As if to deliberately underscore how chaotic and disorganized the student activist movement is, two separate, competing protests are being organized over the next two weeks concerning tuition and accessibility of higher education.
The first, by the CEGEP-heavy, highly militant unlimited-strike-at-the-tip-of-a-hat ASSÉ, is this Thursday afternoon. (The event’s tagline is telling: “Parce que la lutte continue, tabarnak !!!”)
The second, by the bigger-budget, more organized PR-savvy FEUQ, is the following Thursday.
The reason behind the two protests is nothing more complicated than the two groups engaging in a pissing contest with each other. Rather than put aside their differences and come together, student groups prefer to fight and sue each other.
But even if this wasn’t the case, the protest is pointless for one simple reason: They’ve already lost the battle.
In the last provincial election, Liberal leader Jean Charest made it abundantly clear he intended to unfreeze tuition and raise it by a small amount. ADQ leader Mario Dumont even wanted to go further. Those two parties took over 2/3 of the seats in the National Assembly.
The public, meanwhile, made it very clear that keeping Quebec’s tuition the lowest in Canada is not their top priority. Even some students think our tuition is too low, and would prefer to see more student money go into the education system.
These protests (and the laughable “unlimited general strike”, which hurts no one but the few students participating in it) are organized on the assumption that the public supports them. But it doesn’t. And tying up downtown traffic so that some hippies can yell how $200 a course is too much to pay for university education isn’t going to help their cause at all. It will just piss people off and make them think that these students have far too much free time on their hands that they could be spending earning money to lessen their tuition load.
The tuition debate is over as far as the government is concerned. If you’re going to try to revolutionize the way Quebec finances post-secondary education, you have to convince the voters to think like you. That means a big, honest education campaign, not a protest.
And don’t hold your breath expecting attitudes to change overnight.