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Red Square
April 30, 2012 8:17 AM   Subscribe

In March, 2012, students in Montreal, Canada took to the streets to protest the Quebec Liberal government's intention to raise tuition by 75% over five years. The red square, a symbol of the last student strike, quickly became the symbol of this one as well.

"MONTREAL: 18th April, 2012. Despite the ultimatum detailed by minister Beauchamp this morning, the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) maintained its position on recent events. “Two weeks ago, following the bolstering of student loans, Mrs. Beauchamp ordered the student movement to hold a new vote on the strike. Today, she is asking student spokespersons to stake their position within 24 hours, while we have been on strike for nine weeks, and without consulting the tens of thousands of striking students”, declared Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson for CLASSE."

Confrontations on Quebec streets have grown increasingly violent since the beginning of the strike, and the streets are still full of marching students. Meanwhile, some have begun to frame the student strike as part of a larger cultural movement; a movement against the corporate agenda in universities, public sector cuts, and a neo-liberal agenda in Canadian government.

In the twelfth week of protest, students continue to reject government settlements, and some think that it's only a matter of time before the government capitulates, while others claim the movement lacks support. The issue is not without controversy, and some fellow students have voiced their own frustrations with the movement.
posted by Stagger Lee (84 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tuition of $4,700 per year (in 2016!) is an entirely appropriate amount of money to pay for a college degree. If one cannot afford that amount with their projected earnings after college, they should not be pursuing a degree. I am amazed at the audacity of violent protests over something so trivial. It brings to mind Sayre's Law - "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."
posted by saeculorum at 8:22 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


violent protests

Cite, please. (The "violent" link in the post goes to an example of police violence, not protester violence.)
posted by enn at 8:24 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tuition of $4,700 per year (in 2016!) is an entirely appropriate amount of money to pay for a college degree.

So then why isn't the government of Canada willing to pay it? They are going to benefit from it very greatly in myriad ways. It seems like the taxpayers should bear the lion's share of a degree they are going to benefit from so very much.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


enn said: Cite, please.

From CBC: Spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois [for student group CLASSE] clarified that the group opposes the kind of vandalism and pillaging seen in tumultuous protests in Montreal on Friday, but still believes in civil disobedience, such as demonstrations and symbolic occupations of politicians' offices.
posted by saeculorum at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I paid $0 for my college degree and that's an entirely appropriate amount to pay.

Canadians should fight this with everything they have. A nation that doesn't realize the importance of democratized and free education is a nation that will dig its own grave.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2012 [37 favorites]


Hey enn, most of the violence I've heard about has been on the part of police.
There may have been (probably has been?) some vandalism; as tends to happen when you get crowds that big, but nothing on the scale of a good ol' hockey riot.

I suppose if people want evidence that students are being violent they can dig out their own sources. For now, as a point of clarity: yes, the articles only mention police violence, and no I don't have any evidence to show that protesters have instigated any kind of violence. By all accounts it is a peaceful protest.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2012


Tuition should be free. Tuition fees contribute little to the costs of post-secondary education, and act more as a barrier to entry than anything else. Youth unemployment in Canada is double the national average (which, at 8%, is already too high as it is). On top of that, there's a skills shortage, especially in the tech sector, which pays the higher wages needed to support Canada's ageing population by improving productivity (tax revenues).

Education should be free, and the reason why it is not is due more to culture ("education is an investment is one's future" blah blah blah). Our society is not really interested in social mobility and increasing incomes for all.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Of course, you're not paying 4700/year for a degree, you're paying that for tuition. There are other costs to attendance.

But I disagree that this is an appropriate amount to pay while you are a student. You should be paying more, with more progressive tax rates, once you have finished your degree and are employed; you should be paying less while you are still a student.
posted by jeather at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


So then why isn't the government of Canada willing to pay it?

Government of Quebec. Has nothing (well, very little) to do with the federal government. University in Quebec is cheaper than in other provinces. In 2011, the Canadian average for undergrads was ~$5100/year; it was $2400 in Quebec (about 40% of what it costs in Ontario (($5900)). So yeah, undergrads in Quebec have had it pretty good relative to other Canadians, but secondary education is almost entirely a provincial matter. Quebec has been subsidizing university education at the cost of other provincial programs (presumably).
posted by loquax at 8:32 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


vandalism and pillaging

Violence means attacks on living persons. Destruction and theft of inanimate property are not violence.
posted by enn at 8:36 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


...opposes the kind of vandalism and pillaging seen in tumultuous protests in Montreal on Friday, but still believes in civil disobedience, such as demonstrations and symbolic occupations of politicians' offices

So...do you not know what "opposes" means or do you think civil disobedience is violent?

...undergrads in Quebec have had it pretty good relative to other Canadians...

Ah, that's the scheme. There are few so intolerant as those on the next rung down. Divide and conquer. Don't set it up as "poor vs rich" but as "poor vs slightly poorer".
posted by DU at 8:37 AM on April 30, 2012


It brings to mind Sayre's Law - "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."
posted by saeculorum at 11:22 AM on April 30 [+] [!]


