The provincial student lobbying association that represents SSMU held its annual general meeting last weekend, May 14 and 15. The Table de concertation étudiante de Québec (TaCEQ), of which SSMU is a founding member, is one of three main provincial student lobby associations.
The meeting comes in the wake of Quebec’s announcement of an undetermined tuition increase in 2012. Until then, tuition will rise by $50 per semester. The Ministry of Education has announced plans to hold a meeting in the fall to determine how much tuition will rise after 2012.
The central focus of TaCEQ’s general meeting was the planning and organization of the union’s activities for the coming year, a decisive one for the student movement. TaCEQ’s secretary general, Philippe Verrault-Julien outlined the union’s priorities. “The question of tuition fees will be dealt with,” he said, adding that TaCEQ will “continue to follow the evolution of Bill 38 on university governance.” He also noted that TaCEQ has taken a stand against McGill’s introduction of a self-funded tuition model that will see MBA tuition soar to almost $30,000 in the coming year.
Outgoing SSMU Arts representative Joël Pedneault was elected vice secretary general of TaCEQ, one of the group’s two executive positions.
In addition to SSMU, TaCEQ’s member associations currently include student unions from l’Université Laval, l’Université Sherbrooke. The student association of l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières attended the AGM as an observer.
TaCEQ currently represents around 65,000 students in Quebec, according to outgoing SSMU VP External, Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan. “I think that SSMU is one of the major players in TaCEQ. There are four associations, obviously equally as important, but we certainly are the second-biggest and one of the more institutionally developed, which puts us in an important position because we do have resources that are not disposable to other associations,” said Ronderos-Morgan. “That being said, it is very collaborative and there is an understanding that there are in-kind contributions from each association.”
This weekend’s meeting was the group’s second. Verrault-Julien described the changes TaCEQ has gone through in the past year. “The last year has been a formative year, so there was a lot of time spent elaborating general by-laws and setting up a financial structure, so on very institutional business,” he said.
Following its creation last fall, TaCEQ waged a campaign against provincial Bills 38 and 44, which would have imposed a quota of external representatives on post-secondary institutions’ boards of directors. The campaign was conducted in conjunction with l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante and la Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec. A heavily amended Bill 44 was eventually adopted, and Bill 38 was tabled and has not been debated in Quebec’s National Assembly since.
During the past year, TaCEQ has fought for recognition from the Quebec government as a provincial student association, which would make them eligible for a provincial government bursary. Currently, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) is the only student federation recognized by the Quebec government as a provincial student lobbying organization.
Ronderos-Morgan outlined TaCEQ’s efforts toward ratification over the past year. “We started off a year ago by simply sending in a request for recognition, and at that point, [the Ministry was] a little bit shocked. They weren’t expecting that there would be another legitimate candidate to recognition,” he said. “We’re completely in the right for pursuing this… We have exactly the same profile as the FEUQ, which is the largest provincial student association, and the FEUQ has been receiving this funding from the government for twenty years, which amounts to a total of about two million dollars of public money.”
Last winter, the Quebec education minister Michelle Courchesne developed a new policy for officially recognizing provincial student associations. Although TaCEQ has requested information on this new policy, they have been informed by minister Courchesne that they would not receive this information until June, after it has been reviewed by the provincial Treasury Council.