June 5, 2012
Québec government abandons negotiations
by Roger Annis
After months of stonewalling students on strike across Quebec, the government walked out on negotiations, writes Roger Annis.
"NOTHING IS working anymore in Québec City." So began the report on Radio Canada (French-language CBC) about the collapse of negotiations between the Québec government and the four associations of post-secondary students on strike. Around 4 p.m. last Thursday, May 31, Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne walked out of the talks.
Both sides held press conferences following the collapse. The government explained that the sole, effective offer it made (varying only in form) over the four days of talks was to reduce its proposed hike in tuition fees by $35 to $219 for each of the coming seven years, and to also reduce proportionately tax credits available to students and their families.
The last of a series of counter-proposals by student representatives was a freeze on tuition fees for two years and a reduction in tax credits such that the government would recuperate the funds it sought to obtain from its tuition hike.
Student leaders charge that the government's stonewalling was guided by its eye on an election which must take place within 18 months. They cited, in particular, the annoyance expressed by Courchesne, during talks on the fourth day, about newspaper headlines the previous day claiming the government was "folding" from its hardline stance of maintaining its tuition hike at all costs.
What's more, said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of CLASSÉ, the largest of the student association involved in the strike, the fee hike is not a measure to finance colleges and universities, "but a goal in itself, a partisan objective."
This would also explain the government's refusal in negotiations to entertain withdrawing its draconian Bill 78, notwithstanding the tidal wave of opposition to the law, including from the province's bar association.
Nadeau-Dubois launched an appeal to students to deliver a message to the government in the streets. He told Radio Canada, "When a government cuts off dialogue, when a government sabotages negotiations, the only place left for the population to make itself heard is in the streets. And there's where we are returning. For this reason, we are calling for a big demonstration this coming Saturday, June 2, at 2 p.m. at Parc Jeanne Mance. We want people to bring their pots and pans so we can be heard all the way to Québec City."
As this story was being written on May 31, it was already an evening of noisy protest throughout Québec, in dozens of cities and towns. In Montreal alone, there were several dozen actions taking place, the largest of which, according to Radio Canada, gathered more than 10,000 people (all, let us note, in defiance of Bill 78 and municipal regulations that restrict the right to protest). In Québec City, police have moved on a large protest and arrested participants, declaring their march "illegal" under a municipal regulation.
First published at RogerAnnis.com.
This changes everything
Material on this Web site is licensed by socialistsolidarity.ca, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and socialistsolidarity.ca.