Quebec’s education minister is resigning, not just from cabinet, but from politics altogether, walking away from a tuition dispute that has sparked months of protest and chaos across the province.
From the Canadian Press:
Line Beauchamp said she was not resigning because of violence and intimidation related to the student strikes this spring.
The move leaves Premier Jean Charest with the thinnest possible parliamentary majority — with a one-seat advantage in the legislature, where the Liberals hold 63 of 125 seats including the tie-breaking Speaker.
Making the announcement at a news conference with the premier, Beauchamp said she was actually leaving because she didn’t feel like she was helping to solve the problem.
‘I am resigning because I no longer believe I’m part of the solution.’
Maclean’s Alex Ballingal was in Quebec recently reporting on the demonstrations.
Students began walking out on their classes in February. More than three months later, the dispute has become the longest student strike in Quebec history. The stubborn persistence of the strike has left many in the rest of Canada scratching their heads over why there’s been such uproar. Even in Quebec, the intensity of the protests has puzzled observers. “The whole political and media class has been taken by surprise,” says Eric Pineault, a sociologist at the Université de Quebec à Montréal (UQAM). Quebecers currently enjoy the lowest tuition in the country. And never mind that with Premier Jean Charest’s proposed hike, the average tuition in Quebec would then be the second-lowest in Canada. Yet more than 165,000 students are on strike indefinitely. Many of them will lose their semester if they don’t head back to class soon. How did the movement attain such strength and longevity?
The answer lies largely with a particular thrust in Quebec society that links ideals of social democracy—such as widely affordable university education—to a sense of national identity. These ties date back to the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, a time when Quebecers became maîtres, or masters, of their own province, instituting changes that gave Quebec a more left-leaning bent than elsewhere in North America. “The Quiet Revolution is a very important moment in Quebec history,” says André Pratte, editor of Montreal’s La Presse newspaper. “Every time someone questions the decisions that were made at the time, it’s almost as if you are trying to destroy a very important part of that moment.”
Martin Patriquin, meanwhile, analyzed the fallout from strike on his blog on Friday.
And as bad as it is, the situation is actually worse than it appears. That’s because the government has, in the last round of negotiations, allowed the student associations a say over how the universities spend their money—a power the student associations themselves won’t likely relinquish in the future.
Though it was scuttled by the students, the deal hashed out last week will likely serve as a blueprint for any settlement between the students and the government—which will come some time in the next year, Inshallah. It includes a clause by which an ”interim council” is set up to examine university expenditures, and apply the savings (if any) to a corresponding reduction in student fees, up to $125.