Limits on English CEGEP financing may be necessary, Parti Québécois leader says

Limits on English CEGEP financing may be necessary, Parti Québécois leader says
Limits on English CEGEP financing may be necessary, Parti Québécois leader says

Jean-François Lisée's leadership will be the subject of a confidence vote this weekend. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

QUEBEC — Access to Quebec’s anglophone CEGEP system cannot be an “open bar,” and some restrictions may be necessary, Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée says.

Responding to news some PQ members will try to push the party into adopting a position under which a PQ government would gradually reduce funding to Quebec’s five English CEGEPs in the name of helping the French language, Lisée said what is needed is the right balance.

The other extreme, which he has ruled out, would be to ban francophones and allophones from attending English CEGEPs completely by extending the provision of the French Language Charter to that level of the education system.

“I’m saying the anglophone right to have English CEGEPs is absolutely bedrock,” Lisée said at a morning news conference. “Once you attain the aim of giving the anglophone community the right to have post-education in English, that’s fine, that’s absolutely necessary.

“But once you’ve done that, how much further should you go? It cannot be an open bar, so there should be a limit at some point and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Lisée was cautious about where he personally stands on the concept, which is being pushed by Eastern Townships péquistes in the form of an amendment to the PQ’s program.

The debate will take place this weekend when the party meets for a three-day policy convention in Montreal. The wording of the amendment was leaked to the Le Devoir over the weekend.

In its preamable, it states the existing freedom of choice rules “represents an obstacle to the complete integration of allophones to Quebec society and the preservation of the French language as the common language.”

It proposes a new financing formula. Instead of the current system by which CEGEPs get funding based on the number of students without distinction, the Township PQ members say it should be based on the community’s demographic clout.

That would be spark an immediate funding reduction.

Right now about half the students enrolled in the English CEGEP system did their elementary and high school education in French.

Lisée’s comments reflect the pressure he faces as leader headed into the convention, where his leadership will be the subject of a confidence vote.

The new motion is seen in PQ ranks as a compromise to a total ban on access for francophones, but is unlikely to be accepted among anglophones.

On Tuesday, Bernard Tremblay, president of Quebec’s Fédération des CÉGEPs, described the idea as a non-starter. Not only would it be inapplicable, it is addressing what is a marginal issue, Tremblay said.

But Lisée walked the line.

“It’s a question of balance,” Lisée said. “Is it the job of anglophone CEGEPs to gradually provide their teaching to a francophone majority? The answer is no. 

“Is the current balance optimal? The answer is no.

“Would it be preferable for more francophones and allophones who did their secondary in the francophone system go to a francophone CEGEP? The answer is yes.

“So without being drastic, there is a way to establish a saner balance.”

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