Academic politics means the politics for the running of departments and universities - the politics of what courses to offer, whether to require majors to write an undergraduate thesis. These are protests against the policies of the provincial government. This is not academic politics, this is politics-politics.
posted by jb at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Divide and conquer. Don't set it up as "poor vs rich" but as "poor vs slightly poorer".

Well, somebody has to pay for the provincial university system, if its not the students (and/or their parents), it's the taxpayers at large right? Even at $6k/year public universities are heavily subsidized across Canada. So what should the split be between the "poor" people? More on the student/parent side or more on the average taxpayer side?
posted by loquax at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


More on the student/parent side or more on the average taxpayer side?

How about the non-average taxpayer? For that matter, why is tuition going up faster than inflation?
posted by DU at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tuition of $4,700 per year (in 2016!) is an entirely appropriate amount of money to pay for a college degree.

The problem isn't that it costs money. The problem is when governments (which all have free degrees on the back of free/near free degrees handed out to Boomers and to a limited degree, Generation X) see tuition as lazy freeloading students ripe for the paying up. Put it on the university credit card you lazy fuck and earn it off when you start making college graduate money! If they don't draw a line in the sand the government will just keep moving the goalposts every year.

Witness the decline of UC which has seen the resident tutition go from $4,332 per year at UC Davis in 1997 up to $15,123 this year. It's up to $38,001 for out of state residents which has tripled from 1997.

Fuck the government willing to sell out its own children's futures that they once enjoyed on the Greatest Generation Ever's dime. Fuck them up their greedy asses.
posted by Talez at 8:43 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


More on the student/parent side or more on the average taxpayer side?

That 4.7 K a year is equivalent to a regressive tax.

So I'd go with a progressive tax that impacts the rich taxpayer more than the average taxpayer.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


In Canada anyway the politicians who want to raise tuition fees likely enjoyed relatively cheaper tuition fees when they completed their own degrees back in the late 60s and 70s.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fuck the government willing to sell out its own children's futures that they once enjoyed on the Greatest Generation Ever's dime.

But don't blame the university industry for selling their mediocre product at these outrageous prices.

Only the government would pay so much for so little and that's why it's so important for the education industry that students don't actually become paying customers.
posted by three blind mice at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2012


Only the government would pay so much for so little and that's why it's so important for the education industry that students don't actually become paying customers.

There's no profit to be had in UC. Just a state government that's balking at the cost of actually funding a professional, modern higher education system and the various albatrosses around its neck.
posted by Talez at 8:55 AM on April 30, 2012


-So then why isn't the government of Canada willing to pay it? They are going to benefit from it very greatly in myriad ways. It seems like the taxpayers should bear the lion's share of a degree they are going to benefit from so very much.

-I paid $0 for my college degree and that's an entirely appropriate amount to pay.

I'm an American and what's this?
posted by hellojed at 8:56 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Quebec has been subsidizing university education at the cost of other provincial programs (presumably).

No. Quebec delivers more generous and a greater number of social programmes than other provinces. The cost is higher taxes.

Which is a trade-off I'd be willing to pay, were I still a Quebec resident. 2000$ a year tuition and fees (which is what I paid as a McGill undergrad) was a burden (but a manageable one) as a student trying to pay his own way through university via summer employment. 5000$ would have meant loans, at the very least. Regardless, 5000$ in taxes as a well-paid professional is far, far easier to handle than 5000$ in tuition as a scrounging student. Paying tuition via loans just transfers money to the (private) financial sector that finances loans.
posted by bumpkin at 8:58 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm an American and what's this?

The phrase is "public education," I think, a now-obscure rallying cry that can be found in the dustbin of our nation's history, somewhere after "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too" and before "drill, baby, drill."
posted by RogerB at 9:02 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


It brings to mind Sayre's Law - "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."

I don't know why it would, since Sayre's Law does not apply here. This is not "academic" politics. This is national social and economic politics. An educated citizenry that is not crippled by huge debt by the age of 21 is hardly low stakes.
posted by rtha at 9:07 AM on April 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hurrah, thank god we are not alone in this crazy idea. Thanks Canada, at least we can stand together on the issue of fucking over students.
posted by marienbad at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2012


On the other hand, anyone saying there isn't "student"-instigated violence is probably unaware of the long history of Black Bloc protest politics in Quebec.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is pretty depressing to watch this from Ontario, where tuition has been going up for many years at several times the rate of inflation (and is now over twice that of Quebec). No one seems to care except to complain about the lines and rules to get student loans and to wonder what Quebeckers are complaining about.
posted by parudox at 9:10 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about the non-average taxpayer?

Quebec already has the highest provincial income tax for the top bracket (24% on everything over $80k, on top of the federal 26% over that level, and 29% over 130k). Sales tax provincially is 10%, highest in Canada (along with PEI and NS), and 15% when combine with the GST. However the cost is apportioned, seems pretty clear that residents of Quebec are already taxed more than other Canadians, and have been receiving more subsidized services (university education included). So it's a question of raising taxes even more on the most taxed province, and the most taxed "non-average" taxpayers, or raising fees for users. Quebec already has problems being economically competitive in Canada (and North America). Further raising taxes is pretty much a non-starter politically, and would likely come with another exodus from the province (see the last ~40 years).

