Home Quebec students could lose $100 million: lobbyists

Quebec students could lose $100 million: lobbyists

by admin January 19, 2010

The Quebec government says students there will not be affected by the end of the Millennium Scholarship program, as negotiations continue between the province and Ottawa over its successor.

Canada’s new Student Grant Program took effect earlier this month, but because Quebec runs its student aid program independently of the government, the new grants will not be available to students from the province. Instead, the federal government is expected to transfer Quebec’s share of the programs funding to the provincial government. But an agreement has not yet been reached. If an agreement isn’t reached, Quebec could stand to loose over $100 million a year, according to student lobbyists.
The two governments did have an agreement covering the previous program that ended Jan. 5, the Millennium Scholarships. That deal saw the federal government transfer around $72 million to Quebec each year, which was distributed by the province.
Quebec’s student aid program is already largely based on up-front needs-based grants.
According to Pierre Noël, director of media relations for Quebec’s Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport, the Quebec government has assumed the cost of cancelled Millennium Scholarships.
“Students will not be penalized by the end of the program,” Noël wrote in an email.
But student lobbyists have expressed concerns that this money might not last if a deal isn’t reached.

When asked about the state of the negotiations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the federal department that runs the Canada Student Loans program, would only say that similar negotiations take place every year.
But Quebec isn’t alone. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut also run their student aid programs independently of the federal government. Neither territory has reached an agreement with Ottawa on the new grants.
But HRSDC said it doesn’t matter that an agreement hasn’t been reached yet. According to the department’s media relations office, the payments given to Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories “traditionally … aren’t made until six months after the end of the loan year.”

Quebec’s largest opposition party has also criticized the provincial government for failing to secure the funds.
Yves-François Blanchet, MNA for Drummond and the critic for student aid, has called for the federal government to transfer the funds to Quebec without conditions, on the grounds that education is a provincial responsibility in Canada’s Constitution.
“The Liberal government should stop putting Canada’s interests before those of Quebec,” he said.

The new grants will provide students from low-income families with $250 a month, while they are taking classes. Students from middle-income families will receive $100 a month.
Quebec’s current student aid program currently provides students from the province with grants of up to $15,574 per year and loans of up to $2,440 per year.

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