Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am shocked that there is an impasse between the Quebec government and the students who have been protesting the proposed tuition hike.  Ok, not shocked. Why not shocked? 

Well, if the government really makes a significant compromise, it will look like its surrendering to violent tactics.  Also, the government has gotten whatever standing in the polls by rebuffing the students. 

I am not surprised to see the students keep on keeping on.  First, there are three groups having representatives at the meeting, so that fact by itself suggests impasse.  The more people who can say no (can veto the agreement), the harder it is to come to an agreement.  It does not take a sharp game theorist/scholar of comparative politics to figure this out, but it does not hurt.  Further, the student leaders have been getting heaps of attention from the media so why would they want this to end.  Yes, I am suggesting that the interests of the leaders and the interests of the students might not be identical!  Shocking?  Of course not.  The "costs" of not compromising are currently non-existent for the students since the threat of classes being cancelled is no longer operative (they got pushed to August).  So, why give in?  It would mean less media attention, less ego-stroking, and, also, why give in when only the other side seems to be pressured?

The student proposal seems to be a two year freeze where the lost tuition would be replaced by reductions in tax credits
 She and her fellow student leaders said their proposal would have avoided fee hikes for two years by instead reducing the income-tax credit on post-secondary tuitions — a move that would have been cost-neutral for the government, which was one of its parameters during bargaining.
So, this would mean that the kids would not be paying more but parents might be?  Now we have some generational conflict!  Oh, and why would Charest do this?  He would be giving a group that will not vote him, the students, what they want, and alienating a group that might vote for him (the parents).  So, this really is a non-starter.  Plus, would the agreement be: two year freeze and then the planned increase in tuition? If so, it is hard to see CLASSE supporting that.

Thus, we are left with continued unrest.  Less violent than before, noisier, and little chance for progress.  I really don't see how this ends.  The government could submit to mediation, but will not submit to arbitration unless it games the results.  The government simply cannot freeze tuition after all of this.

That's my take.  What is yours?


R. William Ayres said...

The problem with mediation in this context is that mediation only works if there actually exists some common ground upon which to reach an agreement. Yes, the students are angry - but student anger isn't at the root of the conflict, student refusal to accept tuition increases is. A mediator can't change that. And as you incisively point out, their interest in compromising is pretty near zero. If there's no space to actually reach an agreement, mediation is a waste of time - although it would give both sides cover to say that they're "trying" and to continue to point the finger at the other for being the intransigent one.

Steve Saideman said...

Good point. I think mediation would be a waste of time, but might not be a bad move for the government to look as if it is trying really hard and looking at all alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I've seen/read/heard about some pretty amazing things happen in mediation to stop bloody wars. So I'm not buying this. The point of mediators is to work beyond the impasse and help each side understand the other's narrative without demeaning them. It works wonders. Quite frankly it says a lot about the grown-ups, who are actually in charge that they can't even be bothered to consider this idea.
Regardless of which side of the equation you are on -- this place is about to blow up in violence. It is not going to be pretty.
They kids are acting like kids. Dickheads at times. Right at others. Guess what, on the other side of the tracks -- they are being embraced.
We are all going to suffer cuz Charest is a an arrogant prick!