Quebec strike sets a precedent?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 21, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Students in Quebec last week went on strike for three days and are threatening to boycott an entire semester in response to the Government of Quebec’s plan to increase postsecondary tuition $50 per semester over the course of the next five years.

The increase likely isn’t crippling to the finances of most students, but is a significant increase in current costs, and could very well prevent some students from pursuing postsecondary education. The tuition hike would force others to work more hours to pay the extra fees.

However, Quebec’s tuition rates are far lower than the rest of Canada, so critics of the work action might wonder whether Quebec’s students really have much to complain about.

Quebec’s economy is different from Ontario’s, though, and the difference in cost is likely supplemented in taxes or other financial means. As well, the average income and cost of living is lower in Quebec.

As such, postsecondary education in Quebec is currently more accessible, and might be considered more of a right than a privilege. It should be asked whether the tuition increase prevents prospective students from attending university.

While the rise in tuition may be justified by inflation, the government should at least make additional grants available in order to help students come out of university without significant debt.

Tuition hikes are of course nothing unique to Quebec " we have seen similar changes to fees in the rest of Canada " but the students’ measures of striking have yet to be seen elsewhere. As such, it will be interesting to see how effective their plan is.

The government has refused to negotiate the tuition increase, so the students are left with little choice but to strike. While this seems to some degree an odd concept outside the working realm, Quebec’s pro-worker, union-centric mentality is more apt to take such steps.

Schools have helped to accommodate students who missed class due to the three-day strike, but students run a significant risk if they choose to strike for the entire semester. Such measures might prevent further rises in tuition, but repeating a semester would only hurt students financially and academically.

At the end of the day, the tuition increase is significant, and may affect students struggling to meet the financial demands of university. It will be interesting to see how effective their measures are, and whether this form of lobbying can be effective in the rest of Canada.

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