Outspoken minister saves Quebec HE funds

March 2, 2001

Canadian education minister François Legault took a political risk by questioning his government's commitment to higher education and, in the process, may have saved Quebec universities from millions of dollars in funding cuts.

Earlier this month, Mr Legault announced he would have to suspend recently signed financing agreements with universities.

Mr Legault was substantiating rumours that an upcoming provincial budget would cut C$400 million (£180 million) from Quebec's post-secondary education funding. He said the cut would leave him with too little to honour contracts signed with, among others, McGill University and the Universite de Montreal.

Many thought the minister was committing political suicide when he stated his government had a duty to respect its recent commitments, made at a youth summit, to reinvest in the university sector.

Vacationing premier Lucien Bouchard was forced to return to deal with the crisis.

Premier Bouchard backed his minister and the situation was defused. The higher education sector was somewhat mollified, after he said his government was fully committed to all funding promises.

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