Approximately one year ago, our city was rocked by massive protests against the Charest government over proposed tuition hikes. Polarization was at an all-time high and nearly every political pundit, campus paper, and journalist was commenting on the state and future of this city. It was, without a doubt, the biggest story of the year.
The Parti Québecois, headed by Pauline Marois, emerged as the favourite to lead the new provincial government. Marois, proudly donning a red square and gleefully parading in front of the cameras, presented herself as a “true voice” for the students – one who would listen to their demands and respect their input. The PQ promised that, despite the tuition freeze, funding would be provided “to keep universities whole.”
But a mere four months after winning the election, the PQ government has dealt a crippling blow to the very institutions we attend, choosing to cut university funding by over $250 million retroactively, $38.2 million of which for McGill, thus leaving a very surprised McGill Administration up the creek and without a paddle.
Furthermore, the PQ threatened that failure to reduce expenses by $19.1 million by April 2014 would result in an additional cut to McGill of $32 million. Three-quarters of the McGill budget is devoted to already-negotiated salaries; cutting back this amount is a near impossible task and will certainly affect our quality of education.
This move by the PQ shows a clear lack of understanding for the movement, let alone a lack of respect for the voices of students. Students marched in the streets for an accessible education, not a cut-rate one. As a McGill community, we are fiercely proud to attend one of the strongest universities in the world, and will not stand idly by while the PQ government undermines its very foundations. Students took to the streets for the ideal of making education more accessible, not destroying its quality, and it is time that we as students show that we are a united community against the cuts.
The Marois government has caused enough damage as is. From controversial and stifling enforcements of the French language to her flagrant distaste for Montreal’s immigrant population, much of this city’s recent issues have been at the hands of her government, dampening its appeal as a vibrant and diverse city. Now, Marois has set her sights on the very issue she rode to victory on: education.
As Mrs. Marois may have forgotten, universities provide significant returns for the Quebec community. In 2008, McGill had an annual economic impact of $5.2 billion on the Quebec economy, whilst the total investment of the Quebec government in McGill was only $389.1 million over 2008 and 2009. It is clear that cutting university funding will hurt the province’s economy, ignoring the obvious loss of government revenue.
Furthermore, by choosing to cut the very support structures of these institutions in favour of their own agendas, such as the Office Québécois de la Langue Française, the PQ’s actions show very little regard for the long-term value of education. Universities are not just trade schools or apprenticeship colleges; one cannot simply cut funding and expect a standardized quality to come out every year. Universities serve as a foundation for innovation, research, and critical thinking.
The calibre of students that attend McGill come not just for a degree, but for the facilities that allow them to think differently. The institution’s capacity to instill students with critical and foundational skills exists only to the extent to which it attracts world-renowned teaching and research talent. The cuts not only hurt the university in the short-run, but will also dissuade future talent from attending or teaching at a university that would be severely underfunded, in a province that is run by a blatantly xenophobic government interested only in serving its own ends. The cuts will not only affect McGill’s core mission and quality of education, but will undermine the fundamental purpose of our system.
We at The Bull & Bear take a firm stance against these cuts by the PQ government and call on our fellow students to do the same. Regardless of your stance on the tuition hikes or your method of political participation, we can all agree that we do not want to see the very foundation of our society, our education system, weakened.
Unlike the Marois government, we value what McGill has to offer Quebec and the world and will always strive to seek its improvement, not stand by and watch it crumble under a deceptive and ineffective government. Marois promised to listen to the students; it is time she prove herself true.