Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Karma in Quebec

Let me start off by agreeing with Chris Selley: schadenfreude is an unworthy emotion.

But if there is anything to be said about the $124 million cut being imposed by Quebec's Parti Quebecois government on the province's colleges and universities, it's this: this is karma for the Quebec student movement that empowered the PQ. In virtually every way imaginable.

And in every way imaginable, they did it to themselves.

Should anyone be surprised that Premier Pauline Marois' first impulse after having achieved power through the Quebec students' movement was to turn around and screw them over? Absolutely not. They set themselves up for it. They did it to themselves. As Thom Yorke would add, and that's why it really hurts.

Simply put, these Quebec students are really the victims of the same intellectual and ideological morass that has afflicted the Parti Quebecois itself: a lack of new ideas. Quebec separatism has been devoid of new ideas for decades now, and it's very telling that as soon as Marois and her merry band of incompetents were elected, the first thing they did was revert to the PQ's old form. Pushing draconian and discriminatory language laws. Trying to pull the Canadian Flag off of the National Assembly. Playing economic chicken with the rest of the country.

Same old, same old.

In the same sense, what the Quebec students movement demanded -- free or nearly-free tuition -- is itself far from a new idea. It's been considered and rejected by nearly every government on the planet with any sense. Most of those governments that made the mistake of trying it found it to be prohibitively expensive and have thusly since abandoned it.

Free post-secondary tuition may be a novel idea, but it's also a failed idea.

That didn't stop Quebec students -- who already enjoy the cheapest university tuition in Canada -- from toppling the Jean Charest government over modest tuition increases that still would have left Quebec with the cheapest tuition in the entire country. And while Marois did temporarily make good on a promise to cancel the proposed tuition increases -- at a speculated cost of $20 million -- she has instead turned around and imposed a funding cut of six times that amount.

Perhaps it's a cynical way to treat the people who basically got her elected. But this is the natural destination of a political movement that has produced no new ideas in at least thirty years.

Of course, they frequently manage to convince themselves that they have produced new ideas. If you peruse the #CdnPoli Twitterverse, you hear them trumpeting them all the time. Yet when you actually pay attention to these "new ideas," you find that they aren't new ideas at all. Rather, they're simply new ways to get attention.

Which is nothing more than what the inane "Casseroles" movement was: simply a desperate bid for attention, in the loudest and most obnoxious way possible. Far from the visionaries of a utopian future, the #ggi movement had reduced themselves to a pre-school-aged Bart Simpson, tearing around banging pots and pans while the adults in the room plaintively begged for some peace and quiet. And Marois was not content to be one of the adults in the room -- she was right there along with the other children, banging pots and pans while seemingly fully aware of the sheer absurdity of it.

That was perhaps the most fatal error the Quebec students movement ever made. For as much as they coveted attention for attention's sake, so do the most cynical of politicians. And virtually everything Pauline Marois has done since becoming the Premier of Quebec blares of cynicism to the nth degree. After having waited to gain power since 2003, the PQ had -- and continues to have -- no idea of what to do with it.

They, like the Quebec students' movement, are utterly bereft of new ideas, and accordingly doomed. They, like the Quebec students' movement, are now finding that getting all the attention they ever wanted was the worst thing that will have ever happened to them. They now form a minority government that is stunningly immobilized by the lack of a coherent program,

So for the Parti Quebecois, just as for the Quebec students movement, there is plenty of karma to go around in Quebec.

They did it to themselves.

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