Quebec party proposes middle ground on tuition

Battle lines are drawn
Photo by Tim & Selena Middleton/Flickr

Ahead of an anticipated election call in Quebec, one of the smaller political parties has proposed a middle ground solution to the tuition crisis.

The Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition by $1,778 over the next seven years led to a student uprising so strong it prompted an emergency law.

François Legault, leader of the centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), proposed a tuition increase of $200 annually over five years. The CAQ’s increase would be $1,000 total. Legault also said new funding would be conditional on universities better managing their funds.

The compromise position may appeal to some, but it was panned by all three student groups that organized class boycotts and nightly marches from February to July. From the Montreal Gazette:

No one seemed surprised when the most militant of the student groups, the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), quickly tweeted its displeasure with Legault’s proposal — but the more moderate Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) rejected the CAQ proposal as well.

If nothing else, Legault’s stab at resolving the protracted dispute seemed to show that the conflict will likely be one of the dominant issues in the anticipated election campaign. And it showed how the campaign may unfold, with the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Québec supporting some kind of tuition hike and the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire on the opposing side, with QS calling outright for free education.

Premier Jean Charest’s Liberals face a fight, especially from the left-leaning Parti Québécois (PQ) under Pauline Marois, who supported the movement against tuition increases. Quebec’s legislature comprises 64 Liberals, 47 PQ, nine CAQ, one QS, one Option Nationale and two independents.