Read the rebuttal here.
On September 4, Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois won a minority government in Quebec. Marios’ election was based largely on her promise to cancel Liberal premier Jean Charest’s proposed tuition increases of 82 per cent over seven years. The importance and effectiveness of the PQ promise became clear after months of protesting from a minority of Quebec students, galled at the thought of having to pay more for post-secondary education. The students’ fight against the Liberal government received a surge of public support after Charest’s government introduced Bill 78, aimed at curbing public demonstrations.
Across the country and abroad, red squares of cloth were sewn onto garments to signal support for the protestors and from New York to Vancouver, impromptu marches were held. Even Toronto was not immune. Though I declined several Facebook invitations, I found that the prevalence of these marches across this city made encountering them unavoidable. Outside the student union building and down Harbord Street, I found my lunch and evening strolls being interrupted by an insufferable clatter of pots made worse by indecipherable chants and speeches dinned over megaphones by individuals who seemed not to have grasped the very point of an amplification device. Quebec, it appears, was as put off by this racket as I was, and as with anything that makes enough noise, the protesting students of Quebec were catered to. Instead of giving them a soother or a teddy to console their grievances, they were given a province.
But the greatest benefactor of the PQ’s victory was not the students but a student. With the election of 20 year-old student protest leader Léo Bureau-Blouin, the PQ candiate, in the riding of Laval-des-Rapides, Quebec proved that the child in the super market who screams the loudest will indeed get their bonbon.
The turn of events in Quebec has the potential to ignite a serious debate about Ontario tuition hikes. The same “lower fees, better education” slogan fought for so doggedly to our east may quickly become a very loud bandwagon in Ontario. In a June 18 article for this publication, Abdullah Shihipar told us that if we “support making education a priority, stand with the students of Quebec.” Statements such as these are understandable given the success of the Quebec protests and Ontario’s comparably higher tuition fees. A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests that Ontario students could be paying as much as $9,231 by 2016. If Ontario, and in particular the University of Toronto, is to engage in such a debate about lowering the cost of tuition, two rules must be followed: the parameters of can and the retirement of ought.
If you find yourself or others in the coming months expressing the sentiment, “We can have a better education for less money”, be sure to ponder how this will be achieved. Education is expensive. Buildings must be heated, professors must be paid, and thousands of clubs and activities must be funded. If someone can demonstrate how we can reduce or freeze tuition rates without the cutting of essential government programs or the degradation of current standards, I will be the first to go knocking on Premier McGunity’s door.
Next, when uttering “We ought to have a better education for a lower price” please check yourself or the person speaking. You or they are being silly. Ours is an entitled generation and this certainly has its perks. It’s drawback however, is that we expect a quality product with a minimum of consequences. It is a privilege to receive an education at the post-secondary level and that means that we must sacrifice to get it. This sacrifice, right now, is at worst a $28,000 loan from your bank over four years at a generous interest rate, and that’s only if government grants and merit based scholarships fail you. The maximum for our neighbors to the south is as high as $400,000 over four years. We’re getting a bargain.
When you hear people making arguments advocating for lower Ontario tuition fees, hold them to these standards. If they do not, be wary. This is now an issue with traction in this country and those who seek to pursue it do so in full knowledge of the populism of their argument. Those who wish to debate this issue must offer a road ahead and not, like M. Bureau-Blouin, have broader political aspirations concealed beneath the hip stitch of the red square. But those who can see that road should share it with us and instruct us on the feasibility of lower tuition for better education. But please leave your pots at home.