Quebec student associations cheer PQ tuition freeze
Marois makes big moves on 1st day as Quebec premier
Quebec's student associations are claiming victory after Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois announced on her first day in office that her government was scrapping the tuition hike and canceling Bill 78.
The PQ cabinet has ordered university tuition hikes introduced by the Liberals to be reversed and voted to dissolve Bill 78, the anti-protest law.
Bill 78 will officially come off the books Friday.
"The increase is cancelled for this year, for 2012-13 and for the next years, we will have the discussion at a summit on education," said Marois during a news conference on Thursday.
The summit is supposed to take place before the end of December.
Martine Desjardins, president of the university students association (FEUQ), and Eliane Laberge, president of the college students association (FECQ) said the PQ's decision is in their favour.
"Today, youth regains the place it was deserved. Education becomes a priority again," said Laberge.
In a news release, the CLASSE – the more militant student association – said it wanted to thank everyone who mobilized during the student movement and reminds people "that this victory is not the end of the fight and that student and citizen mobilization should continue."
Camille Robert, a spokeswoman for the CLASSE, is quoted saying, "If the Parti Québécois issues measures that are on par with our demands, it's because we upheld our principles and defended them with a combative and grouped effort."
However, the CLASSE does state that it will remain "cautious" of the education summit planned by the PQ. The association said the PQ wants to index tuition fees to the price of living in Quebec.
"Until the summit's conclusion, the hike cancellation is, in a way, a temporary victory. The increase to student financial aid must also be maintained beyond the current [school] year. This is why we will remain mobilized," said Jeanne Reynolds, the co-spokeswoman for the CLASSE.
The association is planning a mass demonstration for free tuition in Montreal and Quebec City on Sept. 22.
The annual tuition fees for the current school year will be capped at $2,168. The government also plans to keep offering financial assistance to students in need.
To compensate for the hike, the Liberals had offered a $39 million increase on student assistance. The PQ said it would keep that amount.
"I think it would be unfair to recuperate this [fund]," said Marois.
Marois said it was important for her to respect her commitments and promises.
She added that more decisions will be made on the financing of universities. Superior Education Minister Pierre Duchesne will be in charge of the file.
Throughout the election campaign, Marois made various promises she said would be implemented within the PQ's first 100 days in power.
Closing Quebec's sole nuclear plant
At the news conference, the PQ said it will shut down the Gentilly-2 nuclear power plant rather than allowing a refurbishing.
Marois said she wants the closing to be "done correctly" and requested that Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet and Hydro-Québec write a report on the impact the Gentilly-2 shut down will have on the industry.
A diversification fund will be created to compensate for the economic shortfalls brought by the closure. The PQ said a $200 million fund is "reserved" to maintain economic stability in the city of Bécancour during the transition.
Amongst other projects lined up for the PQ's first 100 days, Marois said her government would focus its efforts on cancelling the loan promised by the Liberals to the Jeffrey Mine and demand more powers from Ottawa in hopes of gaining more control over various programs, including the province's employment insurance program.
The new government also intends to cancel the provincial health tax during the next budget.
Marois said the tax would be "brought to another level."
During the campaign, Marois said seeking the same amount from richer taxpayers would compensate for the cut.
The $200 tax was introduced in 2010 by the Liberals and was imposed on every taxpayer.