If you would like to volunteer and join the effort, please contact us at the above email before embarking on any translation work, in order to avoid any redundancies. We cannot accept translations that have not been cleared with us first.
For more useful English-language sources on the conflict, see:
Michèle Ouimet June 2, 2012
Back to square one. As if the 110 days of strike had done nothing. The relations between the government and the students have never been so tense. Jean Charest said that his door remains open, the students maintain that they are ready to sit down again at the negotiation table, but after two heartbreaking failures, are the parties still able to talk to each other?
Though the students’ proposition was reasonable, even if it implied a two year freeze. Freeze, a taboo word for the government. It’s not a question of granting a freeze, therefore, losing face. Above all, not losing face. Always the same discourse. Unbelievable that we are still here after 110 days of strike.
Not losing face, maintaining a hard line, the heart of Jean Charest’s strategy. Very important, more so than social peace. At the beginning of the week, the minister of finance, Raymon Bachand, clarified that the government wasn’t folding because it “protects Quebec taxpayers”. Did it protect them, the taxpayers, when it decided to squander 200 million on the construction of an amphitheatre?
To make such a declaration while the students negotiated with the minister of education, Michelle Courchesne; it’s a provocation. Or notes the pure tactlessness, because the liberals have been unbelievably clumsy during this interminable crisis. They have often shot themselves in the foot, like at Victoriaville, where Jean Charest and Line Beauchamp snubbed an agreement with the students that they had just signed.
Strange week. At the beginning, negotiations seemed to be going well. Michelle Courchesne was open, energetic, the students, enthusiastic. A wind of optimism was blowing through Quebec.
The government imposed a narrow framework on negotiations. Parameters, as they say. The agreement must not be at the cost of the taxpayer and the students must “do their share.”
The four days of negotiations were above all about decreasing the sum demanded by Quebec, $254 per year for seven years. The students proposed a two-year freeze. The government would have collected money by reducing the income tax credit for postsecondary students. The students have a freeze, but lose their income tax credit. Cost for the taxpayers: $0. Parameters respected.
For the five following years, the students were ready to pay the $254 imposed by Quebec. Ready to accept an increase? Really? Yes and no. The students were betting on a defeat of the liberals in the next elections. They get their hike freeze and bye-bye tuition increase. Clever.
Mme Courchesne’s propositions? The first: a decrease of $35 a year. The total of $254 would fall therefore to $219 for a total of $1533 in seven years. Refused by the students. The second proposition: $100 for the first year et $254 for the six following years for a total of $1624. A less generous offer, a backward step for students: from $1533 to $1624 of fees to pay. Unheard of. Negotiation in reverse, as if the government wanted to sabotage discussions.
One question must be asked: did the government really want to negotiations to come to an agreement? What happened between the two offers?
Quebec imposed a strict framework on discussion, believing it would get rid of the freeze. Except that the students not only respected it, but they also succeeded in piecing together a two-year freeze. The government was caught in its own trap. Forced to accept the freeze, therefore, to lose face.
Thursday, Premier Charest’s tone in a press conference was scathing, bitter. He denied the existence of a social crisis. The breakdown of negotiations? The students’ fault. The government? White as snow. As if Jean Charest didn’t understand the scale of the discontent, as if he was deaf to the sound of the casseroles that have, however, rung out in many cities in Quebec… and in Canada.
Even if there was an agreement, the strike would be far from over, because the student associations’ process of approval is long and complicated.
The hitch, CLASSE, associated with the radical arm of the student movement. At the beginning of the strike, CLASSE represented 50% of strikers. Today, the number has climbed to 70%. Seven strikers out of ten belong to CLASSE. Of the 48 cégeps in Quebec, 14 are on strike. In this number, 12 are affiliated with class. CLASSE is therefore can’t be ignored. With it, there is no possible agreement, no way out to the crisis. Without CLASSE, nothing passes.
Since the semesters were suspended, the picture has become unclear. Many students work, gravel, have given up or returned home, outside of the city. The hard core remains, the activists, those who protest night after night. These are the ones who would’ve voted for or against an agreement.
In this context, the students’ offer was more than reasonable, but the government rejected it.
Yesterday, Jean Charest said that Quebec was going to experience a period of calm. I believe rather that the summer will be hot and noisy. Starting with the Grand Prix.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.