November 4, 2014 5:48 pm
Updated: November 4, 2014 9:08 pm

François Hollande asks to keep tuition fees low for French students in Quebec


QUEBEC CITY — The excitement was palpable in the halls of Quebec’s National Assembly, as MNAs prepared to greet French president, François Hollande.

“This is a chief of state, this is the president of France!” said International Affairs Minister Christine St-Pierre.

Tuesday was Hollande’s first state visit to Quebec. In 2008, then president Nicolas Sarkozy took part in Quebec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations and argued for federalism.

This time, Hollande brought an altogether different message.

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Nations must unite to fight climate change, he told MNAs, before adding that France would partner with Quebec to develop the North and implement a maritime strategy.

“France, if you accept it, will be a stakeholder in your Plan Nord,” he said.

READ MORE: Couillard moves forward with modest Plan Nord

“The situation in France is not that good economically,” said Maryse Burgot, a reporter with France 2 who was travelling with Hollande.

“It is a very critical time because, as you know, he’s not very popular, so he’s having this big meeting this week in France just as he’s coming back from this trip, so it’s very important for him.”

There’s the environment, economic development, and then there are tuition fees.

The President asked that French students who attend Quebec universities continue to pay local fees, about $2,800 a year; compared to $7,000 a year for Canadian students and $15,000 for foreign students.

The Quebec Liberal Party said during its election campaign that it would raise those fees.

“We have defined together the principles of an agreement, and I want to reaffirm that there will be an agreement,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

Hollande did not comment on the proposed renaming of the Champlain Bridge, even though he spoke passionately about the deep historical ties that bind Quebec with France.

According to reports, the new bridge, scheduled for completion in 2018, could be renamed after hockey great Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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