Very little mention of youth in Quebec budget

QUEBEC CITY (CUP) — Despite an ongoing outcry from many students and their supporters, the Quebec government is sticking to its guns when it comes to hiking tuition.
The 2012–13 budget, released March 20 by Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, is designed to bring fiscal balance by next year. It follows the March 2011 education plan that calls for a 25-per-cent hike in revenue for universities by raising tuition, increasing government spending and encouraging universities to seek out more donations and sources of funding.
Student representatives present at the budget lockup were disappointed and angered by the result.
“We’re very frustrated to see that the government right now is [seeing] students as second-class citizens,” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. “It’s very frustrating that the government is not listening to the next generation.”
“There is no dialogue, there is no possibility to talk with this government. Obviously, people are going to be more and more angry,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante.
For Quebec’s university undergraduates, who pay some of the lowest tuition fees in Canada, the university funding plan has meant that tuition will increase by $1,625 over five years, beginning with a $325 increment this fall. The added projected revenue leads to an obvious increase in next year’s budget numbers: in the 2011–12 school year, students paid $753 million for their education, but in 2012–13, students’ total contribution will be an estimated $804 million — an increase of $95 million.
In all, the total revenue for universities, which includes tuition, government funds, grants, other revenue streams and donations, is expected to be $4.26 billion in 2012–13. That’s an increase of $142 million from 2011–12.
There are increases in expected contributions from the government and students in the budget’s five-year forecast due to a rise in enrolment. While last year’s budget anticipated a total increase of $850 million in funding for universities in 2016–17, this year’s budget predicts an increase of $967 million for that same time period.
Bachand defended the decision, saying it was “reasonable” to expect a university graduate, who stands to earn $600,000 more than a high school graduate, to pay 17 per cent of their schooling, the rate at which they will be paying in 2016-2017. In 2008-2009, students paid for 12.7 per cent of costs.
“There are students who oppose the rates, and it’s their right,” he said. “I’m sorry they didn’t participate more actively during the debate [two years ago]. The decision has been taken.”
When asked whether mediation with students would be a possibility, Bachand was blunt: “No, it’s not a good idea […] It’s difficult to sit down with someone who argues for a tuition freeze, and nothing more.”
Mediation, he said, is for when the two parties have something still to agree on. But since tuition increases have started to pass, the discussion is closed.
Most of the opposition parties also slammed the decision.
“Raising tuition will decrease access to high education; it’s certainly not a measure to help Quebec gain the educated workers it needs to succeed,” said Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir, who labelled the budget a “sign of a discredited government.” He encouraged students to keep fighting: “They have the momentum. It’s one of the most solid mobilizations I have ever seen.”
Option nationale leader Jean-Martin Aussant, who calls for free education, said he supported protesters “100 per cent,” provided they stay within the law, unlike two groups that blocked bridges earlier that day.
“They don’t need to block a bridge to be heard, I’m convinced,” he said. “Because unfortunately, it works against them.”
Aussant suggested that the government is making a calculated electoral strategy, banking on the hope that most students won’t vote Liberal in an upcoming election.
Since last year’s budget, there has been an increase in expected contributions from the government and students in the budget’s five-year forecast because of a rise in enrolment; the total increased revenue is set at $967 million, which is $117 million more than estimated in the last budget.
But student group Table de concertation étudiante du Québec takes issue with the discrepancy. It shows, they said in a release, that the government has not properly calculated the cost of universities and that it must “re-evaluate” university costs.
Overall, in a budget designed to be a stepping stone to fiscal balance, spending increased only in education, family and healthcare, while there were cuts to other programs. Spending by the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport will increase by 2.2 per cent to just under $16 billion, or a quarter of total program spending. There were no new “user fees” or taxes announced for this year’s budget.


Related Posts