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Ontario election period is launched

The Ontario election period kicked off on Monday with a throne speech from the Liberal Party, a dental care proposal from the New Democratic Party and a unity rally from the Progressive Conservatives.



Eli Ridder | The Avro Post

The Ontario election period kicked off on Monday with a throne speech from the Liberal Party, a dental care proposal from the New Democratic Party and a unity rally from the Progressive Conservatives.

All three parties will by vying for a win on June 7, however, polls definitely point to the PC Party taking the win after 15 years of Liberal rule.

Premier Kathleen Wynne in her Monday throne speech promised new spending on health care, home care, dental care, child care and pharamacare; with some newspapers in the province calling it a “care over cuts” approach.

While more details will be brought to light in the election year budget set to be proposed by Finance Minister Charles Souza on Mar. 28, reports indicate that there will be $8 billion in deficit spending to fund the care items.

Ms. Wynne told the Toronto Star that she was in favour of the lot of the ideas put forward by Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP, surrounding dental and pharma care.

The throne speech essentially started the race to take Queen’s Park this summer, and the NDP were quick to pitch a major platform item on Monday: a $1.2 billion public dental plan.

Currently, dental care is largely private, but in a move that mirrors the western European democratic socialist policy long-emphasized by the New Democrats, Ms. Horwath wants to take it a step further by covering 4.5 million Ontarians who do not qualify for workplace benefits.

Students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber are able to tap into dental coverage provided by student services.

“No one should have to live in pain,” Horwath told reporters at Queen’s Park.

“No one should go years without a visit to the dentist because they are a part-time worker or contract worker or because they’re retired.”

The NDP’s Ontario Benefits plan would set a minimum standard for dental plans, and provide care for those that do not work for the two-thirds of Ontario companies that provide dental benefits.

The plan would largely benefit the other third, those unemployed and those who are self-employed.

Specifics include:

  • Businesses could opt into Ontario Benefits or comparable private workplace benefits plan
  • Free for anyone earning less than $30,000
  • Maximum contribution to benefit by employees to company would be $4.33 per week

To pay for the plan, Horwath said she would raise corporate and high income taxes, and told some reporters she was open to running deficits, saying a full breakdown of the platform would come before the election.

PCs have a party

Just an 11 minutes away from the Humber College North Campus by bus is the Toronto Congress Centre where newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Doug Ford held a “unity rally” on Monday night.

Unlike the Liberal Party and NDP, who proclaimed their coming platforms and touted policy goodies in the halls of power at Queen’s Park, the PC’s held the celebration they didn’t get on leadership election day because of a ballot issue.

Many political observers said, despite the contrast to the formal approach of the other major parties in downtown Toronto, the Etobicoke gathering was much needed for a party that has only seen division since that fateful night in January when Patrick Brown resigned as leader, forfeiting a previously nearly assured premiership.

The PC Party still has to replace the dropped “People’s Guarantee”, Mr. Brown’s old platform, but the party is now moving forward unified as all three leadership contenders were in attendance, in support of Doug Ford.

More details to follow. Image of Queen’s Park from previous files.  ■

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Province appealing to restore Student Choice Initiative

An Ontario court ruled against the SCI in November.



File photo of Premier Doug Ford.

The provincial government under the Progressive Conservatives is applying for leave to file an appeal against a ruling from the Divisional Court of Ontario that overturned the Student Choice Initiative.

A leave for appeal is a procedural measure that must be taken before an appeal is heard by the Court. Thus, the ruling of the Court stands and the SCI continues to be deemed unlawful.

The initiative, known as the SCI, was introduced earlier this year and came into play this fall semester. It allowed students to opt-out of paying certain “non-essential” ancillary fees that fund student unions, campus publication and other post-secondary organizations across the province.

The mandate came from the university and colleges ministry and was not passed through Queen’s Park. PC Party officials insisted to The Avro Post that it allowed for freedom of choice, allowing students to pay only for services that they felt was worth their financial support.

