|With the support of the people and this pickaxe, we cannot fail.|
"The 'Plan Nord' that we will open today, which is already very popular - people are running from everywhere to come - is an opportunity, especially for job seekers. So to those who knocked at our door this morning, we can offer them a job... in the North as much as possible." -Jean Charest
Cue the politicians with the manufactured outrage...
"Charest is unfit to be Prime Minister. There are wounded and he is joking around" -Bernard Drainville, PQ
"Police and violence are used to intimidate students for electoral purposes. A shame. Mr. Charest get lost" -Amir Khadir, Quebec Solidaire
"Jean Charest laughs at the protest. I have never been so ashamed of the Premier of Quebec." -Jean-Martin Aussant, Option Nationale
"I think we find ourselves in a situation not seen often in the world. Do you know a lot of leaders who make jokes when there's a riot outside?" -François Legault, CAQ
A few facts: it wasn't a full blown riot when Charest made the comments so he wasn't aware of anyone being wounded. Khadir's statement is downright ridiculous if he suggests that police should not have been used to quell the protest. Aussant has a short memory as there are tons of more embarrassing moments that have marked Jean Charest's term in office.
Maybe the joke was in questionable taste but for the people that work in downtown Montreal, there is only great annoyance with the student "protesters". This isn't the first hint of violence. L'Ordre du Carré Rouge has been appropriating the grievances of the students to cause vandalism all over Montreal as well as manhandled staff in some businesses. In other cases, a smoke bomb paralyzed the metro system earlier in the week. I have the personal misfortune of working near McGill University and my building has been targeted by vandals because there's a CIBC branch at the ground floor and... proximity?
Now, I'm no fan of the Quebec Liberals and have every plan to vote them out of office in this year's upcoming election but reminding citizens of shameful hockey riots is not the way to win hearts and minds. If the student association CLASSE (Coalition large de l'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante) cannot figure out whether or not to denounce acts of violence associated with the student protests, how is it in any way a legitimate voice for democracy? The other 2 student groups should distance themselves from it and insist that negotiations take place without them.
Blaming Jean Charest for the violence is a great feat of rationalization that only mediocre university undergraduates are capable of.
That being said, the Quebec Liberals have handled this extremely poorly. When about 200,000 striking students walked the streets of downtown Montreal, it should have been a clear indication that they collectively rejected the tuition hikes ($1,625 increase after 5 years at a rate of $325 per year ). They didn't pay attention when the movement was united and peaceful. Once the movement splintered, they openly complained about the various disturbances that some of the students were causing across the province. If they're willing to ignore so many and pay attention to so few, the Liberals sent out a terrible message.
Regardless of whether you agree with the tuition increase or disagree with it, you can't argue that businesses should suffer property damage because students feel like taking their anger out on them. It's impossible to justify the violence committed by the protesters on bystanders.
Four days ago, prior to many of the acts of violence and property damage, the population's support of the students already started to wane. Only 45% now approve of their demand to freeze tuition costs.
So negotiate with students? Sure. But if the person you're negotiating with brings a pickaxe, any semblance of reasonableness is out the window.
Student movements always fracture, always fall apart and never really are fully representative of the students they should represent. Of course, this year is an provincial election year in Quebec. Maybe they can engage in the political process we call elections this time around...