The tuition freeze issue could possibly make or break Concordia voter support in this month’s provincial election.
Premier Jean Charest, running as leader of the Liberal Party again in the March 26 election, has approved the end of the 13-year tuition freeze. Charest said he would allow university fees to rise by $100 per year for five years, which he called a “reasonable increase.”
The Parti Québécois have listed eight ways they will address education needs, but none actually promise concrete levels of reinvestment.
Are Concordia students likely to side with the PQ because of their promise to keep the tuition freeze? Or will the issue of sovereignty override concern for their pocketbooks and keep the largely anglo- and allophone population of students voting Liberal for the sake of national unity?
Khaleed Juma, president of the Concordia Student Union, called it a “weird situation. As we are mostly an anglophone university, most students won’t support the PQ.”
“As one of my friends put it: ‘Most students want to vote Liberal, with the platform of the PQ on education and the leadership and charisma of the ADQ’s Mario Dumont,'” Juma continued.
“What students need to do,” Juma said, “is to sit down with the Liberals and say, ‘this isn’t going to fly,’ and see if we can get the Liberals back to support[ing] education.” He added that it would be important to send a message to the Liberal Party that “the university could vote PQ if they wanted to.”
According to the university’s special communications officer, John Parisella, the “Liberal party would probably represent the best option because there would be less disruption,” he said in an interview. “The ADQ said they would abolish school boards and the PQ talks of maintaining the freeze, but their options aren’t really spelled out.” Without presuming to speak on students’ behalf, Parisella said he doesn’t imagine students would protest the “relatively negligible” increases the Liberals are proposing.
Political science professor Andre Lecours teaches nationalism at Concordia. He also thinks that students are most likely to support the Liberals, estimating up to 90 per cent of the politically-active students he talks to will end up supporting the Liberals because they don’t want to see sovereignists in power. “More than ideology, it’s about the country,” he said, concluding that federalism trumps tuition.
But not everyone feels that way.
Misha Warbanski, editor-in-chief for The Link, is voting according to her convictions. She will mark an ‘X’ next to Québec Solidaire’s box, a party that is “tuned in to the heart of Quebec,” she said.
Ideally, the former Newfoundlander-turned-Quebec resident would like to vote PQ but is disappointed with their shift to the centre-right under André Boisclair.
“They’re alienating everyone, from hard-line separatists to those who have a real concern for social affairs and democracy,” said Warbanski.
She said she won’t forgive or forget the Liberal Party’s betrayal. Charest campaigned in the last election on a platform of education investment, but it didn’t last long. After they came to power in April 2003 “[Charest] turned around and stole $103 million from loans and bursaries,” said Warbanski.
That act put wings on the feet of activist students and sent thousands flying to the pavement in front of the Premier’s office on Nov. 10, 2004. A seven-week strike then began Feb. 24, involving nearly all the CEGEPS and universities in the province and ending only when the government backed down and promised to restore funding for the 2006-2007 year.
Another out-of-province voter is Jason Gondziola, an anglophone P