Liberals prep high-stakes budget amidst calls for more funding

CFS-O, U of T, and OUSA offer reform proposals for post-secondary education

Liberals prep high-stakes budget amidst calls for more funding

Members of the post-secondary education community in Ontario are calling on the provincial government to make a number of important changes to post-secondary education in the upcoming budget. The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O), the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), and U of T are all making demands Ontario’s pre-budget consultations, which run until February 28. The consultations are an opportunity for individuals and organizations in Ontario to submit their priorities in advance of the upcoming provincial budget.

The demands include increased funding for post-secondary education, improved post-graduate employment outcomes for undergraduates, and fair graduate expansion allocations. The current Liberal government — which currently has a minority in the legislature — could fall on the budget, which will likely include policies aimed at appealing to voters ahead of an election.

Almost all of the demands boil down to an underfunded post-secondary education sector. According to Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s provost, Ontario currently has the lowest per-student funding in Canada. Regehr would like to see this funding increased in the upcoming provincial budget.

“We understand that there are huge constraints that the province is under,” Regehr noted, referencing the province’s $11 billion deficit. “But at the same time, we are very concerned about meeting the needs of our growing numbers of students.”

“Ontario’s research universities make a disproportionate contribution to the provincial economy,” she continued, “we need to look for government support to help us offer the kind of great education that we do.”

U of T is also calling for graduate expansion allocation that recognizes the different roles of universities in Ontario. A 2009 provincial government plan called for 6,000 new graduate student spaces in Ontario by 2016, but the report did not specify how the spaces would be allocated among universities.

Michelle Johnston, a legislative assistant/issues manager with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU), brushed off concerns over post-secondary underfunding. “Despite challenging economic times, the government is continuing to build on its investments in the post-secondary sector to ensure that students, colleges, and universities have the resources they need,” she said.

However, Johnston declined to comment on specific elements of the upcoming budget. “We are unable to comment on what decisions the government will make in the future,” she noted.

According to Johnston, the provincial government’s operating grant to universities increased by $1.58 billion — or 83 per cent — from 2002–2003 to 2012–2013. Specifically, per-student funding for universities increased from $6,719 in 2002–2003 to $8,605 by the end of 2012–2013 — an increase of 28 per cent.

“This confirms the government’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing the quality of education while maximizing the value from each taxpayer dollar,” Johnston noted.

Alastair Woods, chairperson of the CFS-O, feels that the level of provincial funding for post-secondary education is still too low. “With increased funding, we can reduce financial barriers for students while also focusing on increasing the quality of education we receive,” he said.

The CFS-O is also calling for a 30 per cent tuition fee reduction over three years, by repurposing money set aside for the Ontario Tuition Grant and education tax credits. Under the Ontario Tuition Grant, full-time post-secondary students may be eligible for 30 per cent off tuition if they are approved for OSAP, among a number of other conditions. The CFS-O opposes the Ontario Tuition Grant, noting that less than a third of students have accessed it.

Under the CFS-O’s proposed tuition fee reduction, the first year is cost-neutral, and will see a 17 per cent tuition fee reduction after re-allocating funds dedicated to the Ontario Tuition Grant and provincial education tax credits. The second and third years will cost $550 million, for a further 6.5 per cent tuition fee reduction per year.

The CFS-O has successfully influenced provincial education policy in the past — most recently, in the provincial government’s changes to flat fees. However, the provincial government has consistently pushed back against tuition fee reductions. In 2013, Brad Duguid, TCU minister, released a tuition fee policy framework that allows Ontario universities to increase tuition fees by three per cent per year for the next four years — a reduction from previous five per cent increases. Since 2006, tuition fees have increased by as much as 71 per cent in Ontario, according to the CFS-O.

Like the CFS-O, the OUSA is calling on the provincial government to reallocate tuition and education tax credit funding towards improvements to existing financial assistance programs. According to Chris Fernlund, vice-president of university affairs with OUSA, only one in three students earn enough money to make use of the government’s education tax credits while pursuing their degree.

