Eli Ridder | Report
An alliance of campus groups and the Young Liberals hosted a rally on Wednesday at the University of Guelph against the significant changes to student financial life made by the Ontario government last week.
Former Liberal education minister and Member of Provincial Parliament Liz Sandals criticized the changes, which will include a 10 per cent tuition price cut, less grants in the Ontario Student Assistance Program and optional student fees starting in August.
Sandals, who previously represented Guelph at Queen’s Park, said it was her, MPP Deb Matthews and ex-premier Kathleen Wynne who orchestrated the OSAP overhaul that came into effect in the fall of 2017 that gave free tuition for some 200,000 students.
These changes — the Ontario Student Grant program — came with more grants so that more students could go to post-secondary institutions for less in Ontario. However, this was wiped off the table by Premier Doug Ford last Thursday.
Representatives from the campus Liberals and New Democrats also spoke out against the changes at the rally along with the Central Student Association’s Vice President of External Affairs Kayla Weiler. A representative of Guelph’s MPP spoke as well.
There were some 30 students that watched the speakers, however, there were hundreds streaming by as they made their way through the University Centre. The campus Young Liberals initiated the event and brought in keynote speaker Sandals.
The province announced the changes on Jan. 17, the second time in two years there will be major changes to how students apply and receive a mixture of grants and loans from the Ontario Student Assistance Program, among other student life altercations.
The second-in-charge of the post-secondary institutions file, told The Avro Post on Friday that the Ontario government is “putting students first”, and giving those enrolled freedom with the “Student Choice Initiative” — which are optional student fees.
Student unions, including the University of Guelph’s CSA and the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College’s IGNITE have railed against the optional student fees, saying it threatens their democratic government, clubs and some services.
MPP David Piccini, parliamentary secretary to the education minister, said that dental and health services are “essential” and therefore would remain funded. CSA Vice President Weiler said that the current fees allowed certain services to remain affordable.
‘Show up, unite, fight back’
Vice President Weiler, who an elected representative for students at the University of Guelph, said that students will be the “victims” of the provincial changes, saying that students united are stronger and can vouch for more publicly-funded education.
Weiler described an effort by the CSA, the student union for Guelph, to bring together student leadership across the province to protest and attempt to halt grant cuts and the optional student fees initiative, which she says will harm unions and clubs on campus.
“We need to work together. We need to stand united. We can’t fight against each other over the scraps that are left from the government. If we put in the effort we will see results. Show up, unite, fight back,” she told The Avro Post.
Weiler confirmed that IGNITE was included in the advocacy effort, saying that unions are not going “to work in silos” and that executives are “trying to make this a province-wide effort” — adding that Guelph-Humber students are free to reach out to the CSA.
Initial story — more details to follow. Images from The Avro Post