I am lucky enough to have a wide variety of Facebook friends yielding a wide variety of status updates. I’m an easy going kind of girl. I don’t preach on Facebook, I’m more the kind who plays well with others. I use my Facebook page as my own little joke with mixed results. I come across as a bit of a clown. Which is fine until I post an update about spearmint toilet cleaner making my toilet smell like it
just went to the dentist at the same time a friend posts a very moving tribute to Holocaust victims. Both posts appear side-by-side and I look like an idiot. I avoid getting into debate or heated exchanges on Facebook because the format leads too easily to misinterpretation. It’s like email on steroids. Everybody doesn’t share my good Facebook manners unfortunately. Recently, I have been submitted to a few rants on Quebec’s protesting students. I have so far kept my resolve to remain uninvolved but please allow me to use my own little piece of Internet real estate to vent a little. I won’t cross post this entry on my Facebook page…
The province of Quebec has been in the throws of massive student protest for the last month or two (or three) in response to a government proposal to increase tuition fees by 75% over 5 years. Quebec students pay the lowest tuition fees in Canada thanks to generous subsidies from the Quebec government. Even after the tuition hike, Quebec students will only pay 17% of the value of their post-secondary education. I don’t think I’m going on too much of a limb by saying that the province of Quebec is heavily indebted and badly governed. Whereas choice among political parties span the left-right continuum in the rest of Canada, in Quebec you choose between independentist and federalist options. If you feel, as most Quebecquers do, that the federalist party needs a time-out, your only option is to vote for the independentist party. 40-odd year of sovereignty politics has left good governance in the province of Quebec in shambles, assuming it was good to start with (it wasn’t).
As I was explaining to my oldest daughter, Quebec students are well within their rights to protest the fee increase. Quebec residents may have the lowest tuition fees in the land, they also pay the highest taxes. Sure it spends more than it rakes in but I have some sympathy for those who balk at getting less bang for the same fiscal buck.
On the other hand, no matter how much wishful thinking you can squeeze, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Whether your high income tax is paying for services you are getting today or for those your parents got on credit over the last 40 years, a day of reckoning is unavoidable. You may feel it’s unfair but the money spent by your parents was also spent on you. I have great memories of growing-up attending free nature walks, free museum visits, learn in classes with 15 children and so forth. And every time I cut a $800 monthly cheque to my daycare provider, I have a moment of wistfulness for
$5 $7-a-day daycare. But you can afford it or or you can’t. The Quebec government (along just every Western democracy) couldn’t.
I believe that there is room for government support of higher education as long as the numbers add up. The argument that the state has a duty to fund higher education because it leads to higher earnings leading to higher tax revenues sounds good in theory but look where it got Quebec. In spite of massive government investments in education and learning since the 70’s, it still spends way more than its highly educated citizens pay in taxes. What is lacking then from the debate on tuition fees is not arguments in favour of higher education — by now we know what they are — but a debate on the realignment of Quebec’s spending priorities. For once, I’d like to hear students chant about what they would like the government to cut in favour of funding their post-secondary education. Give it your best shot: there is plenty of inefficiencies, face-palms and head-desks in the Quebec spending portfolio. Daycares? Pensions? Healthcare? All of the above? Why not raise your parents’ taxes?
Which brings me back to my Facebook friends. If you want to post status updates about the egregiousness of raising tuition fees from lowest to lower, you should make sure that your updates are grammatically correct and do not contain too many spelling mistakes. Because it makes you look like you need a better education not a cheaper one.