Johnston affirmed the provincial government’s commitment to equitable access to post-secondary education. However, she declined comment on upcoming funding initiatives from the provincial government.

“Helping Ontario students with their costs is part of the government’s plan to keep post-secondary education within the reach of all families, while building the best-educated workforce in the world,” Johnston noted. More than 370,000 students — half of all full-time post-secondary students in Ontario — received student financial aid during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Both the OUSA and CFS-O are also calling for changes in the labour market. The CFS-O wants the province to collect statistics on unpaid internships and end unpaid work terms in the public sector, while the OUSA wants the province to assist in increasing paid co-operative education opportunities for undergraduates.

“OUSA is asking the province to provide funding that will encourage the expansion of paid co-op opportunities in non-traditional programs in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences,” Fernlund said. Fernlund noted that students who participate in co-operative programs had higher post-graduation employment outcomes than other students, and make $2-3 more per hour upon graduation.

Johnston addressed student concerns over unpaid internships. “The fact that a young employee is called an ‘intern’ by someone they work for does not mean that he or she is not an employee for purposes of the Employment Standards Act,” she noted. “The Ministry of Labour is always reaching out to employees and employers to make sure that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Employment Standards Act.”

U of T is also calling on the provincial government to expand funding for post-secondary entrepreneurship and experiential learning opportunities. U of T currently has a number of entrepreneurship opportunities such as campus-run accelerators, and experiential learning opportunities, such as co-operative opportunities and service learning.

Johnston pointed to the government’s Youth Jobs Strategy — a program designed to help youth find jobs or start their own businesses — as evidence of its commitment to providing employment opportunities for youth. The strategy included four funds aimed at generating employment opportunities for youth. One fund, the Ontario Youth Entrepreneurship Fund, provided $45 million to connect young people with mentorship and seed capital to start their own businesses.

UTM student centre expansion fails in close referendum

Heavy campaigning by UTMSU not enough to win vote

UTM student centre expansion fails in close referendum

Last week, a referendum held the by the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) on the question of raising funds to expand their student centre failed by a tight margin —  with 1,548 students voting in favour and 1,618 students voting against the proposed expansion, according to unofficial results.

The referendum took place January 28–30, with the UTMSU campaigning heavily, urging students to vote yes and expand the student centre. The goal of the expansion was to enlarge the student centre to include multipurpose rooms and club and society offices. According to UTMSU president Raymond Noronha, this expansion would have also improved food and other services to try and make the centre more of a hub for students on campus. The current building, built in 1999, can hold 6,000 students, which is less than the number currently enrolled.

Students currently pay $12.50 towards the student centre. The expansion would have increased this to $27 for three years to raise two million dollars, with the university agreeing to match the amount raised. UTMSU also wanted the students to pay an additional $10.50 per session as a permanent increase to their fees in order to maintain current operations and increase programming. Consequently, students would pay $37.50 per session, rather than the original $12.50 for the next three years, with the cost being reduced to $23 following the third year. The amount could then only be adjusted by no more than 10 per cent depending on the approval of the UTMSU Board of Directors.

Last year, UTMSU held a referendum posing the same question, which passed with a vote of 2,258 votes for, 1,368 votes against, but was ruled as ineligible to be ratified because U of T St. George students were able to vote.

Asked about the outcome of this year’s referendum, UTMSU president Raymond Noronha said, “I think that students already are paying high tuition fees. A lot of students who I spoke to were in favour of the expansion, but thought that the UTM administration should pay the entire cost of this expansion rather than part of it being passed on to students.”

Noronha remains optimistic despite the failed vote: “UTMSU did want students to vote yes due to the inherent benefits of an expanded students centre. But at the end of the day, UTMSU is a democratic organization. We asked students for their opinion via a referenda and a majority voted against.”

“And then there were the stories”

Bedouin Soundclash frontman Jay Malinowski discusses his new project and the ancestral influences behind his new album

“And then there were the stories”

Jay Malinowski & the Deadcoast, fronted by Canadian artist and  Bedouin Soundclash lead singer Jay Malinowski, will soon release their first album, titled Martel. The album is inspired by the life and times of Malinowski’s sailor ancestor, Charles Martel, whose adventures at sea were often retold to Malinowski as he grew up. In anticipation of Martel’s release, The Varsity sat down with Malinowski to talk about the album’s namesake and production.


