Montreal

Massive protests promised over tuition hikes

College and university students will be demonstrating in force come autumn against looming tuition hikes, student leaders vow.

Quebec student leaders say they're not considering a strike

College and university students will be demonstrating in force come autumn against looming tuition hikes, student leaders vowed Sunday.

The province's two biggest student organizations, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) and Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), said protest actions will intensify though Nov. 10, when a massive rally is planned in Montreal.

Until then, the groups said, they will launch information campaigns on college and university campuses to let students know about the ramifications of the provincial government's decision to jack up tuition fees by nearly 75 per cent over the next five years.

Student leaders will tour across Quebec as part of their effort, stopping at the University of Quebec campuses in Rimouski, Abitibi and Chicoutimi and at Sherbrooke University, where protests and rallies are planned.

FEUQ president Martine Desjardins said the campaign will include the publication of new research on student indebtedness and the lack of funding for financial aid.

Liberal MNAs targeted

Quebec post-secondary pupils currently pay about $2,200 a year in fees, which the Liberal government is raising annually, starting next fall, to $3,800.

The student organizations will target Liberal members of Quebec's national assembly in ridings throughout the province where the MNA's margin of victory was fewer than 1,000 votes, with the aim of undermining their re-election chances, FECQ president Léo Bureau-Blouin said.

The Liberals do not have to call an election until 2013, but next year marks their fourth year in office, a common time span for the writ to be dropped.

Desjardins said a province-wide student strike — what she called a "last resort" — isn't currently on the agenda, but could be if the FEUQ's and FECQ's various member associations call for one.

The government has said it won't back down on the fee hikes, despite already numerous student protests. Education Minister Line Beauchamp said last weekend that Quebec has fallen behind in its financing of post-secondary education, and that students should pay their share.

The tuition increase was unveiled in March as part of Finance Minister Raymond Bachand's provincial budget.

Quebec currently has the lowest undergraduate university tuition in Canada and the second-lowest for grad students, after Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Statistics Canada's latest figures. With the proposed fee hike, it would have the third-lowest tuition in both categories.

Overall, undergraduate tuition countrywide is up 41 per cent since 1998, after adjusting for inflation.