Revolution!! Over a few thousand dollars?

By: Gabrial Millard

Screen shot 2021-09-02 at 6.26.24 PM.pngFor the past several months the city of Montréal, and all of Québec for that matter has been in a state of civil unrest. The roaring sound of police helicopters are no longer a rare occurrence, as nightly protests draw mass quantities of the Montréal police squad to try and control the mob. When I first heard the students planned on striking in protest of the $1625 tuition hike, which is now spread over seven years, I thought to myself that this was just another excuse for the citizens of this province to protest, and they will give up soon. Over 100 days, 2500 arrests, and what Lucie Lemonde, a law professor at Universite du Quebec is calling "The worst law since War Measures Act," the students are still showing no signs of slowing. (VC) Many students have now missed four months of the education they are fighting so hard to receive. As well as the immense cost to the taxpayers that compensating this massive police force too continuously work overtime has caused, instead of using that money on other problems like the deteriorating infrastructure in the city. The tuition increase is justified motion, and the subsequent student protests have served only to cause more damage to themselves and their city.

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Quebec is a place like nowhere else in the world, and especially like no other province in Canada.

With a different primary language, and even it own civil code, Quebec is a province that strives to be differentiated from the rest of Canada. Part of this differentiation is the belief that higher education should be made available to all. This results in their education to be heavily subsidized, with seven of out of the ten universities with the lowest tuition costs in Canada (for its citizens only), a fact the Quebecois are quick to point out that they pay higher taxes to support it. (Corbella) That being said the taxes paid need to cover the cost of this subsidized education. With the highest gross debt in Canada how does this province afford to offer education at such a low level? The answer is equalization payments from the rest of the country, Alberta to be precise.

A quick look at the numbers shows that Québec received $ 1743 per capita from the federation in 2009, if you remember the initial total tuition increase was only $1625 over five years, less than the amount received yearly from the federation. (Corbella) Another factor needing to be considered is the invisible tax of inflation that affects us all. The tuition increase at its maximum point after five years would still only bring it to the 1968 tuition cost indexed for inflation, which would still be some of the cheapest in the country with Quebec students still only paying 16.9% of their education costs instead of the current 12.7%. (The Tuition increase) "Free education for all" is an excellent ideal, as long you don't rely on others for that privilege.

The students see this tuition hike in another light. They feel education will now be only available for the wealthy, and believe that the additional bursaries offered will not be enough to make the difference. Students are also arguing this strike will affect women more as studies show women still earn 71 cents on the dollar compared to men, a stat which is shocking to still exist in our society. Another argument is that students are already in financial trouble, saying students will need to work an extra 162 hours at $10/hr. to pay for the increase, and even go as far as to say "One wonders how students will eat in 5 years." Students have also been joined by many other groups, especially since the government responded to the protests by passing bill 78, which many see as restrictive to civil liberties. There is no denying that the students are organized, passionate, and they definitely have their reasons to oppose the hike. (Tuition Truth)

The only problem is their arguments are either simply non-issues or based on assumptions that are not logical. They say education will now only be available for the wealthy yet the tuition increase is now only proposed at $232 more a year. If students involved in the protest had spent half the time they have protesting, and had been working instead, that amount would have been paid off with extra money to spare for a venti extra foam latte from Starbucks. Saying that bursaries will not cover the education costs for all is simply not an argument, as bursaries are meant for a few underprivileged kids who have shown extra ordinary promise in the world of academics or sports and not for the average student. Student loans were created for this exact reason so that those who could not afford education could still receive it and pay for their education in installments after receiving the benefits of university.

Another argument is that the tuition increase affects women disproportionately and creates gender inequality. This has no basis in reality when according Stats Canada around 57% of the university population in Canada is women, and the vast majority of these universities have tuitions much higher than tuition will be after the proposed hike. The final argument on reads "Students will have to work an equivalent of 162 extra hours at a salary of $10/hr." That seems like a staggering number but lets take a look at the numbers. With 365 days in a year and the tuition increase is over 7 years (365 x 7 = 2555 days) and will say 16 workable hours in a day given 8 hours of sleep a night (16 x 2555= 40 880) hours of the next 7 years. Even being a full time student I find it hard to believe that working an extra 162 hours in 40,880 is an insurmountable task. As shown here the arguments presented by the students are just not strong enough to validate the extent of destruction to the city and waste of taxpayer's dollars that these protests have caused.

Affordable education for all citizens is an excellent ideal providing many benefits for a society. The problem with it is that higher education is and always has been expensive. In order for the Quebec government to offer education at such an inexpensive level for its citizens, they were subsidizing 87.3% of the cost of university. (the tuition increase) While it is true the Quebecois pay higher taxes than most of Canada their government still has the highest gross debt in the country. This debt level was achieved while still receiving the most in equalization payments than any other province in Canada. One reason for this high deficit is the frozen tuition rates for its citizens that are at the moment almost $2000 less than the 1968 tuition costs weighted for inflation. To their credit the students have gone from random outbreaks to a very organized and passionate organization. That being said their organization has cost millions to taxpayers in terms of the extra policing cost, been responsible for near terrorist attacks by gassing the metro as well as death threats to politicians, and the immeasurable loss to tourism, Montreal's greatest export especially during the summer festival season. If you listen to the students you will see they do have reasons for rebelling against the tuition hike, yet none of the arguments really have any merit when you take a second look. Their tuition will still be one of the cheapest in Canada, and if you can afford university now, you can afford an extra $325 a year, and if you cant you can always sell your iPod.

Works Cited

Banerjee, Sidhartha. "Video: Quebec Student Protests: At Least 2,500 Arrests and Counting." Video: Quebec Student Protests: At Least 2,500 Arrests and Counting. Canadian Press, 25 May 2012. Web. 04 June 2012. .

Chung, Andrew. "Massive Public Support for Charest's Emergency Law." Canada News:. The Star, 19 May 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. .

Corbella, Licia. "Quebec Students Get Cushy Deal on Tuition - Thanks to Alberta." Quebec Students Get Cushy Deal on Tuition - Thanks to Alberta. Postmedia News, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. .

Moore, Lynn. "Student Protests: Quebec Will Pick up Part of Montreal's 'extraordinary' Tab." Student Protests: Quebec Will Pick up Part of Montreal's 'extraordinary' Tab. The Gazette, 25 May 2012. Web. 04 June 2012. .

"The Tuition Increase." : What Is Involved? Gouvernement Du Quebec. Web. 04 June 2012. .

"Tuition Truth." Tuition Truth. Web. 04 June 2012. .

VC. "Student Strike in Quebec Leads to Police State Measures | The Vigilant Citizen." Student Strike in Quebec Leads to Police State Measures | The Vigilant Citizen. Vigilant Citizen, 21 May 2012. Web. 04 June 2012. .

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