On August 1st, the ruling Liberal party dissolved the government and launched an early election campaign, barely two weeks before the semesters starting up again for striking students. Betting that the strike was over and that students would choose to return to class, the party hoped to win back some support by arguing that Bill 78 had effectively brought back peace and order on campuses. The Parti Quebecois, on the other hand, which led the polls from the first day of the campaign, promised to cancel the tuition hike and repeal Bill 78. Many students interpreted this as victory being close at hand.
FECQ and FEUQ launched campaigns to boost youth participation in the elections and work against the Liberal party’s campaign. For them, the strike was already over. FECQ’s former-president-turned-PQ-candidate called for an “electoral truce” — a call echoed by many in the Left — in which student unions would suspend the strike to give the new government a chance. Furthermore, FECQ’s new president told media that continuing the strike would be “academically disastrous” for students.
CLASSE, in its case, mostly stayed away from playing a part in electoral politics, sticking to a slogan broadly condemning neoliberalism, ambiguously calling for voting against the three main more-or-less right-wing parties. Instead, it hammered the message that the strike was not over and the assemblies were the ones deciding if the strike was over or not. Among the student groups and activists in local unions, opinions were divided on the option of continuing the strike. Some thought that striking during an election made no sense (the government being dissolved) and that if the PQ wasn’t elected or if it reneged on its promises, the strike could be revived after elections.
In the week of August 13th, virtually all local student unions voted down the strike by large majorities. Despite passionate defenses of the strike and little anti-strike arguments at the assemblies themselves, the strike collapsed.
Arguably, most students didn’t realize what more could be gained by continuing the strike that the PQ’s probable election victory couldn’t bring. They weren’t ready to risk what was left of their semester, just in case the PQ didn’t win at the polls.
The PQ went on to win, by a small margin, the elections held on September 4th. It ensured this outcome by federating the Left and nationalist votes on a platform which included, apart from the promise aimed at ending the student conflict, increasing taxes of the the richest, abolishing a regressive health tax and implementing several environmentally-friendly policies. On September 19th, a decree officially abolished the tuition hike.