For Americans in this conversation, it's important to realize that the relationship between the provinces and the federal government is entirely different than the relationship between the states and the federal government in the US. "Constitutionally", education (along with health care and a few other things) is the responsibility of the provinces, and is paid for primarily (along with provincial taxes) by transfer payments from the federal government for specific programs according to specific formulas. This is not a "Canadian" issue, it's quite specifically a Quebec issue.

For that matter, why is tuition going up faster than inflation?

There was a tuition freeze for most of the 90's and 2000's. The cost today is not much higher than it was 20 years ago, well, well below the rate of inflation.
posted by loquax at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm an American and what's this?

Civilization.
posted by mhoye at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


> Violence means attacks on living persons. Destruction and theft of inanimate property are not violence.

Ah, the "it's only violence if you try to stop us" game, aka the "I'm not hitting you" defense. It's funny how radical leftists, rightists, and six-year-olds see eye-to-eye on many issues.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 9:45 AM on April 30, 2012


loquax: "This is not a "Canadian" issue, it's quite specifically a Quebec issue."

As an American, my impression is that nearly every Candian issue turns out to be a "Quebec" issue.
posted by pwnguin at 9:47 AM on April 30, 2012


So yeah, undergrads in Quebec have had it pretty good relative to other Canadians, but secondary education is almost entirely a provincial matter.

Alternatevely students in the rest of Canada are getting screwed compared to Quebec. And compared to Quebec is camparing to ~20% of the population.
posted by Mitheral at 9:47 AM on April 30, 2012


As an American, my impression is that nearly every Candian issue turns out to be a "Quebec" issue.

Well, we're distinct.
posted by jeather at 9:54 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This is not a "Canadian" issue, it's quite specifically a Quebec issue."

The Canadian public sector is being hit from all sides, at both the provincial and federal level. You name it, it's being cut. The student protests are isolated to Quebec, but the cost of education, rising student debt and tuition and all the other baggage are Canadian issues.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


More specifically on the numbers, undergrad tuition in Quebec was $500 from 1970 - 1990, $1670 from 1994 - 2007, climbing to ~$2400 today. That's a 42 year average increase of 3.8%, vs. the 4.2% average inflation rate since 1970. Since '94, tuition increased at 2% annually on average, inline with inflation (correct me if my numbers are wrong). The proposed hikes would bring the average increase since 1970 inline with inflation, and would increase the rate since 1994 to an average of just over 3%.

Someone (even a politician) attending a public Quebec university in 1970 would have paid $500 vs. an average income of $5,500 (9%) and a minimum wage of $1.40 (357x, or about 9 weeks of minimum wage employment to afford tuition). Today, tuition is $2,400 vs average income of $33,000 (7%) and a minimum wage of $10.00 (240x, or 6 weeks employment). Students today are getting a better deal, in theory, than their parents and grandparents did.
posted by loquax at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


Students today are getting a better deal, in theory, than their parents and grandparents did.

That's fantastic. I hope their grandchildren get an even better deal.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:00 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


A lot of educators are frustrated at the state of the University as a credentialing institution.

No matter how little effort or ability students have, policy dictates that professors must mark to a certain average and can only give failing grades in very limited circumstances.

I wonder:
  1. Is this really that different from how it was 'in the good old days'?
  2. Does being able to fail students improve higher education outcomes?
  3. Does how dependent the university is on student tuition affect the how reluctant they are to flunk students?
If keeping tuition very low encourages universities to be more picky about who they admit and retain rather than letting anyone who'll pay slouch through the program, then I'm all for it.
posted by anthill at 10:07 AM on April 30, 2012


Quebec already has the highest provincial income tax for the top bracket (24% on everything over $80k, on top of the federal 26% over that level, and 29% over 130k). Sales tax provincially is 10%, highest in Canada (along with PEI and NS), and 15% when combine with the GST.

The rest of the picture is the Quebec government's spiraling debt - $184 billion, one of the worst in Canada on a debt per gdp basis. So even with this level of taxation, the situation is not sustainable.

Yes, you can keep increasing taxes but at some point, the economically mobile will just leave. It is a rock-and-hard-place situation.

University education is a public good, but what would you cut to keep it.
posted by storybored at 10:08 AM on April 30, 2012


That's fantastic. I hope their grandchildren get an even better deal.

I agree, but having the government subsidize higher education doesn't happen in a vaccum. In order to make sure that happens, what do you want, cuts in quality of education/available spots, higher taxes, or cuts to other government services? That has to be part of this conversation. Otherwise, what's there to talk about, free university education, is, in fact, awesome. I think we can all agree on that?

This is like the awesome subsidized, super cheap Quebec childcare system. It's the cheapest by far in Canada at 7 bucks a day and subsidized by the provinces by $10k/kid per year. Only problem is there are few spots with long waiting lists in desirable areas and the quality vs. private care is suspect. Most parents end up in mediocre facilities in inconvenient locations. Is that what the Quebec higher education system should look like?
posted by loquax at 10:10 AM on April 30, 2012


Loquax if the government was earnestly and sincerely asking students that question, I'd imagine that they could come up with some suggestions. The government isn't engaging in that kind of dialogue with students.

