Negotiations to restart on day 106 of protests
Published Sunday, May 27, 2012 5:40PM EDT
MONTREAL - After over three months of protest, Quebec's student leaders will resume negotiations with the provincial government on Monday afternoon in Quebec City.
With the leaders of Quebec's student federations indicating that they are ready to compromise on the Charest Liberal's 82 per cent tuition hike, Education Minister Michelle Courchesne has returned the willingness to negotiate.
With protests held in Montreal every night for over a month, the clanging sounds of pots and pans spread beyond the metropolis on Saturday night as demonstrations were held in cities across the province.
With no negotiations since Bill 78 was adopted two weeks ago, many hope that both sides will compromise fast.
"I work downtown and it's quiet in the afternoon because people are scared to come downtown," said Ida Lombardi. "We have a beautiful city and it's ruining it, both sides are ruining it now."
While both sides had seemed increasingly entrenched, especially after the adoption of emergency legislation to put a damper on protests, many think that when it comes to compromise, the government might have to blink first.
"They aren't going to stop unless the government does something, anything about it. It's going to drag on and on and on until who knows," said Derek Amaral.
Martine Desjardins will be one of the student representatives sitting around the negotiating table this week, but if the tuition hike is on the table, she says it's only to talk about a freeze.
"Just to talk about tuition fee hike at the table would be a step forward, because every time we've discussed with the government, we never put on the table the tuition fee hike," said Desjardins, president of the Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec.
While some think that the students' demand for a tuition freeze is unrealistic, putting an end to five years of hikes before another seven year increase, others blame the Quebec government's behaviour at and around the negotiating table.
"It's difficult for us to really know what the government's real intentions are. Is this negotiation table only an operation of public relations? It's possible," said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the spokesman for Quebec's largest student group, the CLASSE.
Speaking to CTV's Question Period on Sunday, political analyst Jean Lapierre said that the public clearly wants a negotiated settlement, and that is going to require movement from both sides.
"Right now, 76 percent of Quebecers are saying: negotiate with the students. This is what people want. They don't want a bazooka to kill a duck," said Lapierre, with regards to the effects of Bill 78.