Meet the average Quebecer

A new poll reveals evidence of a population applying consistent values in a difficult situation


Ian Barrett/CP Images

To read Saturday’s CROP—La Presse poll on the tuition protests in Quebec (main story here; detailed tables in a .pdf here, all in French) is to see evidence of a population applying consistent values in a difficult situation. It’s not at all surprising, but after hotheads have spent months trying to conscript the population to one faction or another in the dispute, it’s heartening.

(UPDATE: Some readers have noted that CROP used an online poll. There’s a good discussion of the methodology in the La Presse story, and some more general discussion here. I’ve seen no evidence that online polls, which are increasingly common, produce wildly different results from telephone polls, which have their own growing problems. I know of no new telephone poll that asked this many questions on the tuition dispute. I’ll let you know if one comes along.)

First big question: Do you support the government position (increasing tuition fees over seven years) or the students’ (a tuition freeze)? On the central policy question of the dispute, the government wins nearly two to one, with 64% supporting the government to 36% who support the students. This is true even in Montreal, where support for students is highest (60/40 in government’s favour); even among young adults (56/44 in the 18-34 age bracket); even among female respondents (63/37) and francophones (62/38).

But what about Law 78, the government’s latest enforcement tool? “Generally, do you favour or oppose this special law?” Here it’s much closer, 51% in favour and 49% opposed. There’s no gender gap, but 18-to-34-year-olds oppose the law 56/44; francophones oppose it 53/47.

Then an apparent paradox. Taken individually, most provisions in the bill receive substantial support, much more so than the whole law does. Some 67% support suspending courses until late August, 70% support a ban on blocking access to those courses when they resume, 64% like the 50-metre protest-free perimeter around schools, 70% favour requiring 8-hour notice and a specified itinerary for any protest with more than 50 participants, 72% say police should have a right to refuse any proposed itinerary for safety reasons, and 71% say these restrictions should apply to any Quebecer, not just to students.

The only thing in the bill that isn’t generally popular across the province and across demographic groups is the big fines for infractions, which can range from $1,000 to $125,000. That splits the province 50/50, with francophones opposing 52/48.

I like these numbers a lot. How can people support a law’s provisions but not the whole law? The answer comes with the next question. What effect will the law have? Only 20% think it will “settle the conflict,” 36% think it will “only delay the problem until later,” and 44% think it will “make things worse.”

Take these results together and we begin to see the wisdom of crowds — not the ones in the street, necessarily, but of the whole population. Opinions are divided, but in the main, Quebecers:

• think it is more legitimate to ask students to contribute more to their education than to say they have paid enough.

• believe Law 78 asks for things a government should be able to ask of its citizens — i.e., that it’s a legitimate law;

• don’t think Law 78 will make student refuseniks more likely to cough up their tuition money — i.e., they don’t think it’s a pertinent law.

I especially like the reluctance around fines. It’s confusing and counterproductive to use money as punishment when the original dispute is around money and most Quebecers don’t think the higher tuition fees would, themselves, constitute any kind of punishment. I wish the law had provided some non-monetary penalty, such as forfeiture of the academic year for striking students. But then, as the government and most poll respondents understand, the law must apply to everyone because many of the protesters are not students in the first place.

Onward. With a useless law in pursuit of legitimate ends, what should the government do? Abandon tuition increases? Absolutely not, say respondents: the notion gets 7% support, gusting to 10% among 18-34-year-olds. What about a moratorium, the preferred solution of Montreal newspaper columnists? Only 14% support that. Just because a problem is difficult does not mean it should be put off: 79% support negotiations, and most of those think the special law should be kept in force during negotiations, rather than suspended. Quebecers may not think Law 78 will help, but they do not want to see their government backing down once it has moved.

What do respondents think of the Charest government’s attitude? Mixed: 51% think it’s justified, 49% unjustified. And the students? Less mixed: 60% think their attitude is unjustified. On this question the students don’t enjoy majority support in any region or demographic group. Well, then, Quebecers will want to take away the kids’ right to “strike,” right? Wrong. Except in Quebec City, which comically serves as a bastion of people who can’t believe what silliness the folks in Montreal are getting up to, most respondents believe students should have a “right to strike.” So: They’re not sure the protesters are reasonable but they support the right to protest. There’s a deep vein of liberalism running through these answers.

How well do people think the students are represented by their assorted putative leaders and spokespeople? Fairly well. Who’s responsible for violence? The people who commit it. How are the police doing? By a three-to-one margin, they’re thought to be performing well. And the student-group acronyms? FECQ and FEUQ, less doctrinaire, are broadly admired. But for CLASSE the proportions reverse, and even more people disapprove of CLASSE’s tactic of civil disobedience.

Here, a note on iconography. Maclean’s has come under criticism for its cover this week, a state of affairs we’ve enjoyed on occasion in the past. Oh well. Meanwhile, this morning’s Le Devoir has a page-one photo of CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois giggling while a guy in a panda costume hugs him. Next to the photo is a “news” story to the effect that The Man just doesn’t understand the elaborate critique of capitalism the students are delivering through their brilliant street theatre.

Well. Nadeau-Dubois’ group has the disapproval of 61% of Quebecers, 59% of Montrealers, 52% of young respondents and 62% of francophones. If Maclean’s had run a cover photo of a panda hugging Jean Charest with a cover line saying, “Those Crazy Kids Just Don’t Get the Old Sweetie,” we’d be closer to Quebec public opinion than Le Devoir is today. I say this because I like Le Devoir. I hope it won’t continue to stray so far from its readers’ values.

But I digress. The poll also includes a standard election question. The results show Jean Charest’s Liberals with 31% of the vote to 30% for the Parti Québécois and 22% for François Legault’s centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec. It’s not enough to win — among francophones, the Liberals remain in third place. But those are better numbers than Charest has seen in ages. His Liberals’ share of the francophone vote is up five points since February. And the Liberals are actually more popular outside Montreal than on the island, the best indicator for the extent to which the tuition dispute is driving other political choices.

Everyone in this dispute is trying to win an argument, it seems, except the people of Quebec. The people of Quebec think the government’s policy goal is good but they doubt its legal means are useful. They don’t buy what students are selling but they support the students’ right to try. They admire the police and want them to enforce the law, not robotically but with judgment and common sense in the mix. They despair of a quick solution that would please everyone but they are uninterested in putting the debate off until later. Sometimes in these big social conflicts, fairness and moderation have a hard time getting heard, but it doesn’t mean they go away.



