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PORTSIDE  September 2012, Week 4

PORTSIDE September 2012, Week 4

Subject:

Major Victory for Quebec Students, Environmental Activists

From:

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Date:

Mon, 24 Sep 2012 21:16:36 -0400

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text/plain (147 lines)

Major Victory for Quebec Students, Environmental
Activists 

Richard Fidler

The   B u l l e t
Socialist Project * E-Bulletin No. 699
September 24, 2012

http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/699.php#continue

Their demonstrations have shaken Quebec in recent
months, and yesterday [September 20th] students and
environmentalists won major victories.

At her first news conference as premier, Pauline Marois
announced that her Parti Quebecois government had
cancelled the university tuition fees increase imposed
by the Charest Liberal government, and would repeal the
repressive provisions of Law 12 (formerly Bill 78)
Charest had imposed in his efforts to smash the
province's massive student strike. Among other things,
this will remove the restrictions on public
demonstrations and the threat of decertification of
student associations.

In addition, Marois has ordered the closing of
Gentilly-2, Quebec's only nuclear reactor, while
promising funding to promote economic diversification
to offset job losses resulting from the shutdown. And
she will proceed with her promise to cancel a
$58-million government loan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine,
Quebec's last asbestos mining operation. End to Shale
Gas Exploration

The new Natural Resources minister, Martine Ouellet,
followed up by announcing an end to shale gas
exploration and development in Quebec. "I do not see
the day when there will be technologies that will allow
their safe development," she said. Residents of dozens
of Quebec communities have been mobilizing against
shale gas. As of March, there were 31 wells already
drilled, and 18 had been fracked. The shale gas
industry, which has spent some $200-million to date in
Quebec, had plans to dig up to 600 wells a year by
2015.

A former president of Eau Secours!, a water protection
group, Ouellet is one of three new ministers with
strong environmentalist credentials, the others being
Environment minister Daniel Breton, a co-founder of the
Parti Vert, the Green party, and his deputy Scott
McKay, a former Montreal city councillor and one-time
leader of the Greens.

Student leaders were jubilant at the cancellation of
the tuition fees increase. "Bravo to the striking
students," tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former
co-spokesman for the CLASSE, the most militant of the
student groups that led the unprecedented four-month
student strike in Quebec's "printemps erable." "Total
Victory" for Students

"It's a total victory!" said Martine Desjardins,
president of the FEUQ, the university students'
federation. "Sept. 20 will be etched in the annals of
history in Quebec," tweeted the FECQ, the college
students' federation. The students also welcomed
Marois' announcement that her government would maintain
the $39-million boost to financial assistance
introduced by the Liberals to offset their tuition
increase.

The PQ government is committed to holding a summit on
education as early as this fall to debate and propose
new arrangements for funding higher education in
Quebec. Marois says she will be defending her party's
proposal to index tuition fee increases, which she says
amounts to a freeze on current levels. The CLASSE
pledged that it will continue to fight for free
tuition, as did Quebec solidaire.

Marois also announced cancellation of the $200 per
person health tax imposed by Charest, which would have
brought almost a billion dollars into the government
coffers. The loss of this user fee will be made up by a
tax increase on incomes over $130,000 a year and a 25
percentage point decrease in the capital gains
exemption, she said.

Marois also confirmed her determination to bring in a
balanced budget by 2014, which means that these popular
decisions will no doubt be followed by major cutbacks
in spending in other areas, yet unspecified.

However, it was a good day for the new Parti Quebecois
government. Predictably, it was met by cynical
reactions in the capitalist media. Typical were the
editors of the Montreal Gazette, who expressed the hope
that the right-wing opposition parties would come up
with what they described, in a mixture of hope and
prediction, as "a persuasive alternative to what might
probably be the shambles of PQ governance."[1]

In a more sombre vein, Le Devoir's environment
columnist Louis-Gilles Francoeur drew attention to the
powerful business interests who will be quick to
campaign against even modest efforts that threaten
their profits.

"The lobbies that profit from the lack of rules
governing wetlands, for example, have already claimed
the head of Thomas Mulcair, then Environment
minister.[2] The review of [Charest's] Plan Nord and
the changes that will be made by minister Ouellet - to
whom we owe some caustic analyses of the proposed
overhaul of the Mining Act - will no doubt provoke a
groundswell of protest from the major investors... for
whom the green economy is still an irritant and not a
potential.

"Then we will see whether minister Breton took his
dreams for reality when he declared that the greens
were now in power...." *

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist
Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life
on the Left.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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