The Betrayal of a Generation

November 8, 2016


Last Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Legislature had some visitors: hundreds of students and their allies, who showed up on the Canadian Federation of Students’ Day of Action with a clear and forceful message about the need for free post-secondary education.

Their voices were audible within the House, which was in the middle of Question Period at the time. Sterling Belliveau, MLA for Queens-Shelburne, asked the Premier if he was concerned about the effect of rising tuition on youth out-migration. “Why should Nova Scotian young people study here,” he asked, “when they can receive a more affordable education from the start in other provinces?”

The Premier had little to say. What can the government say, when they have legislated the deregulation of post-secondary tuition, contributing to the already crushing burden of student debt?

I’m grateful to have been asked to offer some remarks to the demonstrators from the Legislature’s steps, which went along these lines:

What an important demand you represent; what a significant position you stand for: that the time has come to make the move from the Betrayal of a Generation represented by the financial impossibility of a post-secondary education, to the Investment in a Generation required to make post-secondary education affordable again.

The Betrayal of a Generation. What else can you call average $39,000 indebtedness on university graduation? What else can you call having the second highest tuition in the country? At a time when our neighbours in New Brunswick are making tuition free for households with average incomes, what else but a betrayal is it that Nova Scotia has deregulated the rise in tuition fees so that this September they went up here by 5.6%?

And what would it look like to move from the Betrayal of a Generation to the Investment in a Generation?

Well, for Step One, it looks like a piece of legislation the New Democratic Party introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature last week, providing for the elimination of all tuition fees at all 13 campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College–a piece of legislation which we are prepared to advance and defend and be identified with, because we know that this is the great mission of the present moment: to open up the doors to opportunity to a generation who’ve largely had them shut.

To borrow the slogan from Wednesday’s Day of Action: “Education is a right. We will not give up the fight.”

In solidarity and hope,