Meet the average Quebecer

  1. Ah yes, what a broad section of Quebecers culled from… Let’s see here, people who will spend 30 minutes to make between $1 and $10 answering online surveys.

    • Is it naive of me to think that La Presse’s survey of online coupon clippers and people who click on the “housewife makes $3k/month online!” ads might not be entirely representative of Quebec opinion?

      • Yes, it is naive of you. Market research companies are constantly testing their panel capabilities against publicly available large sample databases and their omnibus telephone polls. Pollsters know exactly who answers their surveys and correcting for over or under sample isn’t rocket science.
        Not that that will stop the ever-interesting and valuable “har har stoopid pollsters!” contribution to all internet discussions.

        • Nor will it, apparently, stop other pollsters coming up with different numbers?

          “Meanwhile, a second poll, this one by rival Léger Marketing for the QMI media group conducted at a later date, swung the other way.It concluded 78 per cent of Quebecers feel the government has gone too far. And 73 per cent said they do not believe the bill will bring back social peace.”

        • Or as Prin below posted, CROP itself…


          But, but “direct matrix weighting” and “multidimensional weighting”!

          “The CROP solution may not achieve the representativity of samples obtained in the past years but it can certainly optimize the quality of a
          process that our industry will have to live with for years to come.”


        • But I should bite my tongue… CROP is certainly a rigorous agency, capable of producing such insightful commentary as…

          “The regular consumer of Mozzarella is of an impulsive nature, someone who seeks spontaneous pleasures and runs on strong emotions and sensations. He displays avidity for food: he enjoys the sensation of feeling stuffed and doesn’t hesitate to take a second helping of a dish that he enjoyed. He prefers spicy foods or at the very least, foods that have a strong taste – from this viewpoint, mozzarella plays the role of an ingredient that gives consistency to dishes that are otherwise spicy. His diet does not follow a particular routine; he eats when he is hungry and regularly nibbles between meals or even instead of meals. Spontaneity is the key word for him; he always has something with him or in his kitchen to alleviate the munchies or a sudden desire to eat. His voracious appetite does not prevent him from making some healthy choices: notably, he tries to limit his consumption of sugar, salt and fried foods. Finally, his values profile shows a certain taste for risk, which leads him to flirt with that which is forbidden and to be an early adopter of new products and services that appear on the market. “

          • Seems pretty insightful if I am trying to sell mozzarella.

        • Maybe it used to be.. but given that most pollsters knew how to correct for over and under sampling from census data.. these days it’s less rocket science and more astrology.

    • I would like you to tell me more about how you believe the population of Quebec is like the population of the U.S. South in the early 1960s.

      • Pierre Vallieres to thread!

        • And how is either Wells or I like Pierre Vallieres?

          • Well, comparing Quebec to the American South, for one…

          • I didn’t.

            I mentioned an old protest, and a new one like Occupy…and that nothing is likely to have changed the opinion of ‘average people’ who have them in their cities, no matter what they’re about. Congestion, traffic chaos, high policing bills….not popular.

            What is this….the failure of the look-say method??

          • Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but the tendency to compare this protest to past protests/movements/etc always has the feel of, “Look – you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of history, do you?”

          • Well in this case you’re ‘reading in’ something I didn’t write.

            However free university is inevitable….so about that wrong side of history….heh

          • Fascinating. Typical Con blame-the-messenger routine. LOL

          • Hey, rather than defend the original loaded comparison that you claim isn’t crucial to your argument, why not say “Ok, that sent a message I did not intend, mea culpa, let’s use something a little less fraught, like Vietnam protests instead?” Otherwise, one might suspect that you’re being somewhat disingenuous.

            The inevitability of free tuition goes against almost every data point of which I am aware. Are there many universities that previously charged tuition that have ceased doing so in the last couple of decades? If there are any, how does one express the ratio when those are compared to the number that have raised their tuition in the same period?

          • Oh do stop with the silliness….some people failed reading comprehension, and just can’t admit it….. that’s all.

            Primary and secondary education is free, and tertiary soon will be too….no matter what your data points say.

            In fact ‘data points’ never predicted black, gay, female equality either….but it happened anyway.

          • Tiertiary education will not be free unless it is availabe to everyone the same way that primary and secondar school is. As long as university has entrance requirements and thereby denies entrance to a good number of students based on academic ability, it will not be free…..unless you are thinking to offer another stream of education for free.

          • Universities should not be ‘denying entrance’ to anyone, anymore than the other two levels do.

            By our current standards….you have to graduate grade 8 to go to high school, and
            then graduate high school to go to university…..so that takes care of

            Anyone of average intelligence….most people….can do university. If they choose to party instead, or ignore the work….they’ll soon figure out it’s not for them…..and no one suggested it be mandatory you know. People can drop out of high school after all.

            I don’t understand why you’re making such hard work out of a simple concept.

          • Do you not realize that their are minimum academic requirements to attend university and “graduating high school” isn’t the minimum. You need an “advanced diploma” with completion of difficult courses in sciences, English, social studies, sometimes math and French. Depending on the subject of study you may need advanced math, physics and chemistry. Regardless, you require a 65% average minimum, along with this advanced diploma. In places where enrolment is high and there is competition to get into university, the mimimum entrance requirements 70% or higher, especially in very competitive programs…sometimes as high as 85%.
            With Canada’s 40% functional illiteracy rate (which you pointed out), university is hardly within the easy academic reach of everyone. Of course you can’t make it manditory because they wouldn’t let any of the kids that didn’t take an advanced diplomas in the doors of the institution.

          • I do wish you had some idea of the world …..yes, graduating high school can get you into university, and no you don’t need an ‘advanced diploma’

            And crowded universities just mean you need to build more.

            If you’re illiterate, high school isn’t in reach either.

          • Obviously the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary have different requirements than where you have in mind. What about McGill and U of T? No need to have Biology, advanced Math, Chemistry, Physics, English, Social Studies to attend those institutions? No miniumum grade requirements?
            As for your “belief” that students who have low-level literacy cannot attend high school, you couldn’t be more incorrect. Highschool has practical options for students like mechanics and beauty culture (hair dressing). You can work toward an apprenticeship while you are there.
            As for building more universities, this money comes out of provincial budgets so it isn’t about not buying airplanes and building universities instead. It is about making choices between healthcare, basic education, welfare and building universities.