This link (as seen above) has some really good analysis by CLASSE on why it's not as simple as economic sustainability.

"Since its announcement in the 2010 Quebec budget, the media lackeys of the Liberal government have attempted to present this measure as inevitable. But behind this claimed inevitability we find an eminently political decision expressed in what the finance minister terms a "cultural revolution," and the international economic authorities refer to as an "austerity budget." Whatever the name given to it by governments, it clearly and definitively involves the dismantling of public services aimed at privatizing what remains of the commons."
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:19 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was listening to a discussion about this on CBC radio this week and the interviewee said that like most Quebec issues it is portrayed completely different in the main stream English media. That on one day of the protests there were 30,000 people out protesting and it wasn't just students but family and even teachers. That it is about more than tuition. I only caught the end of the interview but I wouldn't be surprised if that is true. We only seem to pay attention to Quebec when violence happens.
posted by kanata at 10:32 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, you can keep increasing taxes but at some point, the economically mobile will just leave. It is a rock-and-hard-place situation.

Yeah, that's why Sweden and Denmark are barren, empty lands, crushed under by incredible debt.
posted by eriko at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


The government isn't engaging in that kind of dialogue with students.

I don't really have a dog in the fight and don't know how the government has communicated with students, but it seems obvious to me that tuition rates are not just too low, but way too low compared with the Canadian average. Even with the proposed increases, tuition in Quebec will be ~60% of the Canadian average, so on the surface, it's hard for me (as an Ontarian, who is not directly impacted by any of this) to have much sympathy for the students on this issue.

Also, the issue of debating tuition hikes is always interesting - why dialogue with the current batch of students that won't even be around for the tuition hikes (or at least the full extent of them)? Shouldn't the dialogue be with the students that will be primarily affected by the hikes? Ie current high school students and parents thereof (I guess)? Or future prospective parents of university students? Almost by definition students are not taxpayers (not substantially anyways), what possible position could they have other than to freeze tuition? The article you linked seems to indicate that the general public is not sympathetic to the student position. The whole thing seems pretty cut and dry to me. Get user fees (more) in line with the rest of the country and move on with your lives.

Whatever the name given to it by governments, it clearly and definitively involves the dismantling of public services aimed at privatizing what remains of the commons."

Obviously, minus the hyperbole, this is relative. A $4k heavily subsidized uni bill would be panacea almost anywhere else on the planet other than Quebec. Quebec is free to do as it chooses, but it is competing in a world where doing things the same way that they've been done for 50 years might not cut it. Quebec's position in Canada has already been greatly diminished with the loss of business and people that fled first the catholic church, then the quiet revolution, then the tax regime. Quebec's status as a long-time "have not" province highlights this. I think the article you linked is exactly right, this is about a lot more than just tuition hikes, and it's probably well past time for Quebec to have an honest conversation with itself about certain realities and where it fits within them.

Yeah, that's why Sweden and Denmark are barren, empty lands, crushed under by incredible debt.

That is one way to go - just have to raise income taxes in Quebec another 10-15% or so and sales taxes 160% and have the rest of Canada continue to subsidize the province to the tune of $8bn or so in equalization payments to promote national unity.
posted by loquax at 10:48 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]




Tuition of $4,700 per year (in 2016!) is an entirely appropriate amount of money to pay for a college degree.

All of these outsider critiques about "oh that's a reasonable amount to pay!" forget the real issue, and that is that the society as a whole expects the social contract to work towards education being free, not sliding more towards market rates.

I can't say I disagree with that sentiment, either. I am glad some people are pushing towards it, and it is a shame that the rest of the population is shamefully misrepesenting the students as simply naive students that failed math.
posted by Theta States at 10:54 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


it seems obvious to me that tuition rates are not just too low, but way too low compared with the Canadian average.

What makes the Canadian average the clearly correct price for higher education?

(I actually think there are a number of ways that tuition can be kept low that also give incentives to stay in Quebec -- in general, I would support some plan which had higher tuition (and much higher ones for things like MD, MBA, DDM) where your loans were written off over, say, 10 years of living in Quebec post-graduation. However, this is never, ever going to happen. Alas.)
posted by jeather at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most ridiculous protest ever. Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in Canada, and are being asked to pay less than a dollar a day more for each of the next five years. At the end of these increases, students will pay 17% of the cost of their education. Over this, they have held 160 protests in the last 11 weeks.

The government should tell police to ensure that students who want to have the opportunity to go to class can do so without being prevented by the violent intimidation of the student unions. Those students who choose not to go to class should fail. And tuition should probably increase by a lot more than $325/year if Quebec universities want to be competitive with the facilities offered elsewhere in Canada.
posted by Dasein at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Though I think that $4,700 is a very reasonable amount to pay for college, I'm very glad that Quebec is raising hell about it.

This is a reasonable increase, but not every subsequent increase will be reasonable - and in the aggregate, they can be murderous. Best to protest each and every one, to make the costs in political capital as terrible as possible per increase. The alternative is 5-10% increases per annum that over the long run, DO make higher education unaffordable.
posted by Vhanudux at 11:03 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


This link (as seen above) has some really good analysis by CLASSE on why it's not as simple as economic sustainability.