The Varsity: Your ancestor, Charles Martel, is the inspiration for the album. Can you elaborate on how you came about choosing that topic?

Jay Malinowski: Charles Martel was a household topic for my grandfather. So originally, it was my grandfather telling me about the past as I was growing up — where we’d come from; that was really important for my grandfather. When I was young, I remember being really interested in it, but when it came to actually writing this record, the questions [became]: Why do we become the people we become? Why do we make the choices we make? Are they based on our self-definition or a set of vast, vast circumstances that were decided maybe 300 years in the past or 600 years in the past by our parents? I can’t control where I was born, but do I also have characteristics from something that’s way deeper? That was where it came to me from. And that’s the question that Martel asks; it’s the spirit of Martel on the record, as he goes through the oceans.


TV: Do all of the songs refer to real or re-imagined experiences of Charles Martel? Or did you integrate your own experiences into each of them?

JM: [I integrated] my personal experiences. I was seeing a pattern develop. I’d always been transplanted my whole life: I was born in Montréal, my parents are from Toronto, I grew up in Vancouver, and my grandfather is from Cape Breton. So there was this period of displacement; I’m sort of from Montréal, but really, I feel strongly towards the Pacific Ocean. Even in the choices I was making in life I was seeing a pattern with Charles Martel and with my grandfather. Maybe I wasn’t a sailor, like all the other Martels, but then, how different was my life, really? I was travelling a lot… I was always in transit. So I related so much to the story [of Martel]; I found [it] fascinating…

I wanted to make something that, for me, was drawing on the history of my family…[Charles Martel] started in Lyon, his mother was beheaded, his life was upheaved, he came across to the new world, fought against the country he was from, and then ends up becoming a Justice of the Peace in Màin a Dieu. With all those events that transpired…How does someone survive? His was a very dramatic section of life, but I think we all do that — we all find ourselves having to survive — so that’s something I related to.


IMG_1107TV: How did you go about researching for the album?

JM: For the beginning of it, it was all through my grandfather. My grandfather left behind all these notes… I think it was a generational thing for him too — family trees were important… He left behind all this genealogy… He had this line [of Martels] that he had written out, and then there were the stories. And so I went to Louisburg, and then his house…and I corroborated all the stuff I had been reading about. There’s a writer at the Cape Breton Post who’s a Martel historian as well, so there was a lot of stuff that I could get for it. And then you actually see it in person;  [there are] graveyards, all the anchors — they’re right by the seashore —  for all the Martels dating back. [The process] was profoundly moving.


TV: There’s a heavy use of strings and piano in Martel, more than there is in your other work. How did your experience working with these instruments differ from that of your previous works?     

JM: Strings were key — it was all piano and strings — which was totally different for me; before it was always guitar. Arranging with [strings] was very different. I remember the first time we played a song and [the band members] were like: “Okay, that’s great, but we can’t do that  twice,” and I was like, “Well, that’s the chorus — that has to happen at least three times.” For classical musicians, where you stop is just as important as the chorus; if you’re a pop musician, you’re like, “Well, that area’s kind of grey, but don’t worry about it — the chorus and the verse, that’s it, and whatever happens there is kinda alright,” whereas [for classical music] everything’s very written out and transcribed, so it was a completely different process.


TV: In addition to the album, you’ll be releasing a novella. What gave you the idea to add this as an accompaniment to the album? What can we expect from the novella?

