Quebec says no to remuneration for internships in the public sector, despite a headwind

Quebec’s budgetary situation does not allow it to pay for internships in CEGEPs and universities, decided Wednesday the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, faced with a headwind made up of tens of thousands of students on strike this week and the three opposition parties, united behind a common demand. A statement that disappointed more than one.

Almost a year ago, on March 30, 2023, elected officials in the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion presented by PQ deputy Pascal Bérubé asking to recognize the status of employee for student interns in the public sector. . Since then, Liberal MP Madwa-Nika Cadet had a similar motion adopted last October, before returning to the charge on Tuesday with a motion calling on the Quebec government to determine a clear timetable for making this commitment a reality, but this document has received a dismissal from the Legault government.

Elected officials from the three main opposition parties took turns returning to the charge on Wednesday morning to question Minister Pascale Déry and Prime Minister François Legault on this subject, a little less than two hours before the holding of a demonstration which brought together hundreds of people demanding compensation for internships in front of the National Assembly, around 12:30 p.m. A dozen students were also present inside the walls of the Salon bleu to attend this exchange, said one of them to Duty.

“We made choices, choices to the detriment of student interns who are still asking today […] to be paid during their internship in the public sector,” noted Madwa-Nika Cadet, before asking Minister Pascale Déry if she was going to make this commitment a reality.

“We made choices in the last budget, and, in the current context, at this time, it is not possible for the government to take that path,” replied Déry. The minister, however, argued that the investments planned “in our public services” in the last Quebec budget will “allow students, after their studies, to have significantly higher salaries, to have significantly better working conditions.” favorable than what we currently have”, particularly in the education and health sectors.

“A Broken Promise”

“What I understand from the minister’s response is that the CAQ has decided to abandon internship remuneration. They decided that it is not a priority and it is a broken promise,” lamented solidarity MP Sol Zanetti in an interview on Wednesday, according to whom the State would have the means to offer paid internships if it increased the taxes of Quebecers pocketing more than $100,000 per year. According to an analysis carried out by the Institute for Socioeconomic Research and Information (IRIS) last year, remuneration for student internships would cost the Quebec government between $388 and $501.5 million.

However, “the government has been making budgetary choices for five years that are not always very relevant,” says Madwa-Nika Cadet in an interview, according to whom the government could have found the means to pay for internships despite the current financial context. “We cannot start blaming health and education to say that it is their fault and that we cannot pay the students who will subsequently be in these sectors,” believes the Liberal MP. It seems a counterproductive approach. »

“We are exhausted”

The statement of Mme Déry occurs in a context where more than 57,000 students are on strike for at least one day this week in CEGEPs and universities located in particular in Quebec, Montreal, Laval as well as in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region, in order to claim remuneration for internships. A cry from the heart that comes in a context where rising rent prices and inflation are creating growing financial stress for thousands of students in the province.

“We are exhausted and we can’t do it” financially, sighs Justine Roy, who is a nursing student at the Limoilou CEGEP, whose students are holding a three-day strike this week. In this context, Minister Déry’s statement, “it’s a nice slap in the face,” says the student, who describes the significant financial burden linked to the internship days that she must complete in a hospital environment. “It’s insulting, especially since we work in public services, for the government,” continues Roy.

“We have passed the stage of disappointment. We are angry,” says Pénéloppe Dagenais-Lavoie, external affairs coordinator for the Association of Social Sciences Students at Laval University, where students are also holding a three-day strike this week. Noting that there is “no effort” made by the Legault government to “reach out to students” and acquiesce in their request for remuneration for internships, the student sees, like several others contacted by The duty Wednesday, that other days of strike will be necessary for this message to be heard. “We won’t stop there. »

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