOR THE STUDENT ASSOCIATION CLASSE. For us the role, and the fundamental role of our universities is not research for private enterprises and its not also to make commercial publicity to steal students to other universities. So we think this publicity war has to come to an end. We think that the government should impose, starting tomorrow, a total suspension on any increase of publicity and that would permit us to go find 18 million dollars per year to finance teaching, which is for us is the fundamental activity of our universities.
CLASSE ALSO PRESENTED THEIR LONG TERM PROPOSAL, WHICH THEY SAY WOULD FACILITATE FREE POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION IN QUEBEC BY 2016. We are asking to hold a large public forum, in French we say états généraux, as soon as next fall or next winter in order really to have the debate on the deep issues and the real issues that are behind the tuition increase. Since the beginning of the strike, the public debate is a semantic debate, is a numbers debate, and we think we should have a debate of ideas, a debate of principles on what do we want for our universities, what do we think is the role of our universities, how do we think we should finance our universities? And CLASSE would profit from this forum to put on the table a concrete project, which would permit Quebec to go to free school in the delay of five years. To finance this project we are proposing the restoration of the capitol tax on the banks of Canada. We are talking about a 0.14% tax for the year, a tax that would increase over 5 years to go to 0.7% in 2016. NADEA DUBOIS SAYS THIS WOULD YIELD 400 MILLION DOLLARS WHICH HE SAYS IS THE COST OF FREE POST SECONDARY EDUCATION FOR QUEBEC. THE IDEA OF FREE EDUCATION IS NOT NEW IN THE PROVINCE, GOING BACK TO THE 1960’S ROYAL COMMISSION ON EDUCATION, OR THE PARENT REPORT, THAT KICKSTARTED THE OVERHAUL OF QUEBEC’S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM, CREATING FREE COLLEGES, OR CEGEPS, AND THE NINE UNIVERSITY OF QUEBEC CAMPUSES. THE REPORT ALSO OUTLINED A PLAN TO PROVIDE FREE EDUCATION FOR POST SECONDARY STIDENTS IN QUEBEC. RENAULT POIRIER, PRESS SECRETARY FOR THE STUDENT ASSOCIATION CLASSE SAYS CLASSE NEITHER AGREES NOR OPPOSES THE DEAL REACHED ON THE WEEKEND BETWEEN STUDENT NEGOTIATORS AND THE QUEBEC GOVERNMENT. THEY WILL PUT THE OFFER ON THE TABLE FOR THE STUDENTS IN THEIR ASSOCIATIONS TO DECIDE. IN FACE OF THE NEW OFFER PLACED ON THE TABLE BY QUEBEC GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND STUDENT LEADERS, AND AMID NEW REVELATIONS OF THE QUEBEC LIBERAL GOVERNMENT’S EXCESSIVE SPENDING AND TIES TO CORRUPTION SCANDALS, STUDENTS ARE CONTINUING THEIR DAILY ACTIONS AND VOW TO CONTINUE, EVEN AS THE SEMESTER IS ENDING. MARTINE DESJARDINS, PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT ASSOCIATION FEUQ SAYS THAT THERE IS NOT MUCH SUPPORT FOR THE AGREEMENT HAMMERED OUT OVER THE WEEKEND, AND SOME STUDENTS ARE EVEN CONSIDERING CANCELLING THE WHOLE SEMESTER, WHAT GABRIEL NADEAU DUBOIS CALLS THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. THIS WEEK WILL BE CRUCIAL IN THE OUTCOME OF THE QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE AS STUDENTS VOTE IN THEIR ASSOCIATIONS AND UNIONS WHETHER TO ACCEPT OR REJECT THE NEW OFFER. LILLIAN BOCTOR, REAL NEWS NETWORK, MONTREAL