JM: I had all the background to all the songs, which slowly became novels that I was sending to my publisher. And so I would go through  the lessons of each song, and my publisher said: “Maybe you should think about giving these to people who are gonna listen to the record.” I went to art school, but music became the communication tool — it was so much more effective — and this was the first time that I was like: “No,  there needs to be a written component to communicate.” ‘Cause the record does get it, but [the novella] is a huge tool in understanding the background and everything. …My grandfather [passed] me down stories, but then there were all these little notes and scribbled things that I never got to ask him about, so I’m going on this kind of treasure trail of things that he’d left. I kind of use that as the basis for Martel as a sailor, writing to his granddaughter; for the first time, it kind of tempers his rugged personality. Each letter has a lesson at the end, although the first chapter, “Skulls and Bones,” really just lays out the historical places — who Charles Martel is. The rest are sort of like dark fairy tales that actually happened; they correspond to songs… Some of them are based on my own experiences, some of them are based off of what my grandfather would tell me, but they all fit into the spirit of Martel.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

“Couples making out & me eating cheetos”

LGBTQ students share anecdotes, poems, and sentiments from their experiences looking for love at U of T

“Couples making out & me eating cheetos”

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Some of us will be spending the day with our significant others, staring into one another’s eyes, and others will be sitting alone at home with a bottle of wine and a box of cheap chocolate. Whether you think Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love or of consumerism, take time out of your Valentine’s week to read these charming stories, poems, and tweets from LGBTQ students at U of T looking for love all around the calendar year.


Nice Jewish boys 

I was doing my thing in a free modern/ballet dance class in the gay village and decided to see what the story was at a gay Jewish event held next door. The room was full of really hot athletic guys and I was like, “wow.

I went up to a group of people, started chatting, and I noticed they all had accents — maybe British. One of them asked: “Are you here for the rugby club?” A bartender then informed me that the Jewish event had been relocated to a bar down the street.

I finally got there and sat down next to this guy around my age. He was one of the executives of the gay Jewish organization. To my surprise, he was rather close-minded. He didn’t seem to understand that intersex people existed, or that bisexual people need to be taken into account when running a queer organization.

Out of nowhere, this drag queen shows up, drunkenly exclaiming: “I heard there was a party in here!” Somebody explained that it was a gay Jewish event, so she asked if everyone was circumcised. I wanted to leave, but also really wanted to see what would happen next.

She started flirting with me, and mentioned she was a redhead — and I love redheads. She asked for my number to send me a photo of her out of drag, and the picture was really cute, so I decided to see where it would go.

The reason I went to this event was to prove to my mom that I would not find a nice Jewish boy there — done.

— Jonathan Hadad, third-year, political science and sexual diversity studies



I fell in love with fire, and of course, I got burned. I fell in love with words that broke in my hands and kisses that left scorch marks on my lips. I traced her back while she slept because I was afraid that if I closed my eyes, she would disappear. Turns out, she left when my eyes were wide open. I tell myself, all you have to do is let it go. Let it go.

— Nicole Doucette, fourth-year, mineral engineering



Roommates (for Ami)

A’s hair smells of ginger soap

her toenails scratch my sleeping feet

and sometimes she looks very young

standing in the snow


A is moving in with me

I’ve hung paper moons on plaster holes

peeled the wallpaper down

to make room for her books


I have filled our drawers with birthday candles

My grandmother knows we go on dates —

But not with each other — to dimly lit rooms

I would gladly trade my parents’ hate

for our quiet Valentine’s


I could watch her dress all day


When A comes home, exhausted

she’ll cast their anger off with unwed socks

to be lost in laundry baskets

and we’ll sleep like cats

all winter

With great plans for the thaw

— Kate Burnham, second-year, english




The one that got away

It began on the last weekend of Reading Week last year. I was bored since none of my friends had returned to the city yet, so I decided to snoop around OkCupid. One profile caught my attention in particular: a tall, green-eyed, muscular, olive-skinned man. I decided against sending him a message out of fear of rejection.

The next morning I awoke to a message from the man I had viewed the night before and I was ecstatic. We messaged all of Saturday evening and exchanged numbers. We planned on meeting the following weekend, but the very next day we decided we could not wait an entire week and we met that afternoon. We grabbed coffee and wandered around Queen West in frigid February, talking for what felt like 30 seconds, but in reality was several hours. We talked about everything, from why he decided to move to Canada to philosophy and religion. We just clicked.

