Quebec Protesters; Poor Social Engineers

Its been no secret that I am opposed to all this “red-rag” nonsense that is going on in Quebec right now. I feel the protesters are behaving like spoiled, petulant children, pitching a fit in the grocery store because their mother just told them they couldn’t have that chocolate bar.

Thanks to an Op-Ed linked on my wall by a red-wearing acquaintance of mine, I have now discovered that protesters are horrible social engineers, on top of being a blight on this fair city.

The article he linked was from the New York Times and can be found here. I would suggest reading it, if only for insight into how the other half thinks. If you don’t want to read it, don’t worry… I’ll be quoting from it quite liberally.

One of the first things I do when I read an opinion piece or editorial is to check out the author(s). While only their names are indicated in the byline, more detail is given at the bottom of the piece:

Laurence Bherer and Pascale Dufour are associate professors of political science at the University of Montreal.

Asking anyone with a background in Political Science for an opinion is always dicey, because their opinions typically come with agendas. This is no exception, as from the tone, text and factual omissions in the article, these authors are clearly in the protestor’s camp. Asking protesters for an opinion is akin to lions asking zebras what they should do for dinner.

First, the letter tries to give the impression that Law 78 was the Charest government’s first reaction to the student strike.

“Mr. Charest has refused to use the traditional means of mediation in a representative democracy, leading to even more polarization.”

This is clearly not the case, as the government tried for weeks to reach a negotiated settlement with the FECQ, FEUQ and CLASSE. It is these groups that have hamstrung any negotiations, simply refusing to accept anything other than the elimination of the tuition increases. Not only do they want the tuition freeze back, but many of them are advocating for not only a decrease, but an eliminator of tuition altogether. This is not how negotiations work.

The protesters start at 1, and the government start at 10 (numbers are arbitrary, I just needed a point of reference). Both parties get together and negotiate, giving a bit of ground from each of their positions. They finally reach an agreement somewhere between 4 and 6, and both walk away satisfied, if not happy.

The government offered to extend the tuition increase over 7 years instead of 5, increase bursaries and student loans, and appoint a board/commission to review university governance. In other words, they gave ground… going from a 10 to somewhere around a 7 or an 8. The students refused to budge, insisting that no negotiations would happen unless the freeze was reinstated. They gave no ground at all, staying at a “1” on our imaginary negotiation scale. If there is one party that is refusing to “use the traditional means of mediation“, it is the students.

Second, the article is more than happy to highlight that tuition is going up by 75%:

One of its provinces has gone rogue, trampling basic democratic rights in an effort to end student protests against the Quebec provincial government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75 percent.

Without context,. this number is highly inflammatory. For a US audience, an 75% tuition increase translates to tens of thousands of dollars. Some American colleges currently have an annual tuition of ~$40,000, so a 75% increase would translate to $30,000 extra per year.

In Quebec, having Canada’s lowest tuition, fees are going from ~$2,000, to just under $4,000. This is only a massive change percentage wise, not in absolute figures. Are these authors and erstwhile social engineers trying to hide the fact that all of this nonsense is over a measly $1,750 per year… or $5,250 over the course of a 3-year university degree? Do they feel that sympathy might be lost when their American audience realizes that this tuition increase would take Quebec from having the country’s lowest tuition to… well… having the country’s lowest tuition?

Oh, and don’t forget that Quebec has been under a tuition freeze for the past 20 years. Can you name anything else that hasn’t increased, at least by the rate of inflation, for 20 years?

Going back to Law 78, the authors want to give the impression that the people need state approval in order to protest. This is simply not the case. The law:

  • Says that protesters cannot be inside, nor block access to, education institutions. This is a direct response to the verbal harassment and assault, perpetrated by protestors, against students who want to attend class and have obtained a court order that permits them to.
  • Says that protesters must notify police of protest routs 8 hours before the demonstration. Geneva, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, France and Spain have even stricter rules regarding advanced route notification, so this 8 hours is far from draconian. In fact, to organize a demonstration, LA requires 40 days advanced notice. 40 days!!!!
  • Police don’t have the authority to prevent a protest from taking place – but they can break one up that doesn’t comply with the law.

The “Orwellian” clause stating “Anyone who helps or induces a person to commit an offense under this Act is guilty of the same offense” is meant to prevent union leadership from encouraging their members to go out and break the law. How is inciting a person or group to go out and riot or smoke-bomb a subway any different than inciting them to go out and commit any other crime? Why shouldn’t the union and protest leadership be subject to the same laws that apply elsewhere in the criminal code?

It is the last line of the article, however, that exhibits the most transparent attempt at social engineering and economic warfare:

Americans traveling to Quebec this summer should know they are entering a province that rides roughshod over its citizens’ fundamental freedoms.

This is nothing more than a gambit to impose financial pressure on the Charest government, and Montreal/Quebec City in particular, by attempting to dissuade the American tourist dollar from coming north for Grand Prix and the various festivals.

These festivals bring huge tourism dollars to the province, and creates thousands of seasonal jobs that employ a large number of those currently protesting. If this is not “biting the hand that feeds you”, I don’t know what is.

Nothing in this world is free, and good education is no exception. While I wish it were different, facts are facts. Universities need money to hire the best professors, maintain their existing buildings and expand in both facilities and research projects. All of the above are for the benefit of students, both present and future.

The Quebec government, by way of the taxpayer, already pays ~88% of the cost of University tuition, and in conjunction with the tuition increase, the province will be adding even more money. Even with the students paying more, the share of costs the province will bear only decreases to ~83%, still a significant amount.

Students playing the “poor me” card while  wearing Canada Goose jackets (in the winter) and messaging on smart phones is as disingenuous as this Op-Ed in the New York Times is misleading. I am disappointed that a hack piece such as this was ever published in such a renown publication… it seems better suited for Fox News or Sun TV.

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One thought on “Quebec Protesters; Poor Social Engineers

  1. Great piece. Thoroughly enjoyed your comments on what the “real” issues are and not highlight inaccurate facts.

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