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Why Quebec shouldn’t be using our credit cards

by Mark Della Posta April 3, 2012
Why Quebec shouldn’t be using our credit cards

Graphic by Sean Kershaw

Just make students pay. It seems like a simple enough solution.

According to the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities, the university system in this province is severely underfunded. Tuition in Quebec is the lowest in Canada, so what’s the harm in bringing the rates in La Belle Province closer to the national average?

Newspaper editorials, such as the one in The Gazette on March 12, have been telling students to face the reality of today’s economy and pay their “fair share.” What they seem to disregard, however, is that today’s university students will end up paying far more than that in the very near future. The hikes represent yet another burden this government and this society are unloading onto youth.

Finance Minister Raymond Bachand indicated during the presentation of his government’s budget on March 20 that the Charest Liberals would not back down from increasing tuition by $325 a year over the next five years, as previously announced in his 2011 budget.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to argue that the hikes act as an insurmountable barrier to higher education. The total increase of $1,625 can likely be made up in two months of summer work. The increases do, however, make it abundantly clear that the politicians in this province seem  to care very little about the generation that will one day take their place.

The infrastructure in Quebec is crumbling. The Champlain bridge and Turcot interchange need to be torn down and rebuilt. From 2010 to the end of 2015, the Quebec government will have spent $44.6 billion on infrastructure, including $20.4 billion on transportation infrastructure,# money that this province, which is already $184 billion in debt, simply doesn’t have. Which generation of Quebecers will be stuck with that bill?

Rising debt and an aging population have forced the federal government to push the age eligibility for Old Age Security benefits from 65 to 67. Furthermore, considering the massive $40 billion lost by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, in 2008, the next generation of university students will likely have to work longer than any other generation.

They will also be burdened with Canada’s environmental issues. “Canada’s emissions in 2009 were 17 per cent above 1990 levels,” according to a National Inventory Report from Environment Canada. Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister, recently said “when you’re talking about environmental rules, less can be more.”

With that nonsensical approach to climate change part of Canada’s official doctrine, it’s likely that the bulk of future costs associated with combating environmental challenges will fall on the same students who are being asked to pay more for their education now.

Aside from the bills that current Quebec students will one day have to pay for, they have to prepare themselves for a life in which they will be among the highest taxed people in Canada.

One solution is to follow Australia’s model and do more about mining revenues. The Australian government recently introduced a “super tax” on mining profits, which means that the 30 per cent tax on coal and iron ore production will increase the government’s revenues by approximately $11 billion.

The Liberals should do the same here. PQ finance critic Nicolas Marceau said that the Liberal Party “doesn’t have the courage of Australia, where they tax excess profits,” according to a CBC article.

The profits could help ease the burden on the future generation, and improve our health, education and transportation sectors.

Upon the unveiling of the provincial budget, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault accused the government of using “the credit card” of future generations. Today’s university students will be forced to deal with the overspending and mismanagement of today’s government.

Having Canada’s lowest tuition rates was like one final breath of fresh air before being thrust into a broken society in desperate need of repairs.

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