          • Well, I can’t help it if you’re behind the times.

            High school shop class is only one of many subjects in high school
            here….we have trade schools….colleges….for anything vocational.

            In Ont when you graduate high school, you apply to 3 universities….usually all of them accept you. But even if only one does, you get to go to university.

            AU gets you a degree, and doesn’t even ask about your past credentials. Obviously you have to be literate, but it’s there as a university, for degrees….it’s not adult literacy training.

            Open University in the UK does the same….and they are a huge outfit. Turn out PhDs. This is where university is going….not bricks and mortar.

            At the moment you can take classses from Stanford, MIT, Harvard etc all online

            You can pick and choose any of the courses you take, from anywhere

            Somehow you think that the planet is run like Alberta.

            The feds kick in money for education….but in any case, provinces can also spend money on the wrong things when they should be putting it into education.

          • Wait a minute! Athabasca University (AU) does so ask for your past credentials. It is right there online. It asks you to send in your transcripts and your past work experience. Further, some of the degrees are ‘post” degree. They are for professionals who want to finish university while working or already have a professional designation….eg: Bachelor of Nursing. It is a “post degree” for someone who is already an RN or an LPN and wants to get their university degree. I know people who have done this degree and it is no picnic. Somehow you act as though just because something is offered distance or online, it is going to be a “walk in the park”. What a joke. As for my other question about entrance requirements for U of T and McGill, Dalhousie, UBC….you skirted around that. Are you denying those insitutions have a minimum grade average requirement and require for an advanced diploma for entrance eligibility?

          • Yup…but it doesn’t stop you from going there. You can get extra credits though.

            And yes, some of the degrees are post-grad. Their MBA is famous.

            Why do you keep making stuff up? Nobody said it was a ‘walk in the park’ because it’s online.

            The unis you ask about, you can look up. You can also look up Stanford, Open University etc

          • I’m not sure what happened to my reply but AU (Athabasca University) does ask for transcripts and your previous experiences…it is right there on their online site.
            Further, entrance requirements to university aren’t just an “Alberta thing” UBC has a minimum entrance requirement of academic courses that must be completed with an average of 67%. So does Ryerson (70%), Dalhousie (70%), McMaster (around 88%). The U of T wants 6 university prepatory (U/M) grade 12 academic courses completed for admission.
            Apparently, some of the best universities in the country are run just like they are in Alberta.

          • Um…that’s just high school graduation

            But you keep trying….

          • Hahahaha…that isn’t “just graduation”. They require academic courses (university prepatory courses) vs. courses that you can take in highschool if you have no intention of attending university.

          • Yes, it’s just graduation….something possible in Ont that obviously isn’t in Alberta….where apparently you divert people into low-grade courses

            I’m sure you’ve had lots of fun dragging in straw men, claiming non-existent courses, announcing Albertan superiority, focussing on illiteracy….and all your other usual half-baked arguments…..but the facts remain.

            Free university is entirely possible…. other countries manage it, so unless you want to call Canadians too stupid to do it…you’re left with reality

            It is entirely possible to go to university without ever completing high school….again, others manage it, and we could too….if folks like you weren’t so determined to be stubborn that you make things up as you go along.

            You either ride the wave of change, or you’re crushed beneath it.

            And if you want to be a bottom-feeder, it’s your choice.

          • You don’t know what an advanced diploma is. In Ontario, they refer to them as U/M courses and it looks like most of your universities require 5 or 6 of them.
            These courses are not required to graduate highschool….you can graduate with only having taken one mathematics course throughout your whole highschool experience and that can be the “dummy math”. You can also graduate with alot of other filler-type courses but that won’t get you into university….not even in Ontario….not sure about Athabasca…would have to send in the transcripts.

          • Like I said…standard high school graduation here.

            Dummy courses are for Albertans

            Athabasca admits you without graduation from high school…as does Open University, and many other places.

          • Athabasca University refutes you. I find it funny considering your myopia to anything outside Alberta you didn’t know that — because AU is in Alberta.

            And before you wonder.. yes.. it’s fully accredited, both here in Canada *and* in the US. (And is in fact one of the only universities to be accredited in both countries)

          • Your right, I didn’t know that Athabasca University accomodated low-level literacy students. I took a statistics course through them and I can’t imagine that a person who has a problem functioning on a daily basis in a job would do get through the course but….

          • No argument. If you don’t have the skills to work your way through the material, you won’t succeed.

            But since that applies to everything on earth, I hardly think it matters to the point — ie, that you can pursue a post-secondary education without any sort of minimum credentials.

          • I would predict that specific, career-oriented programs such as colleges and apprenticeships will be free long before universities (assuming any programs ever are). Because money is tight, the thrust of spending will be targeted to meet job markets as politicians will want to be able to show immediate, quantifiable bang for the buck.

            Especially while the CPC are in charge.

      • Group of average people being polled about a protest is all. They tend to dislike anything that hinders their movement around a city.

        No matter the cause, just or unjust.

        Don’t be so literal.

        • And the troll known as Emily succeeds in ruining a perfectly reasonable conversation about the desires of Canadians with her perfectly insane dribble.

          • Actually, Emily was discussing student protests in Quebec, and the average person’s reaction to them.

            It wasn’t me that threw a monkey wrench into the topic, and I got away from it as soon as possible. You are trying to continue it.

            PS….Look up ‘troll’. It doesn’t mean what you think it does.

          • Yeah; and it should be “inane drivel” – but his point is well taken.

      • There are pockets of French in Louisiana. Both populations have a lot of white people. They also breathe oxygen and exhale CO2. The resemblance is startling.

      • When protest movements start, they are detested; when they succeed, they are worshipped.

  2. It’s likely those against the students are those that are finished with their education, have no kids that will be needing an education, are wealthy enough to afford an education, or just don’t give a damn…

    • Did you read this article? The poll asked students AND 18-24 year olds their opinions, and they’re in line with the rest of Quebec society.

      • Perhaps it’s you that should read more closely. The survey considers a young adult as between 18 to “34” not 24.

