Fanning the fire
Lost in the student protests in Quebec (Emergency Law Fans Protesters’ Fire – May 21) is a discussion of which public services we expect to contribute to their cost. We do not expect health care to break even, or even recover a significant portion of cost. We do not expect police forces to break even, we do not expect the military to break even, we do not expect the public school system to break even. What is different about university?
For most public services (with a handful of exceptions), we pay entirely out of taxes. We could charge homeowners who call police and businesses that use the fire service, but we don’t.
There is nothing wrong in principle with requiring public services to pay for themselves, or to pay a substantial portion of cost, and nothing wrong with having them paid for out of taxes. Those are social choices, nothing more. The student protests in Quebec offer us all a chance to have a discussion about why a particular service should pay its cost and why another does not need to.
If there is no principled basis for the distinction, then students are correct to make it impossible for us to get away with it. On the other hand, if there is a principled basis that justifies the distinction, let’s identify it.
Brian Casey, Dartmouth, N.S.
University students and their unions across Canada were once able to look to Quebec to argue for reasonably priced postsecondary education. And they have been a valued counterweight to raising fees in other English-speaking countries.
However, it appears that some Quebec students have lost sight of the fact that university funding is a compromise. If students won’t pay, taxpayers will. Therefore there is a need for vigorous and legitimate discussions on the nature of funding.
Alas, violence and law-breaking has handed Premier Jean Charest the moral authority to enact draconian laws and make funding decisions without a legitimate discussion. The actions of a small group have ensured that current and future students will find it more difficult to argue for reasonably priced education.
Graham Adria, Edmonton
So Quebeckers are the Greeks of Canada and the rest of Canada are the Germans, who send money to Quebec to pay for its low tuition fees (Tuition Protesters Are The Greeks Of Canada – May 19).
Actually, Germany doesn’t have tuition fees for its universities. All attempts to introduce such fees, even on a low level, were so unpopular that the state governments who wanted them were voted out.
Germany has a tradition of respect for higher education and free access to it. Germany is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Does Germany have oil? Does it have softwood lumber? No. But it has brainpower. As long as Canada fails to understand that education is a value in itself and that a highly educated population is an asset that, among other things, will make it wealthier, it will have to make a living of selling wood and dirty oil to its southern neighbour.
Thomas Schlich, Montreal
Archibald R.M. Ritter complains (letters, May 17) that low tuitions in Quebec unjustly subsidize affluent students while doing nothing for those who do not go to university. Raising tuitions will simply bar still more students from postsecondary education and protect the serial tax cuts enjoyed by corporations and the very wealthy. Higher tuitions have enhanced the profits of banks that make non-affluent graduates debt slaves for years. As the premium for a university degree has decreased, the students’ debt load has increased.
We should address the real injustice in Canadian society: the growing inequality of opportunity. Higher tuitions will not – despite Jeffrey Simpson’s assumption (University Quality Forgotten In Quebec Drama – May 9) – improve the quality of Quebec’s universities. As tuitions rose in Ontario, provincial support fell behind inflation and enrolments with erosion of the quality of education here. Quebec can expect no better.
George Clark, professor emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston
A policeman’s plea
Letter-writer Robert D. Townsend says Canada has a broken policing system (May 19). As a police officer for three years and a federal law-enforcement officer for seven, I would disagree.
Mr. Townsend points to high-profile incidents from the past few years. My question is: What would Mr. Townsend have done better? The Canadian public and the media have to realize that the officers involved in those situations have split-seconds to make decisions that could result in life and death. Bear in mind that when the incident is finished, investigators and the public can pick apart an event with all the time and safety in the world.
All of this public scrutiny and second-guessing does weigh on the decision-making process of police officers. The general thinking becomes: The public and media can’t criticize me if I don’t do anything. This reduces public safety.
I serve with some of the finest Canadians I have ever met. The vast majority of us serve day in and day out without complaint or question. I would challenge the Canadian public to thank their local police officers, who are in one of the most demanding careers in the world. These officers serve because they love their country, community and fellow citizens. Not because they have to.
P.H. (Paul) Britton, RCMP constable, St. Paul, Alta.
Amused and less so
Re Elizabeth Renzetti’s latest column (O Canada, You Retain The Modesty So Wrongly Associated With My Name – May 19):
We are amused.
Doug English, London, Ont.
So Charles and his wife Camilla are “following in the footsteps of William and Kate” during their tour of Canada to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (The Royal Arrival – May 21).
That seems odd, considering that this is the 16th time His Royal Highness has visited Canada, beginning with a solo two-day inaugural visit in July, 1970, and augmented by several extensive cross-country tours, including in 1996, when he stated that, “Every time I come to Canada … a little more of Canada seeps into my bloodstream. And from there, straight into my heart.”
The Prince has long been a true pathfinder and has lead many global humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives. I am sure his son is honoured to follow in such accomplished footsteps.
Jeffrey Peckitt, Oakville, Ont.
What is a __?
I had to smile at John Allemang’s examination of the “cottage phenomenon” that is so much a part of Ontario life (Off To The __ For The Weekend – Focus, May 19).
It brought to mind a priceless moment in my academic career at York University in 1967 in a transportation geography course I was taking under Roy Wolfe. Dr. Wolfe described to us a presentation that he had given at a conference in Florida on the traffic impact of Ontario’s cottage country, using Highway 400 as an example. With the hour-long lecture completed, the first question from the floor was, “What is a cottage?”
Barb Heidenreich, Bailieboro, Ont.
For those not lucky enough to have a cottage, cabin, chalet, shack, camp or lake, what I want to know is this: Did you enjoy your Victoria Day munchies on the porch, veranda, balcony, deck or patio?
Barbara Strang, TorontoReport Typo/Error