Students in Quebec have no one to blame for program cuts but themselves
By David Dyck
Be careful what you wish for. Last year, Quebec students wished long and hard for the ongoing tuition freeze in the province to remain intact. They wished it on the streets, sometimes without clothes on, they banged on dishware and decried capitalism, and pinned small red squares to their clothes to indicate how much they were wishing for it.
They wished so long and so hard and so loudly that they finally got what they wanted. An election happened, and a brand new party was put into power, a party that agreed that their wishes were good and valid and just. The freeze was here to stay, and tuition rates would remain the lowest in Canada, in North America even.
Wishes do come true. There is hope for the downtrodden, hungry, poor arts students who wished so hard.
And then the unthinkable happened. A blind spot in all of the wishing came out: money is required to run universities. If the money isn’t there, then one of two things has to happen: either the university must look for funding in other places, or the university must cut costs. Cutting costs means cutting programming, getting rid of staff and administration, and increasing class sizes.
The latter scenario is exactly what is happening at McGill. The new PQ government is slashing $124 million from universities across the province, and McGill is expected to cut $19.1 million from their own budget.
The administration has been lashing out at the new government for “betraying” the students.
One former McGill history and economics professor told The Bull and Bear, “Instead of taking on the responsibility for the province’s horrible economic performance by increasing their own debt, the PQ has been trying to transfer this responsibility to the universities.”
Yet no one seems to be linking these two very obviously cause-and-effect events. The university isn’t blaming the student strike. The PQ isn’t. Everyone is blaming the government, an easy scapegoat.
And maybe this former prof is right. Maybe the PQ should have taken the 124 million-dollar bath to think about what happens when you grant the wish of hundreds of Quebecois arts students who can’t do math. But who loses out? Someone else’s budget has to be slashed instead, or the province increases its debt.
Of course, it would be too easy to look at the real problem — there’s a tuition freeze. That tuition was supposed to be unfrozen, a plan already rolled into the 2013 budget, but it never happened. Now McGill — and every other post-secondary institution in la belle province — is suffering.
If you give a child all of the candy it wants, it will get sick because it doesn’t know any better. The child might not like it, and might cry and fuss and plead, but the fact is that that is preferable to the consequences that unlimited candy will have on the health of the child. The student strike displayed ignorance about how the real world works, and the subsequent budget cuts are the very real fallout from wishful, fantastical thinking being made into policy.