Tuesday’s provincial election was a pretty good day for the Quebec student movement.
The Parti Québécois, which had opposed the Liberal government’s tuition hikes and its anti-demonstration Loi 78, won a clear, though not overwhelming, victory at the polls. Though they fell far short of winning majority control of the provincial legislature, their party leader — in a post-election call to the head of one of Quebec’s student unions — promised to reverse the tuition increase by decree, a move that would make a legislative vote unnecessary. Action on Loi 78 is expected to follow.
PQ’s margin of victory was smaller than anticipated, with the party winning just 54 seats in the 125-seat legislature. The Liberals won 50, though their better-than-expected showing was dimmed by the defeat of party leader Jean Charest, architect of the tuition hike in his own race. In another election-night surprise, 20-year-old student activist Léo Bureau-Blouin defeated a three-term incumbent on his way to winning a PQ seat in the city of Laval. Bureau-Blouin, whose decision to run was controversial among some activists, will be the youngest ever member of Quebec’s legislature.
But while this was a big battle, the war is still ongoing. The reversal of the hike sets up a new struggle over higher education funding, and PQ has pledged to index tuition to inflation going forward. Though students at several holdout campuses where students had continued to strike returned to classes on Wednesday, neither the issues nor the tactics of the spring have evaporated. For now, Loi 78 remains on the books, and the fate of students already under investigation for violating the act remains unresolved.
And the Maple Spring was never just about short-term tuition policy or a single authoritarian law. The movement has always been bigger than that, and a (promised, approximate) return to the January 2012 status quo hardly fulfills the movement’s larger goals.
So don’t put away your red squares just yet.