It calls for a general strike. And after the strike is over what then? What's the solution being proposed? If no service cuts are acceptable, how much should taxes be raised by and on who? Should it be a sales tax or more income taxes? A conversation requires content.
posted by storybored at 11:09 AM on April 30, 2012


Most ridiculous protest ever. Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in Canada

They're ridiculous because we couldn't get our shit together when it was happening to us. Got it.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:10 AM on April 30, 2012 [18 favorites]


FYI, the highest marginal income tax rate in Sweden is 56%.
The highest marginal income tax rate in Denmark is 60%.

On the other hand Sweden has a very low corporate tax rate at 4.8%,( lower than the U.S.)

It makes up for this by taxing consumption, with a sales tax of 25% (!).

This tax schema actually makes sense to me. Corporations generate jobs, you want to reduce corporate tax burdens. Consumption reflects wealth and inflicts environmental costs and therefore should be taxed.
posted by storybored at 11:18 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Working a summer job (assuming you can get a summer job) that pays, say, $12/hr *before* payroll taxes etc, it would take about 390 hours to pay for $4,700 tuition, or about 10 weeks working 40 hours a week. After that I guess the remaining 6 weeks of work could be devoted to saving up for living expenses, and all this assumes you're living at home during the summer in order to pay for tuition.

It's ridiculous, and favours families that can afford to support their children until they have completed a degree.

And, as mentioned, youth unemployment in Canada is in the double digits. There are going to be kids who can't find work during the summer to pay for school. So they take out loans.

Making students pay for school is just stupid. It doesn't make any sense given the fact that student fees contribute hardly anything to the cost of a degree.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]



It calls for a general strike. And after the strike is over what then? What's the solution being proposed? If no service cuts are acceptable, how much should taxes be raised by and on who? Should it be a sales tax or more income taxes? A conversation requires content.
posted by storybored at 11:09 AM on April 30 [+] [!]


That sounds like the same bullshit they're trying to dump on us in contract negotiations. "We've decided that we need to increase margins, and would like to reduce the amount we spend on employees: tell us where you'd like us to cut you."

Standing up to cuts does not burden us as workers with the responsibility of balancing the books. The same applies to students.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2012


I am amazed at the audacity of violent protests over something so trivial. It brings to mind Sayre's Law - "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."

Yeah, not to pile on the snark brigade, but you have a whole soup of issues going into this a lot more than just low tuition, you also have very high taxes, and a lot of other social programs, and an immensely corrupt government (see the earlier mefi post on snow plow shenanigans in Montreal).

You also have the language pinch- it's not surprising that it's the French educational institutions are the ones that are more eager to strike, because by and large they're the ones stuck with an economically hostile province- I mean that the trade off of trying to enforce French as the language of the workplace and other necessities in the name of cultural integrity (ie subsidizing French media) mean that getting the job to pay off your loans, small though they may be, is worrisome to many.

Also keep in mind the CEGEPs. While not as expensive as a university, the educational system is such that it expects you to essentially pay for a streamed final year of high school plus a year of sorta university or vocational training. Imagine if a huge part of the population was doing community college as a matter of course- student make up a very large group who aren't even necessarily bound for higher ed. So you have five years of education you pay for, not the four of a typical university degree. (And for perspective as far as college prep, Ontario provided Grade 13/OAC for free, before they phased it out.)

The exodus people are talking about is mostly for employment, not just better pay but any pay, and if you speak fluent English getting away from the corruption and language police is a breath of fresh air. But in the mean time you have a lot of young adults with crap service jobs, and a feeling that the social contract is screwing them in the ear. Of course there's a lot of political opportunism, and the PQ is trying to make it all about them, but you also have the same Zeitgeist that slaughtered the BQ in favour of the NDP. We want socialism, we don't want separatism and I have absolutely no problem with my taxes if I wasn't paying to line the pockets of reprehensibly corrupt infrastructure contractors.

TL;DR
There's a lot of young Francophones staring down looking after all the aging boomers, with no jobs, and they can't just blow town like the Anglos mostly already did, because of policies set before they could vote.
posted by Phalene at 11:35 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Violence means attacks on living persons. Destruction and theft of inanimate property are not violence.

Really? I have not heard this definition of violence before. I never would have had a problem using the word "violence" in the context of the rioters that looted and set fire to the Bay in Vancouver last year, for example.
posted by Hoopo at 11:37 AM on April 30, 2012


Hooopo: Check any dictionary. It's in there.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:44 AM on April 30, 2012


Also keep in mind the CEGEPs. While not as expensive as a university

In the sense that tuition is free for full-time students who are Quebec residents (in public schools)? There are a few fees, but I think it's about $100/semester. This is for a pre-university program (grade 12 and first year university) or for a two or three year professional program (various kinds of medical tech, early childhood education, carpentry, welding, etc).
posted by jeather at 11:46 AM on April 30, 2012


Quebec is not Scandinavia, unfortunately: Since 1971/1972, 528,100 more people left the province of Quebec than entered it, the largest net loss of any province or territory resulting from interprovincial migration.