Several weeks went by and I was enjoying every single moment spent with him — but then things took a sharp turn. The company he worked for was going through a rough patch and laying people off. His hours were cut in half. His Canadian citizenship application would not be processed for a year, and he was worried he would not be able to find another company that would be willing to sponsor him so he could acquire another work visa. His was set to expire in a few months. The stress caused the relationship to unravel, and we ended on poor terms.

After a month, he reached out to me and apologized for the way things ended, and asked if we could give it another try. We tried, but the stress wore us down once again. I have not been in contact with him since. It hurts to think about what could have been if we were not faced with the stress of immigration and the fear of uncertainty. I think about him all the time, and I don’t even know if he is still in Toronto. I wish him the best, and in all honesty, I wish we had just one more chance. He’s the one that got away.

— Anonymous, fourth-year




Three times I kissed a girl and I liked it (sort of)

The first time, she was a friend of mine and we were on the dance floor at a club that we would later say we would never be caught dead in. Some guys were hassling us, and she pulled my face towards hers, laughing. We made out briefly, and it hardly served its purpose of creating the desired space between ourselves and our unromantic suitors. I had red lipstick all over my face. I didn’t wipe it off.

The second time, she was my dearest and oldest friend in the city and we were drunk and happy in the careless honeymoon phase of an inevitably doomed social group. We shared secrets and wine and kisses on the cheek. She put a pretzel in her mouth and offered me the other half. Our lips met briefly, and they tasted like salt.

The third time doesn’t really count. I wanted to kiss her and I did not — but it wasn’t like the times before, when it was just an intimate moment with a friend turned something more, but something small and fleeting. My heart was beating, faster. This time, I didn’t kiss her because for the first time, I really, really wanted to.

— Anonymous, fourth-year




Pizza and boobs: a series of tweets

November 15: Why does everyone talk about rob ford when we could talk about pizza and boobs

November 20: Wildly attracted to girls wielding a large weapon or a large pizza

November 24: this party has turned into couples making out and me eating cheetos

December 31: people say the sexiest curve on a girl is her smile but it’s her butt

January 15: I’m making a girlfriend out of pillows and watching rom coms with her if you guys wanna join, should be rowdy

January 19: u of t is offering gay and lesbian softcore parkour lessons for beginners this friday, what a time to be alive

— Hannah Reinsborough (@makeitreinss), third-year, criminology and sociology

For the love of the game

Varsity athletes express their passion and dedication for their sports

For the love of the game

In honour of Valentine’s day, we asked Varsity Blues athletes to explain their love for their sports. Competing on a varsity team requires a huge time commitment, but its benefits overpower the struggles of the commitment and contribute to the love of athletes for their sports and teams.


McKinnley Morris | Women’s Rugby


There’s nothing more physically satisfying than rugby, and the culture of the sport is one of the best things about it. At the beginning of the match, you get to negotiate the rules with the ref, you beat the hell out of the opposing team, and then afterwards we all go and socialize together — you leave everything on the pitch. The level of trust necessary to play the sport brings a level of camaraderie that turns your teammates into your family. This is one of the most amazing aspects of the sport. Our season never ends; we go from CIS to sevens to summer rugby and around again. This constant competition requires relentless training, and nothing feels better than sweating, bleeding, running, crying, and winning alongside your family. No other sport could challenge me and yet support me like rugby does.


Darnell Girard | Track and Field


There’s something really raw about stepping into a throwing circle and giving everything that you’ve got, trying to throw the shot put further than anybody else who steps in there after you… It’s just you and a 16-pound ball in your hand, and if you can throw that thing further than anyone else does that day then you deserve to win… With other sports there can be argument for who really “deserved” to win, or how one athlete carried his/her teammates to victory, but at the end of a competition, I know that on that particular day there is nothing that anyone can say to take away my performance from me; it is something that is completely my own. It’s this amazing feeling of accomplishment and responsibility that makes me love my sport, and it is a love that I will carry with me long after my days in the throwing circle are over.


