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Trudeau appealing to Ontario students in platform reveal

The Liberal leader reveals his platform.

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File photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced on Sunday a campaign pledge to allow parents to take an interest-free break from repaying student loans until their youngest child turns five, a central part of his fully released platform.

The prime minister made the announcement from the University of Toronto Mississauga, where he also took questions from students.

The location of the reveal was strategic as the Liberals look to highlight the difference between their party’s pro-education stance and the provincial Progressive Conservatives, who have under Premier Doug Ford made cuts to education programs and finances, causing significant backlash.

The opposition Conservative Party have promised to increase matching grants for registered education savings plans as well as tax cuts for the lowest income bracket and tax credits for maternity benefits.

The New Democrats have pledged to get rid of interest on federal student loans, increase grants for post-secondary studies, and work with the provinces to eliminate tuition on post-secondary education over time.

The Greens have pledged to eliminate post-secondary tuition entirely and to forgive all student-loan debt held by the federal government.

The Liberals’ promised break on student loan payments is meant to target a middle class that they say have already benefitted from programs such as the Canada Child Benefit program, which gets an increase by 15 per cent in the re-election platform.

Typically, education policy is tackled at the provincial level but with Ontario holding 121 out of 338 ridings, and therefore seats in the House of Commons, the Liberals are making an effort to play on the recent discontent surrounding the PC government.

Premier Doug Ford and his provincial government made significant cuts to student grants and loans, public post-secondary funding and the introduction of the Student Choice Initiative, prompting outcry from student organizations. Ford also included a 10 per cent domestic tuition cut. ■

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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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Campus

Ontario high school teachers vote for strike

Teachers are ready to strike.

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Ontario high school teachers voted with a strong majority in favour of strike action on Monday as tensions build between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the province.

Teachers and occasional teachers voted 95.5 per cent in favour of strike action, while education workers voted 92 per cent in favour, according to a release by the OSSTF, which is already in a legal strike position.

Outside of the OSSLT, elementary teachers are working to launch a “work-to-rule” campaign on Nov. 26 to target administrators and the ministry but avoid an impact on the classroom. Beyond that, negotiations are continuing between Ontario and French teachers.

Negotiations between the government of Ontario and the union started over the summer break as Premier Doug Ford and his ruling Progressive Conservatives made moves to increase class sizes while cutting raises for public sector workers for three years.

In response to the threat of a strike for school support workers in October, Humber College put out an email to students acknowledging that there could be an impact for those enrolled who have children.

There has not been such a statement yet from the college, however, the OSSTF would have to give five days notice before actually going on strike. If there is a notice, parents would have at least five days to prepare. ■

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