So, question: Is the problem that they are taxed too much, or is the problem that they get too little for their tax money.

See, the reason that the Danes and the Swedes are rather happy with their system is that they get a whole bunch for that tax money.

On the other hand Sweden has a very low corporate tax rate at 4.8%,( lower than the U.S.)

You're missing the 24% contribution to 'social security' that the employer makes, and the 26.4% Goods and Services tax that they're also subject to.

Of course, there are things that Swedish companies don't worry about. Their employees have comprehensive healthcare and retirement benefits, so there's no reason to offer those, or pay more to have them supported. They are very well educated, so they spend less on training and such. There is a great deal of government support for R&D, so they're not worried about the labs not coming up with a salable product.

The important thing here, though, is that Swedes and Danes *clearly get real benefits* from the enormous tax wedge they support. It is why they are *happy* to pay those taxes.

Perhaps the Quebecois are angry because they're not getting value for their taxes, hmm??
posted by eriko at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Standing up to cuts does not burden us as workers with the responsibility of balancing the books. The same applies to students.

Workers have the right to stand up to cuts. Citizens have the responsibility to decide priorities.
posted by storybored at 12:31 PM on April 30, 2012


I don't have access to the OED right now, so I'll have to settle for Merriam-Webster.
VIOLENCE

1 a : exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in warfare effecting illegal entry into a house) b : an instance of violent treatment or procedure
2: injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : outrage
3a : intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force b : vehement feeling or expression : fervor; also : an instance of such action or feeling c : a clashing or jarring quality : discordance
4: undue alteration (as of wording or sense in editing a text)
Nothing in there about whether the action is against a person or a thing.
posted by jb at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2012


Nothing in there about whether the action is against a person or a thing

You'd use different words than "injure" or "abuse" if you were referring to things.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:47 PM on April 30, 2012


Yes, you can keep increasing taxes but at some point, the economically mobile will just leave. It is a rock-and-hard-place situation.

Damn straight! For example, they might flee south to the U.S., where taxes are gloriously low. While there, I'm sure they'll find college tuition to be very modest.
posted by Mayor West at 12:52 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]



Damn straight! For example, they might flee south to the U.S., where taxes are gloriously low. While there, I'm sure they'll find college tuition to be very modest.


To dive further down that road, I'm not sure in what universe raising tuition is a smart response to a flagging economy. More debt and less education is probably not the road to recovery.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:56 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


We just found out that Canada sank 114 billion dollars into the banking sector during the recession.

With that kind of money they could have provided free education to every man, woman and child in the country. It's not as simple as austerity versus spending.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:03 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Quebec is not Scandinavia, unfortunately: Since 1971/1972, 528,100 more people left the province of Quebec than entered it, the largest net loss of any province or territory resulting from interprovincial migration.

So, question: Is the problem that they are taxed too much, or is the problem that they get too little for their tax money.


Quebec is in some ways economically and culturally isolated from the rest of North America. You need English in order to enjoy labour mobility, and Quebec does not encourage learning English. Quebec's isolated status is all the more reason to encourage young people to develop strong bonds to the province be providing cheap tuition.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2012


As someone who attempted to pay their own way through the Canadian university system, I can testify that tuition is absolutely too high and that it is nigh impossible to get through without accumulating crippling and punitive debt, much less to do so while maintaining anything approaching what average people would consider a reasonable quality of life. And to all the Americans popping into the thread to laugh that our system doesn't begin to approach the stratospheric horror of your own, please fuck right off and consider taking care of yourselves first.
posted by kaspen at 1:24 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are a few fees, but I think it's about $100/semester

$100 per class per semester, only a bit more and depends on your program, Dawson you're paying $130 a class in fees, off hand. Not breaking the bank, but you've got a population that's generally limited to minimum wage until you get some CEGEP out of the way, remember the economy doesn't really have much in the way of options.

Add, textbooks, student transit pass (gets fairly steep if you need the light rail pass, for example if you live outside the core because you're saving money by sharing with family) and if you're not receiving a parental tuition subsidy, you're working. The more hours you work, the longer the whole process takes, and god help you if you live in the boonies or your parents are unable to bail you out. So CEGEP is affordable, but cheap education has the additional purpose that it equalizes things such that it mitigates the material advantage a stable middle class family can give compared with a broke or dysfunctional one.
posted by Phalene at 1:25 PM on April 30, 2012


$4,700 is a very reasonable amount to pay for college.

Even with the proposed increases, tuition in Quebec will be ~60% of the Canadian average, so on the surface, it's hard for me (as an Ontarian, who is not directly impacted by any of this) to have much sympathy for the students on this issue.

I don't understand this attitude. As an American student in Quebec, I know I'm getting a crazy deal (I paid way more in in-state tuition in the US for a previous degree), but I have to keep asking myself if the fact that I paid (and would be paying) more elsewhere means students should be paying more everywhere. Just because I suffered (through loans and debt), should all students suffer, even if a substantial portion of society here believes that the goal should be the elimination of tuition fees and increased government support? If I had gone to a private college in the US, should I be unsympathetic to you if Ontario decided to raise tuition by 75% over five years?