    • Some of those opposed to the student strikers could be from another demographic.

      The 70% of students who AREN’T ON STRIKE.

      • Sure… And of those 70%, some could fall under those that don’t have children, are not struggling to pay for tuition, and would rather just remain complacent. 56/44 is not a landslide! I guess I’m one of only a few on this board who can sympathize with people trying to prevent cost increases to something that is the most important factor in the empowerment of self and a nation.

        • …and none have grandchildren or nieces and nephews who aspire to go to university. None have friends with children who aspire to go to university. Gee, exactly who are these 70%? Perhaps they are people who know that a university education not only gives a person empowerment but real earning potential and that it is an awesome investment so that IF all taxpayers are going to foot a big portion of the bill for that education, it is only right that a student also invests substantially in the education. People like Lucien Bouchard whose parents struggled to provide him with a post-secondary education understands that it isn’t just rich taxpayers that are paying for our already highly subsidized university educations. Unfortunately due to university entrance requirements and the high academic achievement needed to be successful in university, financial restraints are not the only thing keeping people out. So now are we going to demand more tax money from people who cannot attend for academic reasons and who are making little money to subsidize further people who when they graduate will make far more income than they will (according to the Conference Board of Canada)?

          • Once again, students DO invest substantially.. through their taxes. The education they get will mean that they pay off the entire cost of their post-secondary through increased taxation alone.. never mind any contributions they have to make up front.

            But hey, maybe you argue that students should be made to pay (by their families) for primary school and high school as well yes? Because your argument applies there just as well.

          • Thwim, Wow…your back beating the same drum. Yes university graduates will pay taxes but they reap great benefits from their education. (Check out the comparisons of money to earned by those getting a university education v. those who don’t on the Conference Board of Canada site). Then there are the taxpayers who invest substantially in those students education but NEVER have the opportunity to obtain one themselves due to being academically ineligible to attend university. Are you going to explain to them why they pay even more of their hard-earned dollars toward funding an education for someone else….an education that isn’t available to them?
            As for families paying for primary and high school…there is no academic ineligibility to attend….it is truly universal and infact it is against the law not to provide a child with an education until they are 16 years old. I am guessing you have NO children in school or you would know that families DO pay school fees EVERY year when their children are in primary and secondary school.

          • Learn. To. Read.

            The people who graduate pay more than enough in additional taxes to cover the entirety of the costs of their post-secondary education.

            I’ll write that again because you seem to be completely oblivious to what it means:

            The people who graduate pay more than enough in additional taxes to cover the entirety of the costs of their post-secondary education.

            Here.. let’s see if I can make this even simpler for you:
            1. Person graduates.
            2. Person makes more money.
            3. Person pays more taxes.
            4. Pays more in additional taxes than the gov’t paid in their post-secondary education.
            5. AND pays tuition in addition.

            Maybe you have trouble with word problems. Let’s break it down to math.

            Gov’t spends $X/graduate.
            Graduate pays $X to gov’t in additional taxes.
            Graduate pays $Y in tuition.
            Therefore, the amount owing by/from those unable to get an education works out to the following:
            $X * graduates – ($X * graduates + $Y tuition * graduates) = Amount owed the general taxpayer.

            Now.. presumably your Top Of The Class education gave you the ability to handle the math there.. but since it doesn’t seem to have given you basic reading comprehension, let’s carry it through for you.

            First, let’s divide both sides by the number of graduates.

            $X – ($X +$Y tuition) = Amount owed the general taxpayer/graduate

            Now, multiply through the brackets..

            $X – $X – $Y tuition = Amount owed the general taxpayer/graduate

            Since even you must be able to understand that $X – X is 0, we’ll drop that, and we’re left with:

            – $Y tuition = amount owed the general taxpayer/graduate.

            Seems like that general taxpayer is owed the negative tuition costs.

            IE.. we the taxpayer owe the graduates their tuition.

            And that’s without considering a single other thing they do for us. Less welfare use, less healthcare requirements, more small businesses, more employment, etc.

            As for your arguments about the law for primary and high school. Perhaps if you thought really hard about why those laws are there, you’d have a basic understanding of the issue here.

          • THat’s a bit of a tautology. That a graduate (on average) earns enough, in the long term, to pay for their education does not demonstrate that the government should be the means through which they do it. The money that they put into the system that is retroactively covering for (some individuals) education could be going to other activities that government funds that benefit a wider group, or more vulnerable subset of people: healthcare, infrastructure, welfare, social housing, K-12 education etc etc. They get the increased income from a university education whether the government pays for it or not, and the government gets the increased revenue no matters it’s input. Which brings us back to why the government should be buying golden tickets for the future elite when the money could be better spent on the truly needy.

          • Mark: Please note, I’m not including the regular taxes they and everyone else pays. I’m only talking about the additional taxes they pay as a result of their post-secondary education allowing them to make more money. ie, all those other government funds are *still being paid* just as if they weren’t educated in the first place.

            Then in addition to that, graduates end up using *less* of those very same services — healthcare, welfare, social housing, unemployment, etc.. and make it possible even for more uneducated people to use less of them by being more likely to start and have a successful small business running.

            Given that, why on earth would we want there to be *any* sort of financial disincentive to people wanting to take their post-secondary? If there’s a single person in Canada who says, “Well I want to go to university, but just can’t afford it right now,”.. then we’ve failed ourselves as a society. If we really want to help the truly needy, than we make sure that everyone has all the education they can handle. That ends up helping the needy, in a much more sustainable fashion, than any other government handout.

          • That still doesn’t follow. The “additional taxes” university graduates pay are exactly the same as anyone else’s in the same income bracket, regardless of their education. If the taxes of those that received university education are going to retroactively paying off the cost of that education, they are not going to other things that other people’s taxes are. Money is fungible: a truck driver’s taxes are subsidizing the university graduate’s tuition, in that without that government expenditure the truck driver’s taxes could be lower, or directed to other programs.

            The rest of your argument is a modified “noblesse oblige”: we should all carry the weight for our intellectual betters, and they shall repay us with the fruits of their genius. No one ever seems to make the same arguments for the graduates of hair dressing academies and truck driver training centers, who also contribute to the economy and pay taxes.

