I am supposed to blog on politics, the environment and the media. For anyone who has been reading, watching or following the civil strife that has erupted in Quebec over university tuition fees, all three come into play – big time!!
The issue. The Quebec government has proposed raising university tuition fees by approximately $1,400 annually over a five year span (Quebec currently has the lowest tuitions of any province by a huge margin). A very small segment of the student population has rebelled and there have been violent protests, smoke bombs in subways, injuries and arrests.
Notwithstanding that public polls seem to support the government’s position, Premier Jean Charest has made some modifications in the government’s position but it is clear nothing will satisfy the radical element who oppose the increases except total capitulation and a withdrawal of the entire proposal.
The ongoing controversy is receiving more and more attention every day, not only across Canada but in the international media as well. This morning things just got worse. After two months of trying to walk a middle line, political rigormortis has set in and the Charest government is at a crisis.
Line Beauchamp, the deputy Premier and Minister of Education, abruptly resigned stating there was no desire or intent by the radical student element to negotiate or reach any compromise. To make matters worse, Ms. Beauchamp, an experienced and respected individual, not only resigned her cabinet position but also announced she was quitting politics completely. She has had enough!!
What is the connection here to protests and opposition to projects that we all may have been subjected to? The reality is that a very small group of aggressive students have boycotted classes while the vast majority of students are still in school and wanting to graduate next month. These radicals have used civil disobedience, are receiving wide media coverage and have brought the government to a standstill on the issue.
A news report stated that one group, FORCE ETUDIANTE CRITIQUE, has vowed never to negotiate and it is their intent to change the way the government in Quebec does business and makes decisions on education and other social issues.
While these actions are not exactly the same as protests to block rail lines for landfills or roads for new pipelines, the fundamental issue remains the same. Civil disobedience (or the threat of it) combined with media manipulation results in governments who, in many cases, change policies or run for cover.
Unfortunately I think the Liberal Government of Jean Charest has reached a crossroads. Get the rules straight with this small radical element or get out of town. Keep watching because whatever happens in the next few weeks will have major implications for Quebec and other political parties in Canada.
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