Outaouais students plot election strategy

CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois 
(Canada) CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said students will not campign for any particular party leading up to the election.

CBC News ) More than 400 striking students and supporters met at the Université du Québec en Outaouais in Gatineau Thursday night. It was the first large meeting of students since the term was ended suddenly by the provincial government in the spring.

With the provincial election underway, it was an opportunity for students to discuss what their strategy will be during the campaign.

Their issues are front and centre for the first time in a Quebec election, and that's not necessarily going to work in their favour.

It was one of the largest events in the Outaouais since the Quebec election was called. But this meeting was not for the politicians.

“We're proud to see this many people, it gives us a real boost,” said student Olivier Boileau.

“And it’s nice to see the strike is not dead in Gatineau and Hull. A lot of people are interested in that issue," said Adrienne Renaut.

The students were joined by one of the household names of the student movement in Quebec — Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman for the more radical student union CLASSE (Coalition large de l'association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante).

He said they are not supporting any particular party in the election.

“Obviously, if Charest [is] elected it will cause reflection, we'll wait to see the result, and re-adjust if they're re-elected,” Nadeau-Dubois said.

The students at the Outaouais university were not the first to go out on strike. But their fight against the administration's legal bid to re-open some classes made headlines, and at one point students took over the school cafeteria. Some members of the teachers union also supported the strike.

Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Wednesday,August 1, 2012. A disorderly scene erupted in downtown Montreal at the start of Quebec's election campaign as a night protest saw several arrests, injuries, and clashes with police.

But a provincial election campaign poses a dilemma for the students.

Polls consistently suggest Premier Jean Charest's hard line on tuition fee hikes is supported by a majority of Quebecers.

The question for students is whether to campaign against the premier or lie low.

“It would be easy for them to use us and demonize us if they want to win again, and surely they will.

"I came [to the meeting] because I wanted to know [about] CLASSE… and what they have to say about the strike, and [any] new information and plan of action,” Renaut said.

Nadeau-Dubois said the students are not putting all their energy into the election campaign.

“The first thing we want to do is take advantage that people are open to discuss our ideas, rather than tell our students how to vote. It’s important to have a debate and discussion,” he said.

The student leadership is encouraging students to participate in this election by voting, and voting as they never have before.

But, in western Quebec — where all five ridings have consistently elected Liberal candidates — many students wonder if their vote will make any difference.


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