Inside Politics

Quebec student protests reveal 'odd entitlements-mentality'

Earlier this spring, the Ottawa media was at pains to find any federal MP interested in saying much about either the policies or the politics driving the mass student protests across Quebec.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, whose party represents the majority of Quebec's federal seats (including several held by student-aged MPs), brushed off questions, saying the student tuition battle was "first and foremost a matter of provincial jurisdiction."

(With yesterday's intervention -- and now funding, too -- from labour groups outside Quebec, it will be interesting to watch the NDP generally and Mulcair specifically walk this fine line on the dispute, especially with the leader's own personal history as a former Charest cabinet minister.)

The federal Liberals were no more eager to wade into the fray. Senior Quebec MP and Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau also called it a "provincial matter" in refusing comment.

And what of Conservative MPs? Casting about for meaningful commentary from the government side didn't yield much, until yesterday's blog from Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber, titled "Economics (and life lessons) 101 for Quebec students."

The final two paragraphs:

The Quebec Student strike and protests, like the popular Greek austerity protests, reveal some odd entitlements-mentality of consumers of the modern welfare state.  Since the Quebec students pay the least, they feel they have the most to lose by increased fees for their education.  Expressed alternatively, one becomes dependent on free or nearly free service.  Accordingly, when that free service is terminated, like any dependence, there is an adverse reaction caused by withdrawal.

I hope that eventually the striking students receive some valuable lessons that have somehow escaped them in the classroom:  Governments must live within their means.  There is no such thing as a free lunch; everything costs somebody something.  And disrespect for the rule of law will not lead to a cheaper education, but it will lead to a criminal record that will haunt them much longer than their student loans.

Will more Conservatives step forward to agree with this perspective -- in particular, the five Quebec MPs in the government caucus?

And how helpful is it for the Charest Liberals in Quebec to have this kind of commentary coming from rank-and-file government MPs? (Or does it have any effect at all?)

Comments are closed.