At Quebec’s National Assembly Tuesday, Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy presented a petition on behalf of students, asking the government to cancel its plan to double tuition hikes for out-of-province students.
The petition referenced 33,342 signatories who claim the tuition hikes are arbitrary and elitist.
Students representing Bishop’s University, Université Laval and Polytechnique Montréal drove for hours to Quebec City to deliver the document.
“(This petition) sends a message that this will not be ignored regardless of today’s outcome,” said Sophia Stacey, president of Bishop’s University Student Union.
Quebec’s English universities have all expressed concern about the devastating impacts the measure is already having.
Officials fear it will deter students from other provinces from enrolling in Quebec universities as some will no longer be able to afford the increased fees that are set to jump from $9,000 to $17,000 next fall.
The impact of the measures is expected to hit Quebec’s three English universities hardest as they have far more out-of-province students compared with the French institutions.
Concordia University announced it has to cut nearly eight per cent of its budget.
Credit rating agency Moody’s issued a negative report for Concordia and McGill universities, who could see their credit downgraded given the projected losses in income.
“That will impact the finances and the capacity to borrow at a good interest rate,” Rizqy said.
Bishop’s student population is nearly 30 per cent out-of-province and officials say the school’s very survival is at stake.
Quebec’s higher education minister Pascale Déry has repeated she’s aware of the university’s unique situation and will do something about it.
But students say it’s time for action.
“I think she’s listening but I’m ready to hear her start talking,” Stacey said. “It’s been two months of her listening, of diligent meetings, of diligent conversations.”
Among those conversations was a proposal by principals of the three Anglophone universities to teach French to unilingual students.
“We’re looking to the details of the francization plan, I still have discussions with all three of them,” Déry said.
The government has argued that the hike will protect against what it views as the decline of the French language — especially in Montreal.
Déry says she is aware of the petition.
While it has no legal weight, it does show that a significant number of Quebecers aren’t happy about the hikes.
“This is very bad. No one is winning right now. We’re all losing,” said Rizqy.
— with files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier
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