The ongoing protests of university students in Quebec over the gall of M. Charest to raise their tuition by $1625 over
five seven years, and the growth of that movement to argue over other “social” issues makes me shake my head.
Students in Quebec have had it too easy for too long. Truth be told, students across Canada had it too easy for probably 40 years, ending in the 1990s when provinces, struggling with public debt, finally started charging something close to market prices for an education. All except Quebec, which maintained the ridiculously low tuition that had been in place for decades.
Many others, including the major newspapers, have pointed out how much less Quebec students pay for education that do students in the other provinces – and have pointed out that Quebec can only afford this due to the massive equalization payments it receives.
But the problem with the students goes further than that. They don’t understand how the real world works – particularly economically. One of the protesters told the National Post:
He recognizes that even after the proposed increase, Quebec students would pay among the lowest tuition in Canada. But instead of comparing with other North American jurisdictions, he said, why not look to Europe, where tuition is cheaper.
“I think it’s more a question of a society’s choices,” he said. “Historically, before the 1960s, Quebec lagged far behind in the level of education among francophones. A choice was made to keep tuition low in order to make up this ground and educate professionals.” The government’s focus on tuition has deflected attention from wasteful spending of university administrators, he said.
First – has he looked at Europe lately? The land of collapsing economies, depression-level unemployment where even Germany is having trouble selling it’s bonds to the market? Europe is simply spending itself to death faster than we are – they can’t afford “free tuition” any more than Quebec can afford “cheap tuition”. The “Schengen Zone” is collapsing as nations fear the masses of unemployed persons flooding out of Southern Europe into the North.
He is right about society’s choices – but Quebec decided to be a real-life version of the America in Atlas Shrugged where the state interferes in the economy and makes profitable business unattractive. Business has fled Quebec and will continue to do so. IF equalization stopped tomorrow, Quebec would be bankrupt and all of the soft and fuzzy “choices” that society has made would come to a painful end. Because society can only make those choices if it is made to pay the price for them.
Finally – on his comment about wasteful spending by administrators – I looked at the books of a Canadian University back in the 1990s when there was much gnashing of teeth over spending cuts. I hunted for wasteful spending. Guess what – it isn’t where these protesters think it is. I’d be willing to bet that the administration of Quebec’s universities and colleges aren’t wasting money on fancy parties, or trips or fancy architecture. They might be overpaying for capital construction – as does everyone in Quebec due to the corruption in that field of endeavour. But the biggest so-called waste is the public sector wages and benefits that the employees of those institutions receive. But I don’t know if the students really want the unions against them so they won’t bring it up.
- Quebec students set to reject Charest’s offer (thestar.com)
- World takes notice as Quebec’s student protesters march on (theglobeandmail.com)