In one stroke, with no student consultation, nearly doubling tuition--no matter how low the rates to begin with--is just symbolically bad, and to many, reflects a lack of respect for students, generally. There's a real sense here that the hike is at least partly an attempt to deflect attention from far bigger problems by implying that freeloading students are the reason the potholes aren't filled. (FYI, low tuition doesn't even register on the scale of economic problem in Quebec.)
posted by TropicalWalrus at 2:35 PM on April 30, 2012


What makes the Canadian average the clearly correct price for higher education?

I suppose you're right. Even double the Canadian average isn't a shockingly high amount.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:01 PM on April 30, 2012


If one problem is that the students would be driven to a private loan industry, why aren't they looking at the Australia(/UK?) government loan model?
posted by jacalata at 5:58 PM on April 30, 2012


The reason tuition is so low in Quebec is partially because its students have a history of protesting for their rights.

I don't see that as a bad model to take.
posted by Phire at 6:06 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Quebec is not Scandinavia, unfortunately: Since 1971/1972, 528,100 more people left the province of Quebec than entered it, the largest net loss of any province or territory resulting from interprovincial migration.

I think a few things happened in Quebec in the early 70s that were not strictly economic. See also this very informative chart. 284,000 English-speaking outmigrants compared to 32,500 French-speaking... probably not a tax issue. And in terms of outmigration per capita it's dwarfed by Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and probably others I can't be bothered to do percentages for.
posted by zvs at 9:30 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder:

Is this really that different from how it was 'in the good old days'?


Yes it is.

When I was in my undergrad 1988-91, my tuition covered 12% of the cost of an undergrad degree (in BC). Today students at the same school (UVIC) pay about 21% of the overall budget of the university. However, today's reports lump all sections of the budget together, while in my day, the 12% was only related to the general operating budget (to the exclusion of special funds, capital projects, ancillary projects (i.e. campus services like health clinics, etc). Todays tuition pays nearly 35% of the operating cost of the University

Quebec has held tuition at a more constant rate (in terms of % of cost of running the university) than BC. I think theirs remains close to what I paid ... until now.

So the debate is really about a generation (like Charest, who went to school 10 years before me with even better tuition) that had the benefit of a system of progressive taxation and subsidized education turning their backs on the next generations.

This progressive economists blog presents some interesting data on the Quebec student experience and this post on the same blog presents some other info on the particular tax situation in Quebec and how it relates.

My attitude is that I benefited from the system before, time for me to pay up. Or as some doctors are saying: Tax us! Canada is worth it!
posted by chapps at 10:46 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


[also, hoping printemps erable means I can have pancakes at student tuition demos instead of kraft dinner.]
posted by chapps at 10:50 PM on April 30, 2012


The reason tuition is so low in Quebec is partially because its students have a history of protesting for their rights.

Since when is low tuition a right?

My attitude is that I benefited from the system before, time for me to pay up

You already are. To the tune of the highest tax rate in Canada by some amount. How much more are you willing to pay? 60% marginal tax? 25% sales tax? At 80% you can probably knock the cost of university for the next generation to $0. At 100% you can probably eliminate grad school tuition too!
posted by loquax at 4:48 AM on May 1, 2012


Tuition of $4,700 per year (in 2016!) is an entirely appropriate amount of money to pay for a college degree.

Indeed. Because, as we all know, once tuition has been raised 75% it never, ever gets raised any further. Which is why the students should all be out celebrating their lucky, lucky lives.

No matter how little effort or ability students have, policy dictates that professors must mark to a certain average and can only give failing grades in very limited circumstances.

I once read through a considerable amount of education reports from the 19th century England covering Oxbridge and the prestigious public schools. I don't have the references to hand, so you'll have to trust me for the moment when I say that a rather startlingly large number of complaints were about the fact that students learned nothing. Nada. In fact, as a gentleman learning actual things was beside the point; it wasn't why you went to university. One impressive person managed to get through Harrow and Oxford without ever learning a single iota of Latin, despite it being a huge portion of his curriculum. (Harrow at one point dumped science to spend extra time on the classical languages, and still you could graduate knowing no languages at all). I know people like to fantasize about the good old days when universities really taught and were willing to fail people and there were no slackers, but it's simply not true. There were stand outs, amazing scholars that you read about, but they stand out because they're exceptional, not the norm. Even in curricula that basically taught very few subjects compared to today, people managed to learn pretty much nothing. Were they failed? Well, no, not really: to fail you'd have to actually turn up for exams and tutorials.

Tl;dr: people have been passing people through since college began. People have been complaining about educational standards for as long as they've been complaining about the terrible music kids like today, which is a pretty long time.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:17 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


My attitude is that I benefited from the system before, time for me to pay up

You already are. To the tune of the highest tax rate in Canada by some amount.

Well, I am in BC where tax rates have gone down and services have become more expensive for those with low income.

For instance, when my husband took an MA in economics, we were able to have partially subsidized childcare while our income was low.

After he graduated our income dramatically increased. Our tax rate then dropped, and at the same time, the childcare benefit program was dramatically cut. Meaning we literally benefited from the program and then saw the people after us lose out while our contribution reduced.

