The End of Nothing

Photo Erin Sparks

Last Saturday night, like many students in Quebec, we sat huddled around our computers, anxiously staring at our Twitter feeds for news of this new deal that could have brought a close to this endless strike.

At first glance, the deal looked pretty good. Students would get a semi-freeze while we searched for savings and tried to trim the fat from the upper reaches of university administration. The government would keep its beloved $1625 hike (or is it $1778?) and maybe score a couple political points in the process. The phrase ‘win-win’ kept getting batted around.

But then we read the document. The devil is in the details, and the details of this deal are just awful. Fiendish, even.

The folks over at 600 Fullum St., which is supposedly the Ministry of Education but for all we know is a sort of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium have concocted a ridiculous deal where they not only get to keep our money, but also grab a big chunk of the university’s change, too.

The CBC points out that, under the proposed agreement, the $254-a-year fee increase that we’ve been fighting so hard against will remain as-is. This means that the math mix-up that took the proposed increase from $1625 over five years to $1778 over seven years is being honored.

But aren’t we getting some kind of reduction in fees to offset the increase? Beauchamp would love it if you believed that.

“The fee increase is maintained,” Minister Beauchamp told The Globe and Mail. “If savings can be identified by the council, the savings will be reduced from the mandatory university surcharges.”

That’s a lot of if’s.

The government says they’ll strike a 19-member committee to find savings. Of those members, four will be students and four will be union reps. The others will be university directors, and business and government representatives.

That’s five parties trying to find solutions where two parties couldn’t. And at least three of those five are extensions of the corrupt and useless system we’ve spent over two years hounding for their incompetence and complete disregard for students. Many will be the same university directors who support the hike while collecting gold-plated pay-cheques and absconding with public money.

And what are “business representatives” doing on the council? Why do we care what the CEO of Pizza Pizza thinks of tuition? He’s only going to want it to go up so he isn’t threatened with higher taxes to pick up the slack.

So, on this body that’s supposed to help reduce fees for increasingly-indebted students, more than half of the voting members will be non-students.

This whole increase was to fund our poor, underfunded universities. This new deal would take money from those universities and give it directly to the government.

There’s nothing win-win about this trojan horse of a deal. We lose and universities lose more.

This strike has set the students back an extra $153 per year. They’re laughing at us.

By press time today, 25 student associations have voted against this trap of a deal. We would be wise to do the same. If not a freeze, we should at least ask for one more student rep and one more union rep on the committee. That would give us the majority we need to enact meaningful change.

Festival season starts soon, and the last thing the province wants in its largest city is clouds of tear gas engulfing the F1 and Jazz Fest crowds. The government doesn’t have the stamina nor the stomach to keep this up, but we do. If we keep protesting, peacefully and safely, we can get a better deal. After months of work, we’re this close to victory. Let’s not give up now.