Thousands of students march as they protest against tuition hikes in downtown Montreal, Quebec April 28, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
OTTAWA - More support for post-secondary education funding is high on the agenda for the federal New Democrats. But ask them about the Quebec student protests that have been tearing the province apart for two months?
"[That] is first and foremost a matter of provincial jurisdiction," NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says.
Such is the line taken by federal politicians standing on the outside, keeping their hands clean while Quebec struggles to weigh affordable education with a massive deficit in its budget.
Premier Jean Charest's five-year, $1,625 tuition hike triggered a general strike by 170,000 students on Feb. 14, and images of violent rampages and clashes with riot police have made international headlines.
On Monday, two of the three main Quebec student groups drafted a counterproposal to present to the province as soon as Tuesday, but a large faction is still refusing to even come to the table.
"I'm not going to comment on what's happening with the student situation in Quebec. That's a provincial matter," said Quebec Grit MP Marc Garneau, whose party has also long defended more spending for post-secondary education.
Mulcair, whose party's rejuvinated popularity can be uniquely credited to young Quebec voters, continued on Monday to support the call for more education funding, but redirected the problem of night after night of destruction by student protesters back to the National Assembly.
"You have to understand education is first and foremost a matter of provincial jurisdiction," Mulcair said. "We also believe that the federal government's historic role in helping post secondary education and research is something that we have to get back to."
Mulcair says the NDP would make it a "priority to work with the provinces to make sure more funding does go in" to education if the party forms government when Canadians head back to the polls in 2015.