By: Laura Clementson
Pack your signs up and stop complaining. At least, that’s my sentiment.
Ever since mid-February, students in Quebec have captured national attention by causing road blockages and property damage. And evidently it all paid off for them.
In September, the new Parti Québécois government announced that they would not be increasing post-secondary education tuition costs for the time being. The previous Liberal administration originally proposed to increase university tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 between 2012 and 2017, which sparked anger and frustration among Quebec students forcing them to take their message to the streets—that they won’t pay.
For many attending university outside of the province of Quebec, these numbers are not even comparable to the prices other provinces have to pay. According to Statistics Canada, Quebec along with Newfoundland and Labrador have the lowest average fees. Quebec pays $2,774 and on average, Ontario students pay the highest rate at $7,180.
As if the tuition hike cancellation were not enough, now there are talks of Quebec students wanting free tuition in general. This apparently is the long-term goal of CLASSE, a temporary national student organization.
Enough is enough. Quebec pays the second-lowest tuition in the country and Ontario pays the highest so we can’t sympathize with students or support them when we’re not even in the same league. The numbers speak for themselves — Ontario pays well over double what Quebec students pay.
Although Ontario students have endured the ‘drop fees’ campaigns put on by their student federations and the Canadian Federation of Students, spending thousands of dollars each year on supplies like signs and posters, no campaign compares to the one Quebec has seen over the last year. For this, we can be thankful that students in this province have enough common sense to realize that you get ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to education. And thankful for the fact that we don’t burn cars or break windows as a means of demanding the government give us what we want.
Students are always going to be protesting the cost of tuition and this is something that society has become accustomed to. However, there is room for disagreement when it comes to the violence that can be associated with protesting. It’s difficult to not feel for the citizens trying to get to work who were uprooted from their normal routine because of road closures and protesters. It’s incomprehensible why there always seems to be a need to either break store windows, damage cars, and inflict violence on police officers who are trying to keep the situation under control and who are most likely being paid overtime (by the taxpayers) because you’re protesting in the first place. These of course are the bad apples, but let’s face it, there’s a few in every bushel.
There is a time and place for student activism. The Vietnam War was an example of when social movements can and should be successful. It was purposeful and affected the entire country. There is room for debate as to whether or not a country should go to war; there is no debate over the fact that textbooks, new buildings, and teacher salaries all have a price tag attached to them.
Let’s set the record straight. Just because students may not agree with the Quebec students’ message or method, does not mean that they do not realize or have appreciation for the financial burden that students bear with tuition. Most students can appreciate the fact that we work relentlessly throughout the summer to save up for tuition, rent, textbooks, and food. Yet it’s still not enough.
It does not take an economist, only common sense, to tell you that Quebec students will be paying for it somewhere, ultimately shifting the stress to another part of the system.
There seems to be a constant demand for smaller class sizes and new buildings, just to name a few of their demands. Student protesters, however, have yet to offer realistic solutions as to how the government is supposed to dole this money out. Until student representatives sit down with their respective politicians to communicate a credible solution instead of marching in the streets, you cannot back them up.
Appreciate the fact that you won’t see an increase for some time while your Ontario counterparts are paying what the economy – and more specifically inflation – are dictating.