I'm a fan of systems where, as a society, we pay when we can best afford it, and have the system available when we need it. The idea that we could go as far as paying 100% and fund everything is a red herring. As noted above, the recently revealed Canadian bank bail out could have funded a lot of education (or childcare). Same with the billions planned for the F35 purchase. And as I pointed out earlier, there has been a choice to shift the burden of tuition increasingly onto students.

Obviously, if you believe education only benefit, no taxes for education makes sense. If you believe an educated population--and access for all--is a social good, taxes for education makes good sense.
posted by chapps at 8:05 AM on May 1, 2012


Obviously, if you believe education only benefit
loquax ... this sounds harsher than I mean, and like it was directed at you. Not my intention.
I realize your point about tax is more nuanced is this, or you could mean "how much should we pay through tax vs tuition" rather than "i shouldn't pay anything" as my comment seems to imply.
posted by chapps at 10:43 AM on May 1, 2012


Well, I am in BC where tax rates have gone down and services have become more expensive for those with low income

If you're in BC, whether or not you want to pay more tax has nothing to do with putting money back into Quebec's education system. If I understand your basic situation (just generalizing on your point, not criticizing you personally), you benefited from a subsidy from the people of Quebec, got your much cheaper than average degree, and left for greener pastures in BC where the tax burden was lower/there were more jobs/whatever. If you wanted to contribute back into the system that helped you, you needed to stay put.

This is the fundamental problem of communism, and why it's almost impossible to balance "economic rights" with "human rights". Communist countries weren't preventing people from emigrating because they wanted to imprison their populations, they couldn't afford it. You can't provide free education then let those people bail without "paying their fair share". The bill must be paid, one way or another, either when the service is provided, or afterwards via taxation. The communists did it by denying exit visas, Quebec has been doing it by deferring the bill later and later into the future. So has most of Europe, hence their debt issues.

Incidentally the Canadian "bank bailout" was an accounting bailout only, whereby bank assets (mortgages) were "bought" by the government in order to alleviate strain on bank balance sheet during the financial crisis when the value of those assets artificially and temporarily went to essentially zero due to the seizure of the credit markets. It was a temporary accounting measure, cash was not printed and handed to the banks, and taxpayers will likely realize a profit on the entire transaction. There is no realistic comparison between what the government did to maintain the functioning of the Canadian banking system and doling out cash to citizens to pay for services.
posted by loquax at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2012


loquax ... this sounds harsher than I mean, and like it was directed at you.

No offense taken - same goes for my points - nothing personal, just chatting....
posted by loquax at 10:47 AM on May 1, 2012


loquax ... this sounds harsher than I mean, and like it was directed at you.

And now that I re-read your point, I see that you meant you went to school in BC, not Quebec as I thought, but my point still stands, and if you were to move from BC where you got the benefit, to Washington State, or Ontario or wherever, the same problem exists of those that got the benefit not paying. It's obviously more of a problem in Quebec that has seen significant net emigration out of the province, but if BC taxes were to move in the direction of Quebec's you'd start to see the same thing, all else equal.
posted by loquax at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2012


In the Quebec system you pay more if from out of province.

I actually did go to school there for two years of my degree and paid out of province tuition. If you are a resident (i.e. not in school living there 1 year or longer) you can get the Quebec tuition.

The same is not true in other provinces.

But there are all sorts of weird things with transferring health across borders ... especially for students.

Anyway, point taken. I guess I would say it is better to have a consistent and transferable system across the country, and that I favour the Quebec model.

Some systems also offer free tuition in exchange for service ... i.e. free nursing degree in exchange for working where they locate you for three years afterward. Usually up north.
posted by chapps at 9:43 PM on May 1, 2012


For everyone who is saying "Wow, education in Quebec is cheap, why are you complaining?" consider this:

In many countries, tuition is free. Germany, Norway, Austria, Sweden, etc. Rather than having a race to the bottom ("bottom" being USA level of tuition) why shouldn't we have a race to the top?

Ontarians, and Americans, rather than complaining that we have it too good here in Quebec, get out there and strike for free tuition! You know you're better than us, so go and prove it ;)
posted by Zot at 11:42 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zot: "In many countries, tuition is free. Germany, Norway, Austria, Sweden, etc. Rather than having a race to the bottom ("bottom" being USA level of tuition) why shouldn't we have a race to the top?"

Of course, in talking to exchange students from these places, they're shocked at how studious American students are. They (comparatively speaking) regularly attend class, do the reading assignments, homework, etc.

I'm all in favor of a living wage, but I don't see any reason to tie it to academic enrollment. Or having a large family, for that matter.
posted by pwnguin at 9:57 AM on May 2, 2012


As a very belated update, the Quebec government passed special legislation putting strict limits on the organisation of demonstrations, as well as levying significant fines against organisations and individuals who protest illegally and suspending the winter sessions at affected schools.

Thousands protested against the law, an increase in participation in the daily protests that have been going on for 25 days, and many people phoned the Montreal police to inform them of the exact details of the protest, as demanded by the new law.

Further coverage from Le Devoir, Text of the law, both links in French.
posted by frimble at 9:50 PM on May 19, 2012


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