A Modest Proposal to End the Student Strike

Here’s my humble two cents – while their still worth something that is.

Responsibilities of the Québec Government:

1. The complete and total elimination of Bill 78 as a provincial law, including all of its provisions, and an official public apology from the Premier for so aggressively impugning our fundamental Charter rights. Whether federalist or separatist, conservative or liberal, immigrant or pur-laine, Bill 78 is a cancer which must be expunged from the official record. Let it be what it is, an overzealous over-reaction and a mistake neither Charest nor any other Québec Premier will ever dare repeat. Nothing can happen until this is done.

2. An official demand that the Sureté du Québec and the SPVM stand down and return to normal police activities. In addition, as part of this general ‘cooling down’ period, a prohibition on the carrying of weapons – all weapons – for the Montréal police, for the duration of the Summer. There would be an exception made for mobile armed-response units to act as a deterrent against the possibility of an armed crime spree, but in general, officers conducting routine police activities would be un-armed. The aim here is to restore the public’s faith in local police and ensure we go at least one Summer without another incident of local police shooting unarmed people.

3. The creation of a student legislative council with the ability to appoint an executive education minister, from the pool of MNAs, regardless of the latter’s party affiliation. The council would be composed of elected student representatives from Québec’s public universities and CEGEPs based on a proportional representation system. Student voting would be mandatory though an abstention option would always be provided. There would be no renumeration for elected representatives, nor political parties. The council would be responsible for steering education-related legislation and making recommendations to the minister.

4. The government will be able to implement a 50% raise in tuition over five years, and would be required to implement all alternatives listed in their last counter-offer (such as the elimination of discretionary spending by universities on compensation, a prohibition on new construction and the elimination of all additional school fees, among others).

5. The government will subsidize a half-price student transit card for any citizen enrolled in a public university or CEGEP for as long as they’re officially enrolled, be it on a part or full time basis. In addition, the government will establish province-wide price controls on student text books and non-technological school supplies.

Responsibilities of the public universities and CEGEPs:

6. Eliminate all corporate-styled compensation for university administrators. From hereon in all executive administrators will receive ‘dollar-a-year’ type compensation. This model was used during the Second World War for the executives running various federal agencies and crown corporations as a cost-cutting measure. It’s also a way of making sure people don’t use the university system to make themselves rich while further ensuring those who get the jobs are doing so because they have a vested interest in making our schools better. If it turns out to be a stepping stone into the world of politics, so be it. Better educators than lawyers anyways.

7. All public universities and CEGEPs must create an alumni trust where funds collected in any given fiscal year are ‘locked-in’ for the following ten. These funds will be used for university expansion, new construction, R&D and, if well managed, eventually bursaries and for the funding of student activities. This trust won’t be used to pay the salaries of anyone working in a university or CEGEP.

8. The complete elimination of credit-card and loan hustlers from campus, in addition to anything else which may cause a student to spend money frivolously. This would also include eliminating advertising inside university buildings for anything not directly related to activities within the university itself, as well as prevent for-profit businesses from operating within the university.

9. There are to be no additional fees for attending a public university or CEGEP aside from the cost of tuition and books for a period of fifteen years. Student unions will be encouraged to use their space on campus to operate businesses whose profits will be re-directed to support student activities, but this will necessarily be the only source of student activity funding aside from what might be provided through an alumni trust.

Responsibilities for the students:

10. Continue demonstrating, but let’s try occupying en lieu of marching. As part of the ‘cool down’, I’d recommend that students occupy public space, such as Parc Emilie-Gamelin, Square Victoria, Place du Canada etc, but end marches for the duration of the Summer. The police will step back and step down first, then the students, in good faith, will purposely confine their protest to large public squares. Among other things, this will largely eliminate the massive over-time and danger-pay costs associated with escorting and trying to prevent marches from happening. It will also likely allow the student movement to mitigate pissing off the general population by blocking bridges and snarling traffic inasmuch as it will take the wind out of the ‘anarchist’s’ sails. Probably the smartest move they make if they want to public’s overwhelming support for additional concessions later on. Remember, the ideal is 100% free post-secondary education at the best possible schools the state can provide, and that’s what we need to work towards. This isn’t an end to the movement, because it is so much more than just a tuition hike. But we need to take this in stride and plan for the long haul.

11. No more blocking access to class. This is reprehensible. If you want broad support, you won’t get it by bullying people into taking sides. That’s not what democracy looks like. That’s a dictatorship of thugs and we’re better than that. Protesting should take place outside university and CEGEP buildings with respect to those who disagree. They have as much a right not to participate as you do to protest.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add to this list, but here’s a start.

I hope it’s clear where I stand; this isn’t a clean cut issue – nothing in Canadian politics ever is. And it is a Canadian issue, but we need to wait for other students and progressives to wake up and join our cause. that said, we must take the moral high ground, and must demonstrate our ability and interest in negotiation. Protest without a plan is futile.

Comment away – I’d like legitimately like to know what you think.