Student groups in Quebec were quick to reject Liberal Premier Jean Charest’s Friday offer of concessions. Still, there are new reasons to believe some of the groups opposed to the $1,625 tuition increase could be ready to compromise and end their ongoing “strike.”
On Friday, Premier Charest said he would spread the impending tuition increase over seven years instead of five, which would reduce the increase to $254 per year from $325. CLASSE, the province’s largest and most militant student group, said Saturday that it will not accept such a deal.
But FECQ and FEUQ, the other two large students groups, asked for mediation with the government. Education Minister Line Beauchamp said today that it’s too early for mediation—she wants students to vote on the offer made Friday first. Still, the fact that she didn’t entirely reject the idea of mediation seems to indicate progress.
Meanwhile, the boycotts are dwindling. Only a third of students are still skipping classes, says CBC.
The protests have calmed down too. On Friday, thousands marched again in Montreal, but only 35 were arrested. At a smaller rally on Sunday, only one person was cuffed. Contrast that to a few days earlier, on Wednesday, when 85 were arrested amid widespread vandalism and violence.
Interestingly, pundits have pointed out that the federal New Democrats, who represent most Quebecers in Parliament, remain mostly quiet about the strike. That’s despite the fact that five NDP Members of Parliament from Quebec were student activists before they won seats last spring. The NDP silence suggests there are few political benefits from supporting the protests, Bruce Hicks, a political science professor at Concordia University, told The Canadian Press.
And so it seems the stars over Quebec are currently aligned against the student groups. That makes mediation their best hope for getting further concessions. But first, students must vote.