Earlier this month, the Government of Quebec announced its plan to almost double tuition for out-of-province students. The provincial government framed it as a move to stop subsidizing students from across Canada, and to protect the French language and culture.
Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s Minister of the French Language, stated that students from the rest of the country usually don’t speak French during their time there, and most return home after graduating.
Backlash to the proposal has been heated. Valerie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, and several federal politicians were quick to come out against the government’s plan. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec Lieutenant Pablo Rodriguez said that “Quebec makes its own decision, but [he doesn’t] necessarily think it is the best one.”
Quebec MP Anthony Housefather tweeted that “this is an absolutely terrible decision,” and that it is “yet another blow to the English speaking community and [their] institutions.”
The government’s proposal would also impact international students, who would be required to pay tuition fees of a minimum of $20,000 per year. The province is currently facing a serious labour shortage, which is only expected to get worse in the years to come unless immigration targets are boosted.
The plan, if implemented, will have serious ramifications for Quebec’s economy. According to the Montreal Gazette, students from other provinces and countries who come to McGill and Concordia contribute approximately $520 million to Montreal’s economy annually. This does not include tuition. The Montreal business community is rightfully very concerned.
Premier Legault conceded that although there are economic advantages resulting from students who come out-of-province to study in Quebec, there are disadvantages when it “comes to the long-term survival of the French language.”
Heads of Quebec’s anglophone universities, McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s, have spoken out against the decision. The universities stated that this would destroy their finances, as they welcome high numbers of out-of-province students. Premier Legault countered these complaints, saying “I cannot accept that the future of three universities depends on the number of students coming from the outside.”
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, also pleaded with the government to rethink the move, stating that the province would miss out on real talent. Both the Quebec Liberal Party and Québec Solidaire acknowledge the province is going about things the wrong way.
Most will agree that the protection of the French language and culture in Quebec is crucial. In fact, it’s one of the reasons Premier Legault was able to win back-to-back majority governments.
While the government’s plan makes for good theatre, its implementation is another story. Time will tell whether the move pays political dividends, or will be shelved due to backlash.