Tuition Increases

Tuition rates should increase. Especially in Quebec (if you haven’t been following recent Canadian news, the short story is that there are currently student riots in Quebec about tuition).

The following graph contributes to an understanding of the current situation, where Quebecois students pay significantly less than other undergraduates across Canada for tuition:

Tuition Rates by Province – from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/09/16/university-tuition-fees-rise-again-statscan/, based on data from StatsCan.

The data in this graph is the basis for many complaints heard across Canada that Quebec tuition rates are too low. But that’s not the real problem with Quebec tuition rates. The real problem is that opposing the tuition rates hurts the very people that it’s meant to protect. As Higher Ed Strategy points out,

“between the tax credits and the grants, low-income students will be better-off after the increase than they were before.”

This is a sentiment also explained in this article in the Globe, which points out that

“Low tuition essentially provides subsidies to those individuals who can well afford to pay more, along with those who truly need the assistance. Since higher income groups are still more likely to send their children to university and because university students, on average, go on to much higher earnings than others, this is akin to a regressive tax that favours higher income groups. A much more effective – and fairer – policy is to specifically target those students who truly need financial assistance.”

This is the heart of the problem. By making those who can pay, pay higher tuition rates, we increase the burden on those who can pay and increase aid available to those who cannot – which is exactly what Jean Charest is proposing. Student leaders and activists in Quebec are literally hurting those whom they are purporting to help.

Higher Ed Strategy has an interesting solution to this: cut tax breaks for students. That is a roundabout and potentially effective strategy, but allowing for – necessary – tuition increases is probably a better way to combat the actual problem. It might even help disprove the assertion – held by some on the left – that protesting every government policy is a good idea.

White House Correspondents’ Dinner

If you haven’t watched this yet, go watch it. Seriously. Here’s what Obama said, to get you started.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Although the jokes are not written by the Presidents themselves, delivery is pretty important, and I think Obama did a great job this year. Romney’s been somewhat sparse so far in demonstrating his presentation skills – I wonder if we’ll get more in future.

When Life Begins

It’s always a good idea to start off with something as controversial as abortion, right? The Conservative Party of Canada knows as well as I do that this topic might not be the best icebreaker, whether it’s for a dinner party or a legislative assembly, which is why they’ve been relatively quiet about the topic regardless of individual opinion. However, that’s about to change with the recent introduction of a private member’s motion calling for a committee to re-examine when life begins. Stephen Woodsworth, a Conservative MP, has introduced this bill, which would establish a committee to examine the question of when life begins. Woodsworth claims to want to re-examine the definition we currently have for when life begins, which he says is an outdated definition imported from Britain.

If Woodsworth is looking for authentically Canadian laws that eschew British origins, he won’t find many. Most of our laws are imported from Britain, and seem to work perfectly fine, even when they’re old. That’s not a reason in itself to reject his motion. The more troubling part is that there’s little that this motion can do other than revisit abortion laws. There are really only three outcomes of revisiting this definition: the law stays the same about when life begins, the law changes it to a later date, or the law changes it to an earlier date. Changing it to a later date would be obviously incorrect, so what Woodsworth is trying to do is to see if life begins at an earlier date. I don’t think I’m being even remotely controversial in drawing this conclusion about his intentions.

So what happens if life is thought to begin at an earlier date? It shouldn’t really matter. Abortion laws weren’t struck down because the Supreme Court didn’t care about fetuses. Abortion laws were struck down because the Supreme Court thought that they were an undue limitation on the liberty of women. So, revisiting the definition of where life begins is not in itself problematic. On the other hand, there is no good reason for why anyone would want to revisit the definition of when life begins otherwise. And if you support the autonomy rights of women, this first step towards revisiting abortion laws is troubling, if supported by other MPs. Generally, though, given the politically-sensitive Harper government and the recent Alberta election, where the most conservative province in Canada rejected social conservatism in Wildrose Party candidates, this bill isn’t likely to get through.

Hello, World

There’s a lot going on in the world, and lots of people to comment on it. So this blog may seem a little bit redundant, but on the other hand, cheeky Canadian commentary is never abundant enough in supply to meet demand (I certainly haven’t gotten my fill yet). The idea is to post frequently about relevant topics in the news, or to comment on old-but-still-relevant items. There will be sarcasm, a little bit of righteousness, lots of queries, and a bit of apathy. And most importantly, all measurements will be in metric units only.