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The Panel: Politicians fight for student votes

Three politicians from major Ontario political parties talk student issues at The Panel.

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Eli Ridder | The Avro Post

Politicians from three Ontario political parties took the stage in the Humber College Student Centre to promote their platforms during The Panel, a discussion focused largely on students and young adult issues. 

Han Dong, a sitting member of provincial parliament for the Trinity-Spadina riding in Toronto, represented the Ontario Liberals and utilized an array of statistics and policy knowledge to defend his ruling party.

New Democratic Party candidate for the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas riding Sandy Shaw countered the Liberal MPP on several issues, and strongly promoted party leader Andrea Horwath’s “student-friendly” platform.

Pauline Thornham represented the provincial Green Party, sticking to party platform and touting welfare, environmental and social values.

All three are running in their respective ridings in the upcoming provincial election slated for June.

The Progressive Conservative Party was set to send Simmer Sandhu, and despite the fact that he scheduled several weeks in advance, the candidate and former University of Guelph-Humber alumnus cancelled the afternoon before.


Editor’s Note: The Avro Post has no affiliation with IGNITE, which is featured in the banner in the background.


The Panel

Watch part two of The Panel. Part one was set up, so this is the start of it.


The first question asked by The Panel host Adam Donaldson of Guelph Politico was what the different parties could do for students, and they all had varied and descriptive answers.

“Students are our future, and I don’t think they’ve been well served to this point by the governments that we’ve had in place,” Ms. Shaw said, addressing “crushing debt” and the lack of jobs experienced by many Ontario post-secondary students.

The NDP candidate said that students “care about a world where we pay attention to our environment…fair and kind to everyone and there’s an inclusive society”, along with accountable government involving electoral reform.

Shaw touted the NDP’s debt forgiveness program where tuition loans would be turned into grants, all future tuition would be universally free and there would be more co-op opportunities for those enrolled in post-secondary.

Liberal MPP Dong cited student organizations and their presence at Queen’s Park as a positive way for their message to be shared in the provincial legislature.

Mr. Dong cited top three issues for students that he has heard at parliament: tuition, mental health and anxiety over graduate jobs, saying that his ruling Liberal Party have taken steps in all three issues.

The new and easier OSAP system,


The rest

Keep watching here.

 


Closing statements

Watch the closing statements of the panelists. Note that Pauline Thornham’s closing was cut off right near the end due to a full memory card.


All footage Creative Commons The Avro Post 2018, and can be reused with credit to The Avro Post. Image of The Panel: Students and Politics Mar. 23, 2018 from Fredrick Lariviere.  ■

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Campus

Province appealing to restore Student Choice Initiative

An Ontario court ruled against the SCI in November.

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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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Ontario

High school teachers launch day-long strike

The OSSTF is now on strike.

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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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Campus

Administrations, unions give varied response to SCI ruling

The U of T was first to close the SCI.

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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: http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/mtcu-university-tuition-framework-guidelines-mar2019-en.pdf]

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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