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Editorial

by The Concordian September 20, 2011
According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, there was an average 4.3 per cent increase in tuition this year throughout the country, which followed a similar increase of four per cent in 2010-2011.
According to the Quebec government, almost $800 million must be slashed from the public sector before the end of March 2012, including $180 in education. Next year will also see the gradual increase of tuition by $325 a year until 2017 for Quebec students.
More tuition and more cuts. Something clearly does not add up, even though the provincial government seems to think so. This of course is the same government that now has Line Beauchamp as deputy premier, a politician whose track record as education minister is not exactly one worth bragging about.
The Statistics Canada study found that the average for Canadian undergraduate tuition is now $5,366, with Ontario students paying the highest in the country, at $6,640 on average. Quebec undergrads are of course looked at with envy by all other Canadian students due to the fact that they pay the lowest tuition in the country, currently sitting at an average of $2,519 per year.
But with tuition on the rise in the province and budget cuts imminent, Quebec students will slowly but surely approach the same exceedingly high debt level their counterparts are already experiencing in the nine other provinces. And in the process, the quality of the services they receive may very well suffer. The provincial government has assured Quebecers that will not be happening, but major unions including the Centrale des syndicats du Quebec and the Confederation des syndicats nationaux have said otherwise.
In fact, the CSQ has already complained that services in the education sector have already been diminished due to $110 million made in budget cuts earlier this year, and the union is now worried that further reductions will compromise services to students and the public.
Treasury board president and former education minister Michelle Courchesne has said the cuts are necessary to keep the province on track to balancing its books by 2013-2014. The treasury board has said that the reductions will only target “administrative costs,” with a board spokesperson telling media last week that “in no way are we aiming at services.”
That may be, but why demand taking back so much from the two provincial departments – education and health – that service the population the most?
It is rather difficult to imagine just how deep administrative cuts can go before services start to become affected, or even to imagine what these “administrative cuts” may be. Cuts to the salaries of university presidents and vice-presidents, perhaps? Concordia’s interim president Frederick Lowy earns $350,000 a year to run a university of 45,000 students. That’s even more than what Jean Charest makes to be premier of a province of seven million.
It is therefore fortunate to see that students, in light of these tuition increases and spending cuts, are not going to idle on the sidelines as the Charest government plows forward with these controversial budgetary measures. One important example is the $1,625 Ca ne passe pas campaign of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec. The FEUQ, of which the Concordia Student Union is a member, is gearing up for a massive Nov. 10 demonstration in Montreal with other student groups to denounce the provincial government for the injustices it has inflicted on the education sector.
Although relatively deaf to the demands of students thus far, the Charest government would be wise to listen this time. After all, this is the same government whose level of public approval is in serious decline, notably because of the damning reports confirming widespread corruption in the construction industry.
The provincial government must come to the obvious conclusion that higher tuition and less spending in education is not going to win over Quebecers. Students have a right to their education. Perhaps someday, hopefully in the near future, the government will fully realize that.

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