Quebec says no to scholarships
By Sara Marett
The federal government's Millennium Scholarship Foundation may be getting good reviews in Ottawa, but across the river in the province of Quebec, reaction is less than trés magnifique.
Students in Montreal met with Human Resources Minister Pierre Pettigrew Monday to express their concerns with the foundation, which will provide 100,000 scholarships of $3,000 annually to students who demonstrate financial need, beginning in the year 2000. At the meeting, students claimed the federal government is interfering in provincial jurisdiction and said transfer payments to the provinces should have been restored instead.
"It's not going to the root of the problem," said Rebecca Aldworth, president of Concordia's Student Union. "Now they think by handing out scholarships students will be able to afford tuition hikes."
Aldworth said she thought the Millennium Fund was simply a public relations move on the part of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. "It looks nice for the Liberal party, but the fund does very little for education." She explained students in Quebec would have rather seen increased transfer payments to the provinces because they trust that the Quebec government would put the money directly into the universities.
"The government is bending over backwards for [the youth] vote because of the sovereignty debate the student population is integral to their success."
At McGill University, students are slightly more pleased with the Millennium fund, but remain critical of its implementation. Tara Newell, president of the Students' Society at McGill, said Quebec students have different financial needs because they are the only province with a bursary system for students. "There will be problems if the criteria to qualify for the scholarship is going to be uniform for the entire country because Quebec students will differ."
Carman Miller, dean of arts at McGill, said the Millennium fund should be welcomed by universities and students. "The problem, however, is that like many other federal initiatives, it's counter-productive for the provinces," he said.
In a post-budget interview, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said he spoke for all university rectors, students and teachers when critiquing the fund. "Why doesn't the federal government reimburse the provinces so we could fix our own priorities?"