Public Values

Quebec's underfunded universities can mine rich tax havens for funds

Forget asking poor students to foot the bill.

Recent Alain Denault book shows how eliminating tax havens would benefit Canadian public Straight Goods News staff

Montreal, QC (January 6, 2011): In an article published in Le Devoir in early January, three professors emeritus of the Université de Montréal attributed Montreal's two largest universities' fall in national and international standings to the "chronic and important underfinancing" of Quebec universities. According to them, "Quebec strayed from the North American system when it implemented the tuition freeze, with disastrous consequences being kept hidden."

Without questioning the long-known fact reported by these three professors, according to whom Quebec universities are underfinanced, there is reason to question what they attribute to be the cause of the problem and the solution they offer. In fact, they would increase tuition fees, which would no doubt undermine equal access to education — many students would find themselves unable to pay tuition fees, yet they would remain ineligible for many loans and bursaries.

  Putting an end to tax havens is the only fair solution.

Moral considerations, not only financial ones, must guide our actions and the way we solve our social problems. In this context, increasing tuition fees is out of the question. Resorting to a privatized system is equally out of the system. When university research is privately funded, it becomes a tributary of private interests instead of the common good. Only by paying their fair share of taxes to the State can those private interests do their part. It is up to the State to allocate those funds for university research.

Perhaps it is precisely because private businesses and businessmen don't pay their fair share of taxes that universities are underfunded. There are ways of solving the problem of university underfinancing without increasing tuition fees. But to do it, we have to stop concealing the real cause of the problem.

The real cause of the problem, of the problems we face with all our public services, is the State's unwillingness to address the issue of tax havens, a major global problem that costs the Quebec government billions of dollars annually.

In a recent work entitled Offshore, Université de Québec à Montréal sociologist Alain Deneault demonstrates how tax havens result in colossal financial losses, sums that would otherwise allow our governments to refill State coffers and better finance public services.

Likewise, Radio-Canada journalist Guy Gendron reported last September that "Canadians hide millions in Swiss accounts."

No one can claim to be unaware of the existence of these tax havens and the financial losses that result from them. When it comes time to remedy the underfinancing of our public services, however, the political and economic right asks the masses to tighten their belts a bit more while it avoids dealing with the real problem: the privileges of the private interests it defends.

It's easy to say the cause of the problem is the tuition freeze, especially when trying to hide the true cause of university underfinancing. The fault lies with those privileged and powerful few who get more from society than they give to it. For these people to continue to enjoy their comfortable lifestyles, some people would implement a solution where students would foot the bill. Others think that putting an end to tax havens would be a fairer solution.

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  Sous-financement des universités — «la véritable cause »

Posted: January 15, 2011

  Public services
  Front lines

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