No longer about the students

03.31.05

It’s pretty clear that the student strikes no longer have much to do with the students.

Last week, the McGill Daily reported that the PQ youth wing and that major Quebec labour unions were supporting the student strikers, in an effort to topple the Charest Liberal governement and get the PQ re-elected. Yesterday, the Liberals angrily accused the unions of funding the strikers, lashing out at them for mixing issues:

Liberal party whip Norm MacMillan says unions appear to be piggybacking on the student strike in order to advance their own contract negotiations with the government.

“Everybody’s in negotiations right now: civil servants, teachers in universities and CEGEPS,” he notes.

MacMillan says some union money may even have paid for buses to help the students mobilize large demonstrations.

The university students federation doesn’t deny some funding has come from outside groups.

It’s not exactly news that the labour unions in Quebec overwhelmingly support the PQ and have been engaged in a bitter battle with the Liberals since their election. And the student cause seems to be a popular one; a Léger poll conducted two weeks ago found that 24% of people think that the government should cave to the student demands, and another 48% believe that a portion of the $103 million in cuts should be re-invested into the bursaries program. Furthermore, 44% of people said they would be willing to forego a tax cut in order to put the money back into the bursary program.

In the media circus surrounding the protests, rock-throwing at police, arrests and threats of cancelled semesters, the voice of dissenters is getting drowned out.

I’m talking about the students who actually want to go to class. The ones who want to graduate eventually. The ones who recognize the value of their education, and are willing to make an investment into it. Though disorganized and quiet, there are an awful lot of them. And they’re tired of being deprived of classes they paid for, of having their opportunities that they’ve worked hard for yanked away from them, and of the general attitude among their fellow students and even professors that they’re “selfish” or just plain “wrong”.

Times like this, I’m glad I’m not still a student. Because it’s tough enough dealing with the pressure without having to face the Quebec reality: that this is a socialist province where everyone seems to think that society “owes” them. Everyone wants to take out of the system, nobody wants to contribute into it. This is how we end up with massive economic failure. (But of course, the students and the labour unions have a perfect solution to this: tax the rich more. Never mind what happens when all the rich leave the province; they’ll just tax the next richest.)

Or, to quote the CASSEE spokespeople:

Members of the CASSEE say they’ve tried holding demonstrations.

Blocking traffic and offices works better, they say.

“We started by drawing up petitions, we held protests; our pressure tactics have escalated,” said Xavier Lafrance, another CASSEE spokesperson, and a political science student at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

[ . . . ]

Funding for higher education could be raised, they said, by ensuring private corporations pay their taxes – in full.

[ . . . ]

“Aggressive unionism is a Quebec tradition,” added Mathieu Cousineau DeGarie, a third CASSEE spokesperson.

“We at the CASSEE want to revive that tradition.”

So they continue to strike. And I continue to rant. Because nothing will improve while the student unions are allowed to hold the Quebec education system – and its students – hostage. No government has the political capital to change the situation; only the students can make a difference by rallying to oppose their oppressors. Sadly, their voices seem too scattered, and students opposed to the strike have no choice but to grumble and sigh.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DaninVan 04.01.05 at 6:19 AM

Or leave…

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2 Hanthala 04.02.05 at 2:38 AM

Segacs…just please stick to blogging about what you actually know about…but then again…that wouldn’t leave you much to blog about…

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3 John Palubiski 04.06.05 at 4:26 PM

Tee Hee, Hanthala! As though Québec’s unions wouldn’t offer a little support.

What we’re witnessing here is a kind of generational imperialism; the old hippies at the CSN dictating “tradition” to progressive idiots who can’t remember the 80’s let alone the 60’s

As for the dickheads at Casée (isn’t that just soooo French!) the only tradition they should be reviving is that of their Catholicism.

Oh well! Short of that, perhaps Madame Pagé could take ’em all over to the Place Versaille shopping centre and teach ’em how to steal gloves.

Can’t steal any leather jackets! Eaton’s has been closed for years..

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4 anonymous 01.03.06 at 4:56 AM

You are pro-Israel and pro-USA, and as an American Jewish student I am as well. However, I totally am in favor of the students’ strike. There is a trend in Quebec as well as in America of ever increasing college costs. It’s nuts. You know, Israel was founded by many Jewish socialists. Jewish socialists in America helped bring immigrant Jews to membership in the middle class. So remember, sometimes being pro-American and pro-Israeli involves acknoweledging socialism’s positive force in history. I gave you my email. Message me if you want; I’d like to discuss this further.

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