The Telegraphed Gazette: Special edition. 19 January 2013
Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Telegraphed Gazette for the 19th of January 2013. My name is Vincent, bringing you this special edition of news from Montreal. You can leave suggestions for future editions at the suggestions tab at the top of the screen, or in the comments section below. Now before I go on, this week’s edition is titled a special edition, because the second topic is a rather lengthy post. Now I understand that I can cram other stories into this one gazette, but I feel that it is important to focus in on certain key issues, and give quality commentary towards the topic in question. Apologizes to those readers who enjoy my usual harvest of news which includes the games industry; the problems of finance within Quebec universities is something I feel requires a bit more time to elaborate on and thus I have opted to focus on that for this week. Coming in today’s post: A new Quebec separatist group springs up in the province, and finally the battle over Quebec university financing continues alongside the discussion over the university funding gap in Quebec.
On Monday the CBC published an article detailing a new separatist group – Le Nouveau Mouvement pour le Quebec – and its call for a united front when it comes to Quebec independence. Summarizing the article; it states that the group is inviting citizens, and other party members of the Quebec National Assembly to meet at a conference on May 10, 11, and 12 to discuss how to form a united front for Quebec independence. Citing a few polls, they state that the time to act is now, and that they should engage in dialogue with Ottawa concerning independence, eventually becoming a “free nation,” (CBC). Now I find this movement coming forth with the concept of unity laughable. The reason for this is because every separatist movement calls for unity, but the issue with this idea is that there are so many factions in Quebec, all of whom hold different ideas of how an independent Quebec would look like in the future. Adding to this is the fact that only 30% of Quebec truly desire independence. The rest of the province is uninterested in separation, let alone going through the years of hardship that will come as a result of the need to create a currency, write a constitution, re-write laws, and formulate a military and diplomatic corps, to name some challenges. This sort of separation ‘noise’ – as I like to call it – is nothing new in Quebec. Though the people are not interested in leaving the nation, politicians will always attempt to persuade the populace into believing in their cause. This sort of attitude is likely to continue, given the history of Quebec, and the various factions in the province with their individual agendas. You can read the full article in the section below:
The universities in the province of Quebec are going through some rough times: with the PQ government’s plan to cut post-secondary spending by 124 million dollars for this fiscal year, and the loss of a tuition raise, the universities are wondering how they are to pay for their operations and expansions. Now this particular issue comes from two articles that will be posted below, which one article which details a growing gap in funding, and the second discussing a battle over two camps: those who believe universities are struggling due to a lack of funds, and those who believe the struggle comes from mismanagement. Now there is also two other camps who are not fighting over mismanagement or a lack of funds, but who should front the money for post-secondary education. All three aspects play a vital role in the fight over finance in Quebec’s universities, so let us begin with those who battle over who should pay for it.
Two camps currently exist when it comes to the battle over university finance: those that wish to see more government money pour into the institutions, and those who wish to see students pay a bit more for their education. Now here is where the problem comes in; both groups are fixated on their ideology and are unwilling to have a bit of center-ground compromise, so to speak. Yet both sides are overlooking the obvious truth: neither camp can cover the costs alone, especially in the current economic state. The government in this economic downturn, is experiencing a high debt ceiling, and a demand for more services from its citizens who themselves may be facing hard times ahead. The government offices cannot front all of the funds, but neither can the students, who are often on student loans to off-set the cost of their tuition to a later date when they will be able to pay it back. One can advocate raising the taxes, but the local populace are already facing hardships, and if the government requires more money to finance education, they will have to ask the people to pay more on their income in order to fuel such endeavours. This may in turn lead to backlash that could see the complete withdrawal of government spending towards universities. Thus we come to the second aspect of the greater picture: the mismanagement of funds, verses the lack of available funds.
Professors deserve attractive salaries, but not if the amount of money exceeds presidential incomes, as stated in the article detailing the financial battle. Administrative salaries are fairly high when it comes to income scales, and as such this may be where most of the money is going towards. Now it is important to offer attractive salaries to professors and administrators in order to hire the best and the brightest. Yet a professor should never look towards working at a particular university on the single aspect that their personal wallet will become enlarged as a result of the income they receive from the institution. There should be more to being a professor than simply earning six-digit salaries; research opportunities, and extra benefits from the institution, can be offered to balance out the competitiveness. Yet I am curious to wonder what other project as the universities in Quebec invested towards, and whether or not they are actually relevant to the institutions themselves. Now the argument: “the universities are struggling due to a lack of funds” is not entirely baseless and irresponsible. While mismanagement is a key issue, the availability of funds is also a concern. Coming back to my few points over the two camps, the universities need funds in order to function and develop as institutions of higher learning. The PQ government chopped their promised subsidization, which was to take place of the proposed tuition hike, in turn resulting in the universities having to scramble to find money elsewhere, or to re-distribute their budgets towards key areas in order to continue to function. The money has to come from somewhere, and I understand the need to keep tuition prices low, yet those who were protesting, are paying about 2,422 dollars per year, whereas students from outside of Quebec – who are still domestic students I might add – shell out 6,112 dollars per year. This is not including books, and housing, all of which add up to be between 16,979 to 21,401 for Quebec students, and 20,699 – 25,091 for other Canadian students. Now that is for students living in residence; a student living at home, from Quebec, will pay only 5,047 dollars per year. 5,047 for an education at a university like McGill is not a terrible deal, not to mention that the return in future years after graduation is – if the student works in the same field of study and is able to enter the field – a highly educated individual who can enter job categories only offered to those with the relevant educational qualifications. A simple brick layer (not saying they are any less valuable, I am merely using that trade as an example) cannot enter environmental research, whereas a student with a background in sciences can.