            The benefits of a university education accrue overwhelmingly to those that receive them. Society benefits as well, but I’m confident that society would benefit exactly as much if tuition in Canada were doubled across the board.

          • Yes, the additional taxes they pay are the same as anyone else in the income bracket. What you’re missing is that it is the post-secondary that puts them into that income bracket. Sure, the truck driver’s taxes might be lower if he wasn’t funding post-secondary. They’d also be higher, however, because there’d be more people on welfare that need support, more use of health-care, and more EI. What’s more, the trucker might not even have a job because the guy he’s delivering for wasn’t able to start their small business a few years ago because he couldn’t afford a post-secondary.

            Basically, your entire argument hinges on the idea that education is not a cost-sensitive undertaking.. that is, nobody really cares what tuition is, they’ll go to post-secondary regardless. Even if we ignore the fact that this flies in the face of the most basic economic theories, we still have a 100 day protest that says you’re wrong.

            Then, in addition to that, we have mounds of statistics that also say you’re wrong. While cost is not the strongest determining factor over whether someone does go to post-secondary, repeated studies have shown that it is the factor most common to those who choose *not* to go.

            The benefits of a university education only accrue to a person who receives it during their lifetime. The benefits that accrue to society go through multiple lifetimes, affect multiple families, and multiple people. Will I, as an individual, directly benefit as much as some random university graduate from their graduating? Of course not. Will the city/province/country benefit more in the aggregate? Damn straight.

          • Sure. What you’re missing is that post secondary would have put (many of them) in that income bracket whether the government paid for it or not. I also can point to fifty years of rising university enrollment happening alongside rising tuition, so it’s price sensitivity is evidently akin to that of a rhino’s, at least at the numbers we’re talking about in Canada. Your demographic disaster might work well in theory – it hasn’t so much in practice.

            As to those who are put off by the cost: everyone makes cost-benefit decisions in many aspects of life. “Too expensive” and “not worth paying for, given my options” tend to look the same in the statistics.
            The Quebec strikes are interesting for who isn’t participating: out-of-province and international students are, by and large, absent from the streets. Anglophones are also, by and large, sitting on their hands. The former group pay much more for the same education, the latter have seen their institutions systematically underfunded relative to their Francophone peers. Neither issue has motivated complaint from the ski disant student movement before. It would seem that the non-participants recognize that there is something other than educational equity at play here.

          • Yes Thwim, as usual EVERYONE is wrong but you. Even Lucien Bouchard. Those altruistic students are doing us a big favor by getting a university education. What a selfless group.

          • Please, I hardly think that everyone is wrong, as I highly doubt most people have as much trouble understanding simple subjects like you do. But go ahead, refute my arguments if you can. I notice you simply avoided addressing any of it this time. Was the math too hard? It was the division, wasn’t it?

            And yes, they are doing us a big favor — not by getting it, but by paying for any of it themselves, because if we were actually smart as a society, we’d realize that every graduate benefits us far more than they cost us.

          • No Thwim, I just find it pointless to argue with you when you have no issue with constantly becoming personally demeaning toward me, calling me an idiot, disparaging my intelligence, my reading and math skills….all because I happen to disagree with you. It is truly draining. IMy guess is you have no interest in listening to any disenting opinions or you wouldn’t be quite so nasty. I know it is partially my fault for engaging but I have tell you that I really don’t enjoy it so in the future, let’s just not do it anymore. I’ll ignore your posts and you can ignore mine. Thankyou.

          • The students don`t pay taxes now. They may pay taxes later — if they`re still living in Quebec, and amking a good living from art history, or dance, or whatever they`re studying. Meantime, their proposals are in effect adding to the provincial debt. A debt that will be paid by all Quebeckers, including those who didn`t go to university. And, given the size of Quebec`s debt, some will likely be paid by their children and their children`s children. What`s that again about pushing the costs of one`s benefits off onto future generations, That`s exactly what these students are proposing.

          • Statscan has shown that a post-secondary graduate can expect to make, on average, a million dollars more than a non-graduate over the course of their lifetime, Robert.

            The taxes on that additional million alone more than cover the entire costs of their post-secondary education — public and private funding alike. So is it pushing it off to a future generation? Yeah — it’s pushing it onto themselves in the future. Nobody else.

            Then in addition to that we have tuition costs, we have that graduates are less likely to require public health care, are less likely to require welfare or EI, and if they do require it than for a shorter time. Are more likely to start their own business, and more likely to have that business be running and expanding in five years time than those without post-secondary educations. They are also more likely to get their kids into post-secondary, thus furthering the cycle.

            Getting them their education isn’t a cost.. it’s an investment. One that pays itself back both purely monetarily, as well as in multiple, sustainable benefits to the larger society. It is about as perfect an investment as you’ll find for a public government to undertake.

          • The students don`t pay taxes now. They may pay taxes later — if they`re still living in Quebec, and making a good living from art history, or dance, or whatever they`re studying. Meantime, their proposals are in effect adding to the provincial debt. A debt that will be paid by all Quebeckers, including those who didn`t go to university. And, given the size of Quebec`s debt, some will likely be paid by their children and their children`s children. What`s that again about pushing the costs of one`s benefits off onto future generations, That`s exactly what these students are proposing.

          • www

          • qqq

          • ***

          • ~~~

          • !!!

          • +++

          • ~^*

          • ??

          • ..

          • ..

          • Apologies to all. Disqus was not showing my post as saved, and so I kept trying to save it. Hence the dozen repetitions below (which I have now replaced with assorted filler characters so you’re not stuck reading them). You may also not be able to tell which of Thwim’s comments I’m trying to address either, so here is the salient part of his earlier comment:

            “But hey, maybe you argue that students should be made to pay (by their
            families) for primary school and high school as well yes? Because your
            argument applies there just as well.”

          • damn Disqus! Forgive me folks…

          • Well, that’s not an entirely appropriate analogy. Primary / secondary
            education is – in comparison to post-secondary – a very rigid and
            structured system wherein all users are subject, more or less, to the
            same program and are expected to accomplish that program within a set
            time frame and by a set age. This is not true of
            post-secondary education.

            Make it free and see how many professional students we wind up with. See
            how many more students treat it as a lark – a party period before
            becoming “grown-ups”.

            Basically, make it free and your ROI will plummet.

