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.

6 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal to End the Student Strike”

  1. Keep in mind that all, including myself, voted knowing they’d probably lose their session if the strike passed. But to FAIL their session would be much, MUCH worse. The Scabs are reprehensible because if class continues during the strike, those on strike will fail, and that can really mess up your chances, more than losing one session would.

    If there was no pressure against the Scabs in the workplace, then many would continue going to work, and in some cases those on strike would undoubtedly lose their jobs. In this case, scabs keep going to school, the strike carries less weight, and the rest of us will be faced with a much tougher choice; fail, and accomplish nothing, or go to class… and accomplish nothing. One of the main reasons the Charest government has even deigned to speak to us so far is because we’re making an impact.

    We’re disruptive. That’s the point.

  2. Fair enough, I’m doing the same to get rid of my debts.

    But, this doesn’t mean that future generation should be forced into the same post-modern indentured servitude that is being a student these days. It’s nearly impossible for young people to get really decent jobs in this city, imagine how hard it will be in five years time. If there’s no ground-breaking change, and soon, we’re doomed into a hopeless cycle of middle and working class exploitation. I’ve had enough. Demonstrations should continue – they should spread beyond Québec. If they do, and I’m beginning to hope they might, Québec may realize it’s pivotal role in a new Canadian federation. The time for major change is here – this is so far removed from a tuition raise it’s dizzying.

    This is why I suggest a more Occupy-styled sit-in demonstration. It’s an effective way of saying to the powers at be “either find us jobs and let us participate in the economy, or kiss your beautiful parks goodbye.” As an admirer of Montreal’s parks and public spaces, I can say I know I wouldn’t be alone in viewing this as a far more effective bargaining tool. We can’t survive forever on a service and tourism based economy, we need real growth. Rather than marching, multiple Occupy-styled sit-ins may provide the win-win situation of controlled protest and message/organization concentration. Our Occupy was safe, people seemed happy, involved. Go with what works. As long as its not snarling traffic or disrupting the commute, protestors are in a far better position to earn the public’s consent that change in our society must occur. Blocking access to classes is not something I agree with, and under no circumstances will I support it, especially when Bill 78 is apparently in effect. The police should stand down in good faith, leaving the provision for special crisis response units. A reduction in police presence will remove the primary example of an oppressive state which the violence-prone protestor is attempting to single-handedly destroy. Remove the fuel from the fire.

  3. Taylor:

    You have made several points here. I will not address all of them, but here are MY two cents’ worth:

    I agree that Bill 78 was a gross over-reaction to the current situation.

    As to the suggestion of police standing down, however, I do not agree. There have been incidents of violence and there is no suggestion that that might not continue and the police may have to react accordingly. Further, the police are there to ensure the public’s safety as well.

    As to a counter-offer by the governement, I sincerely hope that a compromise will be reached whereby both sides agree to end the current public demonstrations.

    As to the governance of universities and Cegeps, I agree that a review is required. There have been far too many eyebrow-raising incidents in the past. How they are financed is also a matter of review.

    I am not in favour, however, of continuing demonstrations. They have now become more than an annoyance and have the potential of causing tremendous harm to property and individuals. The purpose of the Bill, over-reaction that it may be, was to put an end to this.

    Students who were blocking access to classes were/are in CLEAR violation of the law – this must stop!

    This whole sorry mess has put Quebec in very bad light, I’m afraid. Three years ago, Montreal was voted as one of the best 3 tourist cities IN THE WORLD! In light of recent events, I wonder where we stand now. This affects our reputation, our social peace, and even our sense of security.

    I think it inevitable that higher tuition fees are the order of the day. My first two years on the work force were devoted to paying down my student loans. I did, and I survived! Our students will also survive.


  4. Related to #10 ” the massive over-time and danger-pay costs ” , I just would like to point out one thing, which I don’t hear many people talking about. We have to stop those overblown costs . This comes back to us as business tax hike next year, which is already choking small businesses up. ( Just to give you an idea: a dépanneur on Prince-Arthur street is paying $16,000 per year for the business tax. This is a dépanneur! ) Downtown hotels are getting cancellations because of this turmoil. People in tourism are nervous because students are determined to continue the demonstration throughout the festival periods, while tourist season is very short. This affects all parts of the society and entails all kinds of outcomes. The government has to put the Bill 78 on the table and resume the talk with students.

  5. Hi –

    When the unions have a long history of being uncooperative with anyone but the PQ, I think any broad-based social movement needs to be very careful. Is this a mass demand for change, or a facilitation of the transfer of power from one set of elites to another?

    And it’s not like scabs crossing a picket line. Scabs cross a picket line and the factory stays open, finished products keep rolling off the assembly line and the factory owner makes a greater profit because he/she isn’t paying nearly as much in labour and benefits costs (which is likely why there’s a protest in the first place). That makes scabs reprehensible. Students pay the institution for an education. If they want one and don’t agree with the strike, they ought to be left alone.

    If the movement can’t convince everyone, all the time, deal with it, but don’t piss people off needlessly.

  6. 11.
    While you say ‘blocking access to class’, others say ‘scabs crossing picket lines’. We can’t ignore Quebecs long history of unions. Government attempts at de-legitimizing them are what is reprehensible.

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