Events leading up to strike

By the time the government of Quebec announced the tuition hike in 2012, it was already a well-known policy item of the ruling party. In fact, tuition had already been increasing steadily by about $100 a year since 2007. When this previous hike came into effect, we tried to launch an unlimited general strike in opposition, but failed: the strike never got started.

In March 2010, the government announced its intention to step up the rate of increase starting in September 2012, but without giving out any specific details. We knew, however, that the hike would be bigger and hit harder than in 2007. Concrete plans were drawn up to block the new hike using an unlimited general strike.

But the tuition hike was quite an important policy for the government. Along with implementing new user-fees and a special tax in the public healthcare sector1 as well as a hike in electricity fees2, the hike was part of a so-called “cultural revolution” in public services pricing pushed by the province’s finance minister. These measures were justified by the precarious state of public finances and the need to progressively eliminate the deficit — a discourse very much in tune with austerity politics being implemented globally.

Though we knew that taking on such a central policy for the government would be difficult, we couldn’t imagine student unions standing idle.