Once again, it’s time for the Dawson Student Union (DSU) Elections, and today is the last day for voting.
Only 500 students took the time to vote during the March 2009 Elections. Perhaps, if the aspiring DSU executives engaged students with concrete ideas, voter turn-out would improve. With tuition fees set to rise in Quebec universities, and with the announcement of possible tuition fees at the CEGEP level, strong leadership in the student movement is needed now, more than ever.
It’s a well known fact that Quebec has the cheapest education system in North America, especially for Quebec residents. But, due to years of underfunding in education, university debts are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This has led to various assaults on the education system, like the effective increase of tuition fees at Quebec universities by $500. There was also the attack on international students at Concordia, whose tuition fees have been raised by several thousand dollars since 2008.
This has also come with cuts to other social services that the capitalist parties in the National Assembly have been trying push onto the working people. These measures were attempted numerous times during the previous economic ‘boom,’ before the recession that came at the end of 2007.
The Quebec deficit is now projected at $4.7 billion for 2009-2010, and the same amount is expected for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. This deficit is largely due to corporate tax-cuts and the, roughly, $8 billion that was injected into the economy last year, mainly in the form of corporate bailouts. This year, the government announced that nearly $7.5 billion would be added to this amount. Finance Minister Raymond Bachand said that Quebecers should expect deficit spending until 2013-2014. Similar things are happening federally and in every Canadian province.
All of this is a result of the fact that mainstream economists and right-wing politicians aren’t able to understand the very economic system that they advocate. This was proven when the population was told that the recent global economic crisis would not hit Canada, let alone Quebec.
Among the people who must now pay for these deficits are students. The CEGEP system, being the only model of free higher education in North America, is threatened. Within the coming years (maybe even this year), students in CEGEPs could be expected to a pay to go to school.
Annoyingly, Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberal Party are still keeping us guessing as to how much this sum will be. Many speculate $1 000 to $2 000 per year.
It doesn’t stop at the CEGEP level. Former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard and his posse submitted a proposition that about 80% of university students should pay an additional $2 200 per year. The remaining 20%, who are in programs that cost more, would pay an additional $3 000 to $10 000 per year. Bouchard added that “the government has done its part [in financing universities], now it’s the students’ turn.”
All of these are measures to get rid of the deficit that students did not create. This bullshit only reveals the fallacy of democracy under capitalism. The state is only there to protect the interests of the rich, so much that they are even ready to go against their own ideology. During times of economic growth, it’s all about private interest; but, when a crisis hits, suddenly the losses in profits and debts become a public matter: socialism for the rich!
This is my message to the future DSU executives: fight against the attacks on our educational system!