News  FEUQ accuses Quebec of hiding millions in student aid

Provincial and Federal accounts differ by $30 million

The provincial government is withholding $30 million in student aid transferred from the federal government, according to the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ).

In a press release dated October 15, FEUQ and the Fédération étudiante collegiale du Québec pointed to a gap between the amount of money earmarked for student aid in federal transfer payments – $235 million – and the amount the provincial government claims it received – $205 million.

The payments will take effect in January 2011 and will cover expenses for the fiscal year 2009-2010.

“We’ve got the confirmation from the federal government that [they have] written the cheque, that this will transfer $235 million to the Quebec government,” said FEUQ president Louis-Phillips Savoie.

The transfer payments are administered under two federal programs: $120 million will come from the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) and $115 million from the newly created Canada Student Grant Program (CSGP). This amounts to a 14.5 per cent increase from last year’s total transfer. The CSGP is replacing the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, from which Quebec received $80 million last year.

A chart posted on the federal Treasury Board’s website says $229 million was transferred to The province, although FEUQ political attaché Mathias Boulianne said that Barbara Glover, Director General of the Canada Student Loans Directorate, pegged the number at $235 million when he met with her.

The province’s significantly lower number appeared in Quebec’s 2010-2011 budget, released March 30.

“The provincial government pretends that the student loans program was cut by an amount of approximately $30 million,” Savoie said. “That’s how they arrived at $205 million.”

Provincial Education minister Line Beauchamp’s office could not be reached for comment as The Daily went to press.

Asked whether he thought the provincial government was being deliberately misleading in the figures they presented, Savoie said, “that’s our best guess.”

“You’ve got confirmation from the federal government that $235 million has been transferred. And you’ve got Quebec on the other side that says 205 [million dollars].”

He said he believed the missing $30 million was “out there somewhere,” and that Quebec might be using it for “building roads, constructing hospitals…anything really.”

“The money comes from the federal government to cover bursaries,” he continued. “It should be used to solve some of the problems that are pressing the student financial aid program in Quebec.”

SSMU VP External Myriam Zaidi told The Daily she believes the current student aid regime needs an overhaul.

“The current calculation system is not reflective of today’s realities,” she said.

She said the $30 given to students for internet bills and the seven dollar a day food stipend were unfair to students on financial aid.

She also stated that she would like to “decrease or even remove the loans part” of the system, saying she would prefer a system in which all students in need would receive a bursary that would not have to be paid back.

Zaidi said the issue of the discrepancy in the provincial and federal governments’ figures will be put on the agenda of the meeting of the Quebec Students Roundtable (QSR), the provincial student lobbying group of which SSMU is a founding member. She added that she wanted to speak with other QSR member organizations and other provincial student groups before commenting on the issue.

QSR’s meeting was held on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Shatner Break-Out room, before The Daily went to press.