        • As an aside, during my university days (30 or so years ago) the students paying their own way were more serious and committed. A fairly high percentage of those getting a free ride tended to squander the experience – low grades or even flunking out – compared to the rest.

          People tend to put less value on things that they receive for “free”. Making post-secondary free or very low cost may simply result in the unnecessary squandering of our monetary resources &/or the dumbing down of the institutions.

    • On the few subjects where both polls asked the same question, the answers are very similar: no interest in a moratorium, mistrust of both sides’ attitude, strong belief that the special law won’t end the crisis. Those responses line up closely. The Rad-Can poll is badly designed: for example, negotiation, the most popular way forward in the La Presse poll, is not even offered as an option in the Rad-Can poll. But where the questions are comparable there’s no support for your claim that the results are “almost opposite.”

      • Except that if the Rad-Can poll had been published first you could just as easily say that the La Presse poll is badly designed because they didn’t include mediation, the most popular answer from the Rad-Can poll. In fact, I like the Rad-Can one better because La Presse basically only included negotiations/no tuition hike as options whereas Rad-Can includes an election and a summit as options. Would be nice if both polls had included all those options.

        In the end, these polls do paint different pictures. You would not write the same article about them. BUT that’s because they’re both non-probabilistic, online polls. I would never expect these to match up and I’d give little credence to either, never mind write a post entitled “Meet the Average Quebecer,” about one OR the other. I would interpret both very, very carefully, and I’d be unwilling to draw conclusions. Actually, I’d use what little evidence exists in these polls to construct a good telephone poll.

        Here’s a better discussion of telephone vs online polls by the way: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/before-citing-a-poll-read-the-fine-print/

    • Thanks for pointing this out!

  3. I like this post. It rings true.

    And this is why the Quebec government has been foolish to negotiate at all. These strikers simply do not have much support, even amongst the same age group (amazing they are allowed to create such havoc anyway). Any negotiation is therefore an affront to democracy.

    However, with the Liberals doing better, they appear to be getting support for standing their ground as much as they have.

    • And this is why the Quebec government has been foolish to negotiate at all.”

      Except that the poll shows that what the people want is for the sides to negotiate.

    • Any negotiation is therefore an affront to democracy. ???
      Excuse me but do I have the wrong impression of what democracy really is here?
      I guess : You do as you,re told … works better in your part of the world.
      You do as you’re told, I dictate you, dictatorship…ahhh forget it!!!

      • A clear majority of the population disagrees with the students. The government does not agree with the students, but rather is in agreement with the majority.

        In a democracy, that would mean that the government’s policy is accepted. This is an affront to democracy because the government is favouring a small minority of the population over the rest, despite their own wishes.
        Not only that, it is the entire population that pays 83% of education costs. Students pay just 17%. In a democracy, everyone has a say where their own tax money is going.

        • It all depends where you get your numbers from and how they are gathered. I would not say that a clear majority of anything when the numbers soar around the 50% mark and I could give you examples of my reasonning. It also depends where you get your information from. (newspapers and all media) You like the term democracy. Well in a democracy, the government body is not supposed to be corrupted or anti-constitutional either and this is what this uprise is all about. A lot of money goes to corruption instead of going towards education or other services. I don,t know just how old you are but I,d like to read your comments the day that will cut your pension to 82% and make you work until you,re 68. You have a choice, either you wake up now or regret later.

  4. I wonder if Charest doesn’t call an election on this and make it THE issue – force the PQ to fight on his ground rather than the corruption scandals etc. I would if I were him

  5. ” I wish the law had provided some non-monetary penalty, such as forfeiture of the academic year for striking students. ”

    Really? Really!

    • Yes, really. Past a certain point — a day seems harsh, or a week. But at some point, if you don’t want to go to school, others will.

      • I agree…especially when your activities are denying others the education they want.

  6. Do you believe in equal access for all to public education including university?

    • In other words I don’t think these polls got an answer to the question. Do Quebecers believe in free public education through the university level? To me that’s the important question.

    • You can have equal access to public education and still charge more tuition for it. Students paying a more realistic share of their own education is not anti-public education.

      • Yes it is. Pretty obvious.

  7. Smart analysis.

    But I wish the survey had asked more fundamental questions, such as (1) Do you believe university education is a human right? and (2) Do you believe human rights must be provided for free?

    Because I suspect the answer to both would be “yes”, leaving the rest of the survey answers dangling somewhere between inconsistent and confused.

    • If a university education was a human right, we would have to get rid of academic eligibility rules…those pesky things that require students to have certain high school courses and certain averages prior to being “accepted”. Inability to pay tuition is not the only barrier to attending university. In fact, for 40% of Canadians who have “low-level literacy”, they have no hope of attending even if everything is free. Thus, they become taxpayers burdened with paying an even bigger portion of somebody else’s foray into advanced education.

      • You don’t have any chance of going into space either, but you’re paying for others to go.

        Yes, education is a human right….actually it’s a necessity.

        Education got us from the cave to the stars.

      • You are preaching to the choir. I’m aware that an education is not a human right. I suspect, however, that most Quebecois, being somewhat left-leaning, are not similarly aware.

    • Another way to look at it, is that elementary and secondary school are free and have been for decades.
      Although not that long ago there were monetary barriers to secondary education as students had to board in town, and books were not free.
      To my mind in the last 30 years or so, university or college has become as much of a necessity, as important to success in life, as secondary education once was.
      It’s time to extend free education for all who qualify up to the next level.

      • What about technical schools and apprenticeship programs? Will you offer free tuition for those too? It would encompass many more students and therefore be more fair.

        • Completely agree. If post-secondary is to be free, then it can’t just be university.

          Conversely because of the costs involved, there must be imposed upon those who avail themselves of any such free education that there must be a reciprocal responsibility to pass the courses. And we’d need provisions to prevent the tax drain of hordes of professional students…

          The thing about education through to the end of high school is that it is mandated and far more uniformly structured than post-secondary – so the same rules simply can’t be applied.

