December 5, 1996
Education Minister Pauline Marois
On November 18, Quebec education minister Pauline Marois announced a new fee structure for Quebec university students. While the minister pledged to maintain the tuition freeze for Quebec students, out-of-province students will see their fees rise to the national average and international students will be expected to absorb an even higher increase.
The minister's announcement did not include any information on the operating grants for Quebec universities, and some details of the fee announcement are still confusing. Last week, the minister agreed to a short interview with the
The minister's announcement did not include any information on the operating grants for Quebec universities, and some details of the fee announcement are still confusing. Last week, the minister agreed to a short interview with theReporter.
Of course, we cannot cut services. I believe that would be wrong. But budget reductions will doubtless lead the universities to take another look at some of their collaboration strategies, for example, rationalizing certain courses with other universities. Some courses may perhaps be made accessible or available in collaboration with universities all over Quebec. And that would save a certain amount. But I am aware that what we are asking is major and substantial.
Is there not some way to agree that in order to maintain a high level of quality, some activities should be concentrated at one university or another? Or that we should make networked programs available? Because we know that, generally, the student population is quite mobile. This is the type of thing I have in mind.
Of course, these things happen in the medium or long term. I know it's not desirable to have deficits, but a temporary deficit might be acceptable if we can catch up in a year, two years, three years. On the other hand, as you know I presented a bill in the National Assembly that is now at the approval stage regarding the setting up of university foundations.* I know that McGill, among other universities, is very interested in these foundations. I received a letter about this from Mr. Shapiro. There are considerable amounts that could be tapped for these foundations which would help the universities.
I am prepared to offer reciprocity to the other provinces. I have no problem with that. Here's how it would work: the other provinces would agree to let our students pay the same tuition they would pay here when they attend university in Toronto, Vancouver or Victoria, and we would receive students here who would pay the same tuition they would pay at their respective universities. I have no problem with that.
Obviously, there is a slightly larger proportion, I agree, because of Concordia and Bishop's. But the fact remains that in any event, the differences are not significant for foreign students. For Canadian students, the difference is more significant, because obviously there are more students at McGill from the rest of Canada than there are at Laval or Université de Montréal.
First of all, it makes Quebec better known elsewhere on the planet, and in the rest of Canada. And it also makes a cultural contribution, bringing us knowledge from people who come from all over the world. And in that sense, I still want that.
But you know, even with differential fees, considering the cost of living in Montreal and Quebec City, and even more elsewhere, there is still a great comparative advantage. Renting an apartment in Montreal, and renting an apartment in Toronto, there's a big difference. This holds true for nearly all the provinces, except I think perhaps the Atlantic provinces, but in certain cases they have fees that are much higher than ours.
So in the case of professors who reach the age of 65, I believe that we could regulate this, but we are working on that here at the ministry. What we would do is let the university terminate the professor's employment when he or she reaches the age of 65, but on one condition--that the professor is not penalized from the actuarial standpoint in his or her pension plan.
Obviously, a pension plan includes a certain number of conditions the person must meet to receive a full pension. Obviously, if someone continues to contribute, that may increase the pension, but the fact remains that pensions include criteria stipulating that at such-and-such an age, with so many years of service, you can retire with a full pension.
What I would like to preserve would be to avoid penalizing people whose pensions would be reduced if they had to retire at 65, when a few years more would enable them to meet the standards for the pension plan. So that would be the only restriction. For the rest, it would be up to the universities to decide (when professors reach the age of 65) whether they keep the person on or not, because they could also decide to keep the person on contract or in some other way. It would be their initiative.
Interview by Eric Smith
Translation by Kathe Lieber