‘Escalator to the bottom: Quebec students refuse the ride’

Margaret Wente’s essay Tuition protesters are the Greeks of Canada published May 19, 2012 in The Globe and Mail is one illustration. Wente fires several salvos in the direction of the protesters, but the central economic one which interests me is her contention that the Quebec socio-economic model “maxed out a while ago” and that the resistance to the tuition hikes (which Wente points out would still leave Quebec students with the lowest tuition rates in North America) stems from an “entitlement mentality.” As a result, she claims, “the rest of Canada looks on, appalled.”

Here’s the problem with Wente’s analysis: what has “maxed out” is actually greed. In the last generation (i.e., 30 years) Canada’s adjusted GDP has more than doubled, from $330 billion in 1980 to over $720 billion in 2009, an increase of 118% (adjusted for inflation, in constant 2009 USD; World Bank data). There is much more money in Canada. During that time period the Canadian population increased 38% from 24.51 million to 33.89 million. So, Canada’s adjusted GDP has grown 3.1 times faster than the population.
Therefore, things which were affordable in 1980 in Canadian society should be far more affordable today with so much extra wealth sloshing around in the country and only a modest increase in population. Are they? It seems not.



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