  8. All good, except for the line (joke?) about Le Devoir’s readership being, ah, Quebec?

    This gets to the heart of it, naturally. Quebec is a profoundly class-stratified society whose ruling class, ingeniously and ingenuously, thinks it represents the interests of the working class. Hence middle-class students (the working class does not go to University in QC!) striking in the name of working-class accessibility; hence the readership of Le Devoir (basically the secular Catholic establishment reading the words of secular Jesuits) believing every line. Because it gives you a headache to be a card-carrying member of the ruling class in 2012. Your conscience, you know. So you just deny reality, blame the State for failing to give you for free the credentials to one day control the State, and meanwhile start grinding out the memories for the days when you, too, finally, are envied as a decrepit soixante-huitard.

    As the translator comments here, this poll is nothing if not proof of the profoundly easygoing nature of Quebeckers who are not part of the ruling class. Or of their stupidity.

  9. The Netherlands is considering offering Technical Education “free” of charge. But there is a catch, non-technical education will have to compensate by higher fees to cover 50% of the additional costs, the other 50% will have to come from industry.

    In a normal society, this would be a perfect solution.
    – Technical skills will be in very high demand when babyboomers retire. If you want to keep your industry going, investment in technical education is a must.
    – Students will have the option to get “free” education. If you interested in any of the other subjects, either simply pay for it, or you get a technical job first and study e.g. history later.

  10. LaPresse is disproportionately read by people who are against the students, that is why a telephone survey would be more accurate. This is like reading a “do you support Harper” poll taken from Sun News’ website.

    • I suppose it wouldn’t help if I explained the difference between a push-button survey run off the paper’s website and a survey run by a pollster commissioned by the newspaper. Sigh.

      • That’s not true at all!!!!! I’m from Quebec and La Presse is most of all read by «left» people, so people agreeing with the students. The more «right» newspaper would be «Le Journal de Montréal»…

        • gimme a break. left is le devoir. la presse is full on neoliberal hypocrisy, globe and mail style. check who owns these media mega corporations before believing their “polls” and their “analysis”. independent media is the way to go people, forget the paul wellses and the peladeus and the desmarais of this world.

          • Wrong, ralph. La presse may have a few older commentators who are pro-Charest; but the rest of la presse is 99%-ers, ranters who hate Charest, love the student movement, love themselves etc etc. I/e., liberal press, just like Globe and mail, but also Quebec oriented. There’s no such thing as a big media company that publishes “neoliberal” ideology. It’s all what the public wants to read.

          • Wrong, ralph. La presse may have a few older commentators who are pro-Charest; but the rest of la presse is 99%-ers, ranters who hate Charest, love the student movement, love themselves etc etc. I/e., liberal press, just like Globe and mail, but also Quebec oriented. There’s no such thing as a big media company that publishes “neoliberal” ideology. It’s all what the public wants to read.

          • Wrong, ralph. La presse may have a few older commentators who are pro-Charest; but the rest of la presse is 99%-ers, ranters who hate Charest, love the student movement, love themselves etc etc. I/e., liberal press, just like Globe and mail, but also Quebec oriented. There’s no such thing as a big media company that publishes “neoliberal” ideology. It’s all what the public wants to read.

          • Wrong, ralph. La presse may have a few older commentators who are pro-Charest; but the rest of la presse is 99%-ers, ranters who hate Charest, love the student movement, love themselves etc etc. I/e., liberal press, just like Globe and mail, but also Quebec oriented. There’s no such thing as a big media company that publishes “neoliberal” ideology. It’s all what the public wants to read.

          • Wrong ralph, La presse’s commentators are all left-liberal pro-student anti-charest ranters. A few are older journalists with qualms about the student movement. There’s no viable multipurpose media in Canada that’s ideologically ‘neoliberal’.

  11. paul wells is a corporate stooge

  12. Your post draws out nicely that a majority of people agree that students in Québec need to contribute more to covering the cost of their education. Throughout the conflict, this has been a constant. I guess what I am most concerned about is the manner in which a militant minority has been able to take hostage the quiet, non-militant majority. Further, anyone who knows anything about how votes were taken in student associations knows that democratic process was, in many if not most cases, baffled. I am also concerned that those who have argued against the respect of court injunctions and respect of law, are now negotiating with government and, in a potential compromise, will actually obtain satisfaction, in part. Finally, I am more than a little concerned about the “what if” scenarios: What if there was a third group, also militant and also willing to take to the streets? How would that have turned out. Democracy is a fragile thing. The students (and, historically, most people who have acted the way they have) are unable to measure the effects of their actions. A minority can take over, if mobilized enough, they do not have to respect law or due process and if they act quickly enough, there will be no effective opposition. Perhaps this is valid political and social action when we are faced with dictatorship, but in Quebec? Where have I seen this picture before?

    • Where have I seen this picture before?
      In OKA perhaps???

  13. Paul, you do good work for the media mega corporations that are scared of popular movements. Keep it up.

  14. Very fair and balance analysis of the student strike, I believe. As an student in Quebec that have had my session suspended and is against the student strike, What irritates me is simply that the tuition hike is an blank check. Our universities are underfunded and the increase in the hike is simply to help the debt the universities owe to who knows who. So the university wont be using that money to improve anything. Even after the 5 years increase nothing will have changed in that regard. I will finish university, get an job and wonder what else the government will rise to make my live more miserable, like all good tax payers.

  15. Surveys, surveys, and more surveys….Canadians (Quebecers) are suckers for that.
    Its the separatist attitude that wants to come back to dominate.

    • Yeah, they are in a race with Alberta !!!

  16. pardon my english – survey or no survey, basically people in quebec are fedup with this corrupted liberal gouvernment. tuition fees or not, that became accessory in the debate. people are in the streets because they what change, big change in how politics should be done and to send a message to all politicians, “you have to listen to the people, we dont like the way you manage our money and our ressources” + “we dont like to see corruption in this gouvernment” – comming back to the tuition fee, how would you react if the gouvernment cut your old age pension by 82% in the next 7 years? knowing that you have the lowest pension in Canada how would you react? its the same, we (in quebec) pay the highest rate of incom taxe in all of canada and the lowest rate of tuition, same difference, same money, different pocket – so why ask for a 82% increase of tuition when the gouvernment will spendbillions to sell cheap our natural ressources to foreing compagnies?? its a matter of making de right decisions for the benefit of the poeple, not just for the rich et wealthy!!

    • Alleluhia

  17. read this please : Anglo Canada is sticking its fingers in its ears and humming a happy song. Many in the English-speaking punditocracy and media (or perhaps mediocracy?) are doing their best to persuade us that student protests in Quebec are nothing of any consequence.

