Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quick Hits on Quebec's Prolonged Agony

I am hitting the road this morning to get my daughter registered for classes next fall in Ottawa, so I don't have a heap of time to ponder Quebec's ongoing trauma.  So, just a few hits and runs:
  • the Quebec Premier, Jean Charest, has a package to pass in the National Assembly (province's legislature).  We don't know all the pieces, but he is suspending the semester for those schools and program that have been boycotted.  The idea is then to finish the terms in August.  
    • Can I repeat that I am glad that McGill students did not join in this mess?  
    • What about the profs and students who want to go to class and had plans for August?
    • Will this really cool things off?
  • No compromise ahead.  Well, how do you compromise with disparate groups that not only are relatively unwilling to bargain but claim to have no control (but tend to condone) the folks using unacceptable means (throwing smoke bombs in the subway system, confronting students in class, etc)?
    • A key challenge here is that there are multiple groups claiming to represent the boycotting students.  One is more extreme than the other two.  The other two have tied their fortunes to the extreme one, which might make sense if there was something to bargain over.  But the boycotters want a tuition freeze and the government clearly cannot give them that or else we would be going through this again when tuition is unfrozen.
    • Other elements, whether is the PQ, other unions, or random anarchist types are using this for political gain/desire to cause trouble for the incumbent party.  So, there is no one actor controlling or even leading the dissent effort.  Who does the government negotiate with?  If it was just the two "moderate" movements, it would be hard enough?  Oh, and the moderates are not so moderate anymore (if they ever were), as they are saying that things will escalate, that it is the government's fault, even though I am pretty sure it was not the government that sent students through UQAM yesterday yelling at students and profs trying to learn/teach.
    • If one side ignores all the injunctions and says that only their rights matter, how do you negotiate?  How do you know they will respect whatever bargain that is struck?  Not a heap of credibility there.
  •  Speaking of injunctions, one of the most disturbing parts of all of this is the combination of a willingness to ignore the court rulings by students and their allies with an unwillingness to enforce the injunctions by the government and police.  Perhaps Quebec really is turning me into a right-winger, but if one violates a court ruling, they should go to jail, right? Break a law, go to jail?  Why is this so radical?  And if the students are so righteous, they should be happy about being arrested.  Civil disobedience is always far more powerful and credible if one is willing to do some time.  
  •  Heaps of admiration for the reporters covering this.  They have faced threats from the students and pepper spray from the police.  Not an easy job, but I am glad someone is doing it.

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