In response, the provincial division of the Canadian Federation of Students and York University’s student union filed a legal challenge against the SCI, stating that they failed to consult with students and should not have interfered with the autonomy of student unions.

Judges ruled unanimously in November to throw out the SCI, an unexpected victory for student allies. They found that the government has “no legal power to control the universities even if it wished to”.

A brief filed by the province on Monday evening states that the ruling restricts the authority to attach conditions to the funding given to public colleges and universities, according to reports by student newspapers.

“Attaching conditions to government grants in no way interferes with university autonomy and independence,” the brief reads, adding that post-secondary institutions “remain free” to accept taxpayer dollars, subject to the conditions that come along with the funding.

Over $5 billion comes from provincial coffers to the province’s 21 publicly assisted universities and 24 funded colleges. The Progressive Conservatives argue that the introducing optional student fees is an attempt to allow students to save more financially.

The court ruling, however, pointed out that the optional ancillary fees are a small portion of what students pay in tuition and other fees. For students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, there was only a charge of $55.95 compared to hundreds in overall fees.

The Winter 2020 semester starts in January and fees are due shortly. Some campuses are currently considering their legal options for removing the opt-out option for ancillary fees, The Globe and Mail reported.

IGNITE did not participate in the lawsuit against the province and did not offer support. The student union also refused to respond to the November ruling against the SCI until the government gave a statement. ■

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High school teachers launch day-long strike

The OSSTF is now on strike.



Photo for demonstration via Pexels.

The union representing public high school teachers launched a one-day strike on Wednesday morning after a deadline for a deal was missed, the first strike in 22 years by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

This means that classes are cancelled at public and Catholic high schools for the day. The bargaining team for the union had remained in their caucus room since 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning but there was no provincial representation, OSSTF said.


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Administrations, unions give varied response to SCI ruling

The U of T was first to close the SCI.



File photo.

On Nov. 21, the Ontario Divisional Court deemed the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative unlawful and the reaction has varied from sending the optional fees website offline to waiting on the Ford government’s response.

On Monday, Nov. 25, the University of Toronto responded by being the first university in Ontario to email its students informing them that they would be freezing the “incidental fees portal” while they took stock.

In an email to students from Vice-Provost Sandy Welsh, University of Toronto students were informed that the school was evaluating the “technical impact” of the court’s decision, and that there would be updates to come. 

In a graphic posted on their social media, Sheridan College said “Sheridan is monitoring the situation to see what course of action the government chooses to take. Until we receive a new directive, we’ll continue under the current one, which allows students to opt-out of paying certain fees.”

Few other post-secondary institutions have posted a public update about the new evolution in the implementation of the province of Ontario’s “Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines” document. [hyperlink:]

The University of Guelph has not released a statement yet, but administration has advised its student union, the Central Student Association, that large institutions can take time to implement legal decisions, and that figuring out mechanics with which to reverse the ”Student Choice Initiative” will take some time. 

While the government of Ontario has not yet commented on the releases, there is speculation that they are considering an appeal. In a statement on Friday November 22nd, spokesperson Clara Bryne wrote, “The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is currently reviewing the decision released yesterday. We will have more to say on this at a later date.”

Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario National Executive Representative, and the CFS representative in the legal proceedings, Kayla Weiler, said “we haven’t had any confirmation if there will be an appeal or not, and […] we’re hoping the government will respect the unanimous decision of the panel of judges and respect student democracy”

In its reasons, the Divisional Court said, “The University Guidelines [SCI] … are beyond the scope of the crown’s prerogative power over spending because they are contrary to the statutory autonomy conferred on universities by statute.”

Referring specifically to section seven of the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act wherein governments are prevented from interfering with the “normal activities” of student governing bodies – specifically the court ruled that “normal activities” the government is precluded from includes; “reducing or eliminating the funding used by student associations.” ■

Reporting by Jack Fisher; 
Editing by Eli Ridder.
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