    This is getting a little harder to do, now that so many other folks are joining the students. But it is not too late to jump on the bandwagon to ridicule or demonize the protesters. Just follow these simple steps.(These steps can be rearranged and amplified for dramatic effect.)

    Step 1: Set the stage with a dismissive tone. Many like to scorn protesters as naïve over-entitled brats. If you really get huffing and puffing, brand students as anti-social radicals. This leads nicely into step 2.

    Step 2: Suggest a sinister undertone. Highlight any behaviour suggesting that protesters are undisciplined violent thugs. (Take care to frame this in a way that denies the possibility that the noble police force ever provokes any unpleasantness).

    Step 3: Explain what is really going on.This is your chance to look like you are magnanimously enlightening those poor confused students. Remember, it is your job to reassure English Canada that the status quo is entirely reasonable and the forces of authority radiate with the glow of legitimacy.

    Now that you have concluded that protesters are in the wrong, find some evidence.

    Steps 1 and 2 can usually work just by evoking appropriate stereotypes, but in step 3 you will likely have to introduce something that passes as evidence. Naturally you will want to select evidence that supports your point of view. But at all times, maintain your stature as the paragon of enlightened rationality. This will position you favourably next to the depictions of protesters as an unreasonable and possibly dangerous mob (see steps 1 and 2).

    My personal recommendation is to cherry-pick economic information to provide your evidence. Economics has that lovely reputation for rational objectivity. One can almost feel the credibility pouring forth from economic statistics.

    Special bonus: if you can situate the issue solely as a dollars and sense matter, you have effectively changed the channel on any arguments that speak to moral or democratic legitimacy. (Please Note: You probably don’t want to go down the road of moral or democratic legitimacy. Just a suggestion.)

    Back to the need for evidence to legitimate your conclusions. If you are going to rely on economic arguments to really nail your case, there are some favourites making the rounds.

    Feel free to mix and match decontextualized economic factoids as you see fit. Just cite some impressive-sounding numbers, without venturing into any deep analysis. Everyone will probably be so dazzled that you have cited economic tidbits, they won’t focus too heavily on whether they are assembled into some kind of persuasive rationale.

    A popular choice is to cite statistics about the costs of tuition in Quebec relative to other places in Canada or wherever. You could start with this fancy-schmancy map. As you see, Quebec students pay lower tuition than students in other provinces.

    This is a slam dunk! Those selfish Quebec students are already getting a good deal! What is their problem?

    So far this approach has not backfired (much) by provoking students elsewhere to ask why they should put up with higher tuition than Quebec students pay. We don’t want students to conclude that the reason that tuition fees in Quebec are lower is because politicized student and social movements are willing to take to the streets.

    I cannot state this more urgently: it is of utmost importance to keep statistics decontextualized. Any discussion of tuition fees must ignore other aspects of students’ lives. Do not put tuition fees in the context of such issues as the debt loads carried by students and their job prospects. By all means stay away from the very scary-looking student debt clock published by the Canadian Federation of Students.

    If you start considering the overall situation facing students, you might end up writing something like the Globe and Mail’s personal finance columnist, Rob Carrick did in his ‘Young Adults Have A Right To Be Up In Arms.’

    Keep in mind, there are potential hazards in telling students to suck it up. You may look like a selfish crank who benefited from lower tuition and more generous social programs in your youth while cracking down on this generation. As I said, watch out for that nasty moral legitimacy pitfall.

    You might consider shifting the focus to provincial finances. This allows you to position yourself as someone who doesn’t have any ill will towards the students. Heavens no! You are merely obliged to point out the unfortunate fact that Quebec as a profligate province that needs to wake up to fiscal reality. Austerity is inevitable.

    Patiently, but firmly, explain that students must sacrifice along with everyone else. If students object to this, accuse them of defending their own privilege. (Return to step 1).

    The benefit of this approach is that it contributes to a larger objective: the people of Quebec must be persuaded to abandon their quaint ideas about collectively paying for the collective good. The notion that they might choose higher taxes to be able to afford accessible education or other social objectives must be squelched. That route opens a whole Pandora’s box about whether people can democratically chose some way other than neoliberal model.

    To legitimize austerity as an unquestionable necessity, use every opportunity to create the impression that Quebec is a fiscal basket case. Try citing a few decontextualized statistics about Quebec’s debt and deficit. A favourite is the debt/GDP ratio. This ratio compares government’s debt to the size of their economy.

    Pay close attention to this next part. There are different ways to cite debt/GDP, and one looks much worse than the other. Choose the “gross” debt/GDP number, which is 55 per cent .

    The gross debt statistic ignores the fact that governments have assets as well as liabilities. If the government’s assets are subtracted from its gross debt/GPP, you get their “accumulated deficit” of 35.1 per cent of GDP. This number sounds more manageable and thus should be ignored.

    My advice is just to cite the higher debt/GDP statistic, and run for cover. Do not enter into a discussion that may inadvertently encourage your audience to rethink the interpretation of government debt and deficits. Forget anything I ever wrote about neoliberal governments welcoming debt “problems” as the pretext to disentitle citizens.

    All kinds of trouble may result if your audience gets distracted by issues that may lead them to question neoliberalism. Before long people may be using concepts that the students popularized. Under no circumstances should you even acknowledge the word “class”. I understand it is difficult to avoid, given the debates ignited in Quebec. But trust me, if you start pondering tuition and the role of government more generally in class terms, you are in trouble.

    Good luck to all of you who are shouldering the heavy responsibility of explaining why the protests in Quebec can be dismissed. Admittedly, you will face challenges in this heroic mission. But by all means, persevere!

    You, too, will experience the rewards of being oblivious to what a whole generation of people is saying loud and clear.

    Economist Ellen Russell is an economist and professor of journalism at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her column comes out every two months in rabble.ca.

    Cultivate Canada’s media. Support rabble.ca. Become a member.

  18. Seems to me, there is no definite definition on what they are protesting about. Tuition fees? Will this later develop into a protest for or against separatism, capitalism? The cat is not out of the bag yet.

  19. there is no such thing as an “average quebecer” kinda annoying when people from ontario look in and try to paint us with the same brush…

Sign in to comment.