02/09/2013 10:52 EST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 EDT

PQ youth wing demands free tuition as national council meets

The Parti Québécois youth wing is introducing a motion at the PQ's National Council meeting in Drummondville calling for free tuition, despite the fact Quebec's higher education minister has already rejected the idea as "unrealistic."

The emergency motion calls for an immediate freeze on tuition fees and a gradual reduction in fees, eventually leading to free tuition.

On Friday evening, Premier Pauline Marois told delegates to the meeting that supporters of free education will have to compromise when the issue comes to a head at the higher education summit on Feb. 25 and 26.

"Between those who argue for free tuition – a scenario we will look at during the summit – and those who advocate for a substantial increase in tuition, I think there is a possible compromise to be made," she said.

However, Marois said the format of this weekend's meeting lends itself to debate.

Outgoing PQ youth council president Frédéric Saint-Jean said the youth wing wants the government to freeze tuition until the province's post-secondary graduation rate reaches the national average.

Once that happens, Saint-Jean said the proposal is to reduce tuition fees gradually.

The PQ government prefers a scenario that would see tuition fees rising over time, indexed to the cost of living.

The militant group ASSÉ, an umbrella group representing some student unions, is threatening to boycott the summit if the Marois government refuses to discuss the option of free tuition.

Education Minister Pierre Duchesne said student associations are welcome to discuss free tuition, but the government does not plan to implement it.

Earlier this week, McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum said the summit was "a joke," saying planning for the conference has been stage-managed and poorly organized.