Quebec wants to separate from fund
By Sara Marett
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien stepped into the ring yesterday with Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard to duke out their differences regarding the federal government's Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation.
In a lengthy meeting with Chrétien, Bouchard expressed his concern that the fund trespasses into the provincial territory of education. He told the Prime Minister that he would like Quebec to be able to opt out of the $2.5 billion scholarship foundation.
Ideally, Bouchard said he would like to have his province's share of the money to spend on his own education initiatives. Quebec is the only province that already has a system of bursaries for post-secondary education students.
The foundation has received fierce criticism from the Quebec government since it was announced in the federal government's budget in February. The scholarship will award 100,000 grants of $3,000 each to students who demonstrate need and merit beginning in the year 2000. A 15-member board of directors will operate the private foundation.
Although their views on the fund are opposite, the meeting between Chrétien and Bouchard was positive, said Chrétien's spokesperson Sophie Galarneau. There was no immediate resolution of their opposing opinions, but there was some hint of future agreement. "[Chrétien and Bouchard] have decided to let the issue go through a negotiation process," she said.
For the next two months, deputy ministers in the department of human resources from both governments will meet to negotiate the terms of the foundation. There are, however, some principles of the fund that the federal government will not bargain over, Galarneau added.
"We want the recipients of the scholarships to know where the money is coming from we won't negotiate that," Galarneau said. She added the federal government has already been flexible with some details of the foundation.
"We decided to allow the provinces themselves to choose the recipients of the scholarship and then they will go through a second screening process by the foundation's board," she explained.
But Ryan Parks, regional director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said this negotiation period is wasting time that should be spent moving forward with the foundation. "There is so much federal-provincial fighting over jurisdiction, especially when it comes to education. They need to put their squabbling aside and fulfill their mandates."
with files from Canadian Press