Commentary  Talk (and the Summit) is cheap


For the past four months, we have been exposed to a nauseating amount of coverage of the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) summit on higher education. Pierre Duchesne, the Minister of Higher Education, has been touting the conference as a way to address some of the grievances expressed during last year’s student strike. On the government’s website, we learn that the talks are aimed at building “a consensus” around university funding, and that “no options are off the table.”

But these promises, it seems, mean very little to the government. Last week, Duchesne described free education as “unfeasible,” and PQ Premier Pauline Marois has repeatedly indicated her preference for an indexation of tuition fees to inflation. The PQ is thus either lying or suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance: it continues to peddle its Summit to students while simultaneously stifling discussion.

Free education is not just an option to be dismissed a month prior to the actual conference. For many students, including the 40,000 members of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), free education was the end goal of the student strike. It is not surprising, then, to see that the association has repeatedly threatened to boycott the talks altogether.

The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), on the other hand, continues to toe the government line. Its president, Martine Desjardins, claims that Duschene and the premier could still be persuaded to enact a tuition freeze. This is hardly surprising considering that the ties between FEUQ, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) – its sister organization – and the PQ, are fairly obvious. In November, FEUQ’s media relations officer left the student association for a job with the PQ, and Léo Bureau-Blouin, the ex-president of FECQ, is now a close advisor to Marois. For all intents and purposes, FEUQ and FECQ are nothing more than preschools for future PQ associates.

With this kind of representation from student groups, it is evident that there is no way forward through dialogue. Despite its ambivalence toward the summit, ASSÉ has urged students to mobilize. If students wish to see a more inclusive and accessible university system, then they should make themselves heard by other means.

—The McGill Daily Editorial Board