Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Young NDP MPs Left Sitting on Their Hands in Quebec Tuition Protests: Young NDP MPs Stay Away from Tuition Fight

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Young NDP MPs Left Sitting on Their Hands in Quebec Tuition Protests: Young NDP MPs Stay Away from Tuition Fight

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - Young New Democrat MPs who likely once would have been among the thousands of Quebec students hoisting placards in opposition to higher tuition are instead being forced to sit on their hands.

At least five Quebec NDP MPs were students in the province before being swept unexpectedly into federal office during last year's election, and several others were only a few years out of school.

But even as the 11-week-old feud between the provincial Liberal government and students gains international attention, the rookie MPs are learning that being Quebec's voice in Ottawa sometimes also means they need to shut up.

There's nothing to be gained from weighing in on a provincial matter that's out of their hands, they've been cautioned, so best not to say anything at all.

Especially because there is something to lose: support in the province that handed them their official Opposition status in the Commons.

"Hiding behind the jurisdictional issue over the student strikes is good politics because there are few benefits for the NDP and a number of risks," said Bruce Hicks, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

There has been speculation that the strike could become the catalyst for a provincial election, and Hicks said any support for the students benefits the Parti Quebecois.

That's bad for the federal NDP, because a PQ government in Quebec will use its resources to support the Bloc Quebecois at the federal level.

Which could end up sending those student NDP MPs right back to school after the next federal election.

Plus, being seen as supporting a protest movement that's led to violence and dozens of arrests is risky, Hicks said.

"The NDP being so silent on this question is obviously the result of the party leadership doing a risk-benefit analysis," Hicks said.

In an interview on CPAC earlier this week, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair stayed away from weighing in directly on the protest, saying it was up to the provincial government to discuss the choices its made on the cost of going to school. …

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