Kevin Deagle | Men’s Hockey

Deagle 1

I love hockey for a dozen reasons, but I’ll mention three. It is through hockey that I have lived the Canadian dream since I was five, playing in hockey arenas across this great country for as long as I can remember. Secondly, the sport builds your character past what you might have imagined, and then brings out the best — then worst — in yourself to test that character. Lastly, the camaraderie in sport is unequalled. A bond forms among the men you stand shoulder to shoulder with in competition that, through success or adversity, cannot be broken. These reasons, and many more, are why I love hockey.


Rachael Sider | Women’s Basketball


I got into basketball competitively at age 9, after years of shooting around in the park with my dad. I love basketball in part because it’s always been a family affair; I played with my sister for years, my dad coached us, and I helped him coach my brother. Our respective seasons still dominate family discussions, and keep us all close, despite the physical distance. I also love the fast-paced nature of the game and the challenge of competing against both opponents in a game, and yourself in practice.

Vanessa Treasure  | Women’s Swimming


I started this sport as a little girl who just loved to swim. The passion, drive, and determination that resides in me grew that love of the water more than I ever thought possible. The early mornings are all worth it when you stand behind the starting blocks with confidence. The memories of painful training sessions transform into faster times, and the countless heartbreaking disappointments vanish when you are standing at the top of the podium, blowing a kiss to your mom. If I take my journey as a competitive swimmer and strip away the titles, the requirements, and the detailed regimens, I find that same little girl that started for the love of the sport.


Dakota Laurin  | Men’s Basketball


What I love most about the game of basketball is the team dynamic that it places you in. Almost everyday you compete with and against your teammates ­— overcoming defeats, celebrating successes, and all the while making each other better players and people. Pretty soon, your teammates become your best friends; together you experience the highs, the lows, and everything else that life has to offer. I know that long after I leave the basketball court, the friendships I made will still be with me. That is why I fell in love with the game.

Student movements need to look internally to be succesful

Organizers need to do more to engage students directly

Student movements need to look internally to be succesful

Over the past few months in the city of London, UK, hundreds of students have been taking to the streets to protest the forced closure of the University of London Union — the University of London’s central students’ union.

Throughout the demonstrations, the students have faced aggression from the authorities, been arrested, and have had their right to protest severely curtailed by the university administration. In contrast, when it comes to mobilizing against cuts to university education in Ontario, the situation is dismal. The now-defunct annual protest to “drop fees,” organized by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), could only ever muster luke-warm support, while students certainly don’t like paying high fees, there is little enthusiasm to do anything about it.

One doesn’t have to go far to see student mobilization in action. In 2012, Quebecois students went on strike in response to a proposed tuition fee increase of 75 per cent. Student activists across the province have posed the question of why Ontario students can’t replicate Québec’s results. The finger is often pointed towards the apathetic masses of students, who do not take part in the work towards affordable education — either consciously or out of ignorance. And so organizers spend most of their time during the year appealing to students through rhetoric and buzzwords to encourage action and involvement.

While this sense of apathy does exisit to a certain extent, with respect to mobilizing for education, students are far from being disengaged members of society. Both inside and outside the classroom, many students are actively involved in issues they care about — whether the issue is tackling the stigma around HIV/AIDS, or examining the effect municipal policies have on the city’s working class; students are involved. The problem does not lie with students, but with the student organizers. We are asking the wrong questions. Rather than assuming students are as apathetic as we think they are, we should be asking how we came to that conclusion in the first place.

The answer is simple: while well-versed in activist ideology and rhetoric student organizers in Ontario, including myself, all fail to listen to their fellow students. We get so lost in talking and reading about organization that we fail to stop and give students the chance to participate in the movement. It is not a case of merely forgetting; when students try to participate in the process and present alternative ideas, they are either shunned, or treated with hostility. Often those who dissent, regardless of political affiliation, are referred to as right-wingers bent on pursuing a campaign of union-busting. It is true that there are political parties that do try to undermine the work of student unions, but, for the most part, the threat is exaggerated.

