Transatlantic dole

By Joel Ceausu

It wasn’t all that long ago that massive anti-tuition-hike boorch-fests started at Place Émilie Gamelin, a few convenient steps from UQAM-central and all in the name of saving $7 a week.

Errr…not savings mind you, just making someone else pay.

The dollar-a-day hikes decried as fascist and oppressive by some with serious countenance would apparently jeopardize access to quality education for many Quebecers, for whom the hemisphere’s lowest tuition was still an insurmountable obstacle.

But no one emitted a squeak about the annual $50-100 million giveaway to foreigners. Nowhere in the motley frenzy of intellectual drivel driving the debate did student leaders decry taking millions from Quebec students to treat French youth to a tuition holiday.

Giving selected foreigners the same low tuition as Quebecers, il semble, lures and retains some 12,000 French youth a year, although we’ll never be quite sure how many stay once the gravy train slows down. Work permits and health insurance are included, I’m told, and a health ministry source says each year’s late summer influx of French students jams up local Health Ministry offices as they queue for cards, requiring extra personnel and overtime.

Lobbying for foreigners

This cash grab is vital to offset the unfortunate tide of cash-flush English-speaking youth from pesky places like the United States of America, India, China and the U.K.

Nope, Quebec needs all the help it can get to fill its French-speaking classes: decades-old legislative schemes to garrotte the English system well before tender young minds reach college is apparently not enough. Our dole goes transatlantic!

The silence is deafening and exposes the big lie of tuition freeze bombast and government’s austerity rhetoric. Instead of striking this perversion from the expense column, what is Quebec’s milquetoast response?

Propose raising fees to what Quebec charges Canadian students outside Quebec! Still less than half of what foreigners pay, but still earning condemnation from student leaders, who continue to lobby for government subsidies on behalf of foreigners.

Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux fumed last year about elected school commissioners attending a $600 seminar. I must have been holding the door when he and his colleagues launched a tirade against spending at least $20,000 a year to educate a foreign student. Transcript anyone?

Instead of outraged Liberal MNAs calling for an end to this sop to our hubris, the government cries foul over feds handing back some cash to the middle class on the backs of reduced transfers.

Who needs nurses?

Why hire 1,000 childcare workers and other staff for at-risk students whose programs are targeted in the current austerity regime? Who needs 1,000 more nurses or a few hundred medical specialists?

Truly radical: send another 12,000 Quebecers to university. That could effectively double current first-year enrollment at many schools, bring another 12,000 educated grads into the work force each year; a safer bet too that those folks and their tax dollars will stay put.

The shopping list is endless, and can be renewed every year.

What’s really foul? The smell of a have-not province yet again asking the increasingly exclusive club of Quebecers and Canadians who pay taxes, to pay for a party they are not even invited to.

At least toss us a loot bag.
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