The Quebec government has pulled out of talks with student leadersmeant to end the province’s months-long tuition crisis. Premier Jean Charest said a “big gap” remains between the provinceand students on the issue, and he’s “the first to be disappointed”at the lack of a deal. Student leaders, however, say the government is image-obsessed andis refusing their cost-neutral proposals because it doesn’t want tobe seen to have caved. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Quebec student alliance CLASSE, centre,briefs the media Thursday with Martine Desjardins of the groupFEUQ, left, and L o Bureau-Blouin of FECQ.
(Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press) “I would have preferred that we could have reached anunderstanding, but unfortunately, and even though discussions wereproductive, there’s a big gap,” Charest said in a news conferenceThursday afternoon outside his office in Quebec City. “We made great efforts, and in the end, we came to the conclusionthat there s an impasse.” Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said the government made twooffers to students. The first would have lowered a planned tuitionhike to $219 a year for seven years from $254 a year; the secondwould have limited the hike to $100 in the first year, but kept itat $254 annually thereafter. Both proposals would see tuition rise to nearly $4,100 by 2020, anincrease of 70 per cent overall. “They refused all hikes in tuition, so it wasn t possible toarrive at a solution that would have respected taxpayers, sincethis notion of a tuition freeze was non-negotiable for them,”Courchesne said.
Government afraid to be seen to retreat: students Student leaders said, however, that they had made fourcounter-offers to the government, none of which it seriouslyconsidered, and all of which respected its requirement that anyproposal be cost-neutral for the provincial treasury. The latest of those proposals would have avoided tuition hikes fortwo years by instead reducing the income-tax deduction forpost-secondary tuition. It would have also curtailed the QuebecEducation Savings Initiative, a tax credit implemented by theLiberals in 2007 that gives money to people who open savingsaccounts for their or their children’s education. Charest fiercely denounced that idea in an interview Thursdayevening, saying the tax credit was designed to help middle-classfamilies save for their kids’ education. Miniature Surveillance Cameras
For the 38th night in a row, protesters took to Montreal’s streetson Thursday. Three separate marches of about 10,000 peopleconverged into one around 10:15 p.m. ET. (CBC) “We re not going to butcher that. China Infrared Surveillance Cameras
It was done for middle-classfamilies,” the premier said. “We speak for the middle class andrepresent them.” But Martine Desjardins, president of the F d ration tudianteuniversitaire du Qu bec, the biggest of the student groups at thetable, said the tax credit actually mostly benefits well-offfamilies. “Once you realize who benefits from this program, you have to ask,isn t it better to do something that helps everyone?” Desjardinstold CBC’s French-language service. “It s the wealthy that canafford to put money aside. Lower- and middle-class students aremostly ignored by this program.” The real reason Courchesne wouldn’t entertain the students’ latestproposal was to protect the government’s image, said GabrielNadeau-Dubois, spokesman for student group CLASSE, thesecond-biggest student organization involved in the talks. CCTV Accessories Manufacturer
“Such a gesture would be interpreted as a retreat, and she citedthe front pages of the newspapers,” Nadeau-Dubois said. “What wewere told inside was that a tuition hike was a goal. MadameCourchesne said her goal was to raise tuition, because if shedidn t, then the government would lose face.” Doors open Both parties said they’re still amenable to more talks. “My door remains open if students want to return, if they haveoffers,” Charest said. Desjardins echoed that students are willing to meet, too.
“We restill here. We re always ready to negotiate. We have plenty ofproposals. So we ll wait,” she said.
But both parties were also bracing for their disagreements to betaken up once more in the kind of huge public demonstrations thathave gripped Montreal, sometimes resulting in mass arrests. AsCLASSE’s Nadeau-Dubois put it Thursday night in calling for renewedprotests, “When the government cuts off discussion, the only placeleft for people to be heard is the street.”.