Summit won't solve everything: Marois
Premier Pauline Marois says she doesn't expect her government's long-awaited summit on higher education to solve all the province's differences.
The summit kicked off today, a year after a dispute over proposed tuition hikes led to a months-long student crisis that triggered massive protests.
Marois' Parti Quebecois government, which cancelled the tuition increases when it took power in September, wants to index fees to inflation.
But Quebec's largest student federation is pushing for an absolute freeze on tuition levels.
The radical ASSÉ student group is boycotting the two-day summit because they feel it's nothing more than a government PR stunt.
They are planning a protest after the summit ends Tuesday.
There are steel barriers and a heavy police presence outside the summit today. A small group of demonstators showed up earlier, but left.
In her opening address, Marois dampened expectations for consensus by acknowledging that differences will remain at the summit's conclusion.
She called on participants, from students, to university administrators, to social groups, to maintain a constant, permanent dialogue on education, even after the event ends.
"This exercise does not aim to resolve everything in a few hours,'' Marois said.
"We will continue to work together Wednesday morning. The summit is an occasion to re-establish the dialogue, to rebuild bridges, to re-weave the links between us.''
More moderate student groups participating in the event are calling on the government to improve financial aid for students.
University administrators, meanwhile, are hoping for more funding after budgets were slashed in December.
The PQ, which sided with the student movement in opposition to the former Liberal government's proposed tuition-fee hikes, promised during last year's election campaign to call the summit.
The party later distanced itself from the students in the weeks before the election, after its initial stance was viewed as a political liability.
Quebec's student unrest of 2012, dubbed the Maple Spring, gained international attention.
Thousands of protesters marched through Montreal streets night after night during sometimes-violent demonstrations that led to nnumerous clashes with riot police.
The uprising eventually faded away, in part because the Liberals lost power and the incoming PQ government cancelled the tuition increases.
The Marois government introduced several propositions at the start of the summit, including the creation of a council for universities that would consult the Higher Education Department on teaching and research.
The divisive issue of tuition fees is scheduled for discussion at the summit later today.
Photo: via La Presse