Student protests force Quebec’s Liberal Party convention out of Montreal
MONTREAL — The Liberal Party of Quebec Premier Jean Charest, faced with a student protest movement that has turned violent, said Sunday it was relocating its annual convention to a city outside Montreal.
The party, which has been in power for nine years in the French-speaking Canadian province that is home to eight million people, had been scheduled to hold its party meeting at the Centre Mont-Royal in Montreal May 4-6.
Instead, it will hold the convention in Victoriaville, 170 kilometers (105 miles) to the east of Montreal, the party said in a statement.
Since mid-February, the provincial government has faced a stiff challenge from students angry over plans to raise school fees as part of an effort to rein in the budget deficit.
Tuition in Quebec had been frozen since the province’s “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s in a bid to boost access to post-secondary education, but it began to creep up in the 1990s.
After talks with the government broke down, students took to the streets, resulting in violent clashes with police and smashed storefronts in Montreal.
Charest on Friday offered a compromise — to stretch out the tuition hike over seven years — but the students would not budge, and again took to the streets on Saturday night.
On Sunday, CLASSE, the organization that represents half of the 180,000 students still on strike, rejected the government’s new offer.
Some analysts say Charest could call early elections following the party’s annual convention.
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Photo AFP/File, Rogerio Barbosa