Now here comes the interesting part; “why, should I pay so much for education; why isn’t the government able to pay for it instead?” First off, the government will have to raise taxes in order to pay for all students to go to university for free, a move that is highly unpopular, both with the private industry, and the populace at large. Before I go on, yes private companies make lots of money off natural resources and manufacturing, and yes they probably could pay more in corporate taxes. However they are not chained to this country, and are therefore free to leave should they so desire. The end result is some companies who are honest and loyal to Canada, may end up leaving as a result of increased corporate taxes. Let us not even begin with the dishonest ones, but ultimately my point is made. There are limitations to what we can do to companies before they begin to pack up shop and move abroad, to which we will then see a loss in jobs, and therefore disenfranchised workers who are upset over rampant government taxation. Perfect example would be when the PQ government implemented Bill 101; many businesses in Montreal moved to Toronto, helping that city rise to prominence over Montreal. Putting all the usual noise and banter aside: taxation is not an easy issue to overcome, with this question constantly coming up in meetings: “How can we provide the most for our citizens, while asking for the appropriate amount from them, and not overburdening them in the process?”
Everywhere I look, I will see students investing in cars, IPods, new mountain bikes, fancy clothes, new tablets, smart phones, and even vacations to Mexico; and they claim that tuition is too expensive? Right okay, so you are willing to spend money on depreciating assets, assets that lack any real benefit aside from temporary relief and entertainment, and not invest in your own future? My dear friends let me put it in the most simplistic way possible: when you educate yourselves, you will be able to buy more IPods, tank tops, Toyotas, and/or tablet devices. Forget children, family and all that jazz for a moment here; let us focus on the immediate future. If a student invests in their education after carefully weighing the options of which educational path best suits their needs and abilities, if successful – and there is a good, but not guaranteed, chance that they are – they will be able to afford all those toys they wanted in life, that they previously could not afford due to a lack of income. Shortly thereafter, they will be able to contribute to various non-profit organizations via bits of financial support, instead of labour, which is ample if you know where to look. They could even afford to adopt an orphan, something in which – if they are properly raised – can in turn benefit the nation as that orphan could one day grow up to become yet another productive member of society. Perhaps they would teach, become a judge, become part of the civil administration, and the list goes on. Having a stable income because of higher education – that being trade school, college, or university – can do more for you than if you allocated funds to buy that shiny new Honda.
I know it is a difficult pill to swallow: believe me if money was not a issue, I would spend a decade and a half learning from schools like McGill, Oxford, and Cambridge; taking on various programs to further increase the wealth of knowledge I have now. Yet the reality remains; money is an issue. There is a reason why student loans exist; as I have said earlier, it is to off-set the costs to a later date when you will be able to pay it off. It is not a free ticket to go study and walk away debt free; rather it is an investment that will pay-off in the long term. Further down the road, you will be able to decide with greater confidence and accuracy, which investment best suits the interests of yourself, and later on your family. I hate to use this cheesy line, but that is: “advice you can bank on.” Believe me when I say that there is a better future: but choosing to purchase that car, instead of investing into training and education, is not the answer to a better future. Like it or not, professors have to be paid as well. If they educated you for free, will you in turn be willing to work for free? No, you would not. Everyone wants to be compensated for their time; that is the reason why we came up with money. It is a piece of material with which to trade, rather than barter with whatever crap we have lying around in our house. With that, came value, and with that, came the idea that our time is precious, and it is in reality. Time is gold, and we all want to be compensated for our time.
Ultimately the financial situation for universities in Quebec is going to be grim in the coming months. When the PQ government promised that they would subsidize the universities, there was hope that all the financial issues in which they were hoping to solve via a tuition increase would be resolved with the stroke of a pen. Instead when the PQ withdrew this promise, and – in my opinion, with the reallocation of funds to the OLF – subsequently allocated what little they had to a useless department, the universities were once again faced with the question they were hoping to tackle months ago. Let us hope that they can come to a conclusion, with compromises from both sides, so that the students are not once again left to hang out in the sun. You can read more on the issue in the links below this article.
Battle growing over Quebec university financing:
University funding gap in Quebec is growing:
McGill University Viewbook 2012:
This concludes the Saturday edition of The Gazette. Tune in next Saturday for more news related to Montreal, and the games industry. If you have any suggestions for future posts, please leave the comments in the box below, or in the suggestions tab at the top of the screen. My name has been Vincent, and I will see you next time.