Who had a great 2012? We take a look at five of the biggest Canadian news winners of the year.
1. Quebec Student Movement
Photo: Quebec student protests paralyzed the province for most of the spring and summer. (AP photo)
When students at several of Quebec’s largest universities first went on strike to protest against the provincial government’s plan for a sharp rise in tuition fees, it seemed unlikely that the movement could succeed.
The province’s Liberal government was heading into election season, and many thought then-premier Jean Charest could use the crisis to his advantage.
With a corruption inquiry looming, Charest was in desperate need of something with which to distract the electorate. With public opinion firmly in favour of the tuition hike, it looked like the Liberals might be able to use the student unrest as a wedge issue to help win another term.
The fact students in Quebec already paid the lowest tuition in the country wasn’t hurting Charest’s chances either.
But then the government passed Bill 78, legislation that severely curtailed the right to protest.
Opinion quickly turned against the law, and the protests began to take on a different character. The demonstrations were no longer just about tuition.
Quebecers young and old took to the streets to bang pots and pans in solidarity with the students and their ideals. Social issues, economic justice and the environment were now part of the conversation.
After a series of failures by the province to reach an agreement with the student unions, it became clear that the election would ultimately settle the dispute.
On the night of Sept. 4, Pauline Marois and her Parti Québécois won the right to form a minority government.
In a stunning victory for the student movement, the tuition hike was cancelled at the government’s first cabinet meeting.
The students succeeded where so many thought they would fail and helped bring down Charest in the process.
And their victory did not stop there.
The PQ has effectively put an end to the asbestos industry in the province, will shut down the province’s sole nuclear plant and has placed a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, all issues important to the movement.
In a recent interview, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, one of the student movement’s most visible figures, told HuffPost that, while he is pleased with the direction the government is taking, the PQ is doing so only because of popular pressure.
And that may be the student movement’s greatest victory: reminding all Canadians that our elected officials must be held to account, not only at the ballot box, but in the streets.
— Michael Bolen