Quebec students pay the lowest tuition fees in Canada but they are protesting moderate increases that would still leave them better off than their fellow students across the country.
The Quebec student protests started back in 2011, when the Charest government proposed to modestly increase tuition fees over the next five years. Quebec’s tuition fees haven’t increased for 33 out of the last 43 years and this has made the entire system financially unsustainable.
Figures from Statistics Canada show that, for the 2011/2012 year, undergraduate students in Quebec paid an average of just $2,519 a year for their education. Meanwhile, students in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario paid $5,601, $5,662 and $6,640 a year, while the Canadian average was $5,366 a year.
Charest’s tuition proposal would have seen Quebec students still paying thousands of dollars less for their tuition in 2017 than students in several other provinces are paying right now.
Yet Charest was forced to water down his proposal, spreading the proposed tuition increase out over an extended seven-year period instead of five. The new proposal barely covered the cost of inflation over the 2012 to 2019 period, but was still rejected by student groups as unfair.
It’s easy to think that provincial matters don’t affect the rest of the country but all Canadians should keep a close eye on the Quebec election. There’s no such thing as a free lunch – someone always has to pay the bill. In this case, thanks to equalisation transfers, taxpayers all across Canada will be forced to pick up part of the tab.
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