While claiming to speak for students, organizers continue to maintain a condescending attitude that gives the impression that they know the best practices to guide the student movement, and that the student body is too ignorant to contribute effectively. The status quo of ignoring voices in student movements needs to change. We need to radically rethink how we organize ourselves on campus. We may not agree with all the ideas presented to us, but we need to attempt to include as many voices as we can. Theory is important, but without the involvement of students, it is meaningless.

In addition to listening to students, we need to restructure our systems of participatory democracy to ensure students have more of a say more often. One such model exists in the direct democracy model, applied in general assemblies of the Québec student movement and the Occupy Wall Street protests. Direct democracy allows people to vote on specific policies, as opposed to leaving all of the decisions to a representative executive. Organizers in Ontario have rejected the model, suggesting that such a structure would disenfranchise minority voices. However, as Occupy has successfully demonstrated, direct democracy can be put into place with controls to ensure that minority voices are adequately represented.

If we do not take these steps, students will continue to be disenfranchised, organizers will continue to boast about victories, and tuition fees will continue to increase.


Abdullah Shihipar is a third-year student and an Arts & Science Students’ Union execuitve. The views expressed here are his own. 

Tech startups to seek out student talent at You’re Next job fair

Eighty companies, 1500 students will attend the Febuary 25 event

Tech startups to seek out student talent at You’re Next job fair

Looking for a summer job? Or are you graduating in the spring and looking for full-time work? Interested in working for a company that is pushing the boundaries of technology today? Well, then, it is time to polish up your résumé and dig out your portfolio: the largest start-up career expo in the country is coming to town, and you will not want to miss it.



On February 25, 80 companies and an estimated 1,500 students will descend on the MaRS Discovery District for a full day of networking. The event is being organized by the You’re Next Career Network, a non-profit organization originally founded by U of T students. Their stated goal for the expo? “To connect students to startups as well as to provide a strong community to foster a startup mentality at the University of Toronto.”

It’s an event that has been in the planning for over a year, and has become much bigger than the organizers ever initially intended. You’re Next Career Network ran their first startup expo in the Great Hall at Hart House, just over a year ago, with 38 companies and about 700 student attendees. When Matt Pua, managing director for the startup hub and a current engineering student at U of T, began working on plans for this year’s event with his team, they planned for only a modest increase in attendance and company participation.

In late November, their plans changed. As Pua puts it, “We were discussing being a little bit more ambitious. [We said] let’s bring more companies, let’s bring more students.” The result? They switched venues and began marketing the expo at universities all across Ontario ­— and with 80 startups participating, it is now expected to be the biggest event of its kind anywhere in the nation.

Although the expo will be set up much like a traditional career fair, the focus on startups makes it unique. Many of the participating companies have been founded only in the last three or four years, often by entrepreneurs who were only recently students themselves. Pua says that it is “different in the sense that the startups aren’t as known yet, but they’re pushing more innovative things than at the corporate, larger companies … they [the startups] move faster, they change faster, they can adapt faster.” The startups that will be attending the expo are looking for students with motivation, passion, and creativity — but recruiting students is not the only benefit for these companies. The expo is also an opportunity for startups to build up their own contacts in the industry, to network, and to promote themselves.

Sameera Banduk recently joined Thalmic Labs, one of the startups attending the expo, as their marketing director. She describes the startup culture as “a really exciting place to be,” and says that the biggest difference between working for a startup and working for a larger, more established corporation is the “ability to have a really big impact on whatever you’re working on … Every single thing you do contributes in a big way.”

Although dress and atmosphere may be more laid back than at a traditional career fair, the startups are still looking for top talent ­— the best that U of T and the other Ontario universities have to offer. Philip Chen, a U of T engineering alumnus, is a co-founder and the coo of Seamless Mobile Health, a recent startup that aims to reduce hospitals’ readmission rates by allowing patients released from hospital after surgery to track their symptoms, and providing them with advice in real-time. In the future, the company is looking to expand internationally, and to build partnerships with large hospital systems in both Canada and the US.

According to Chen, students wanting to stand out at the expo should have “a good understanding of the company, and how they can help the company achieve that vision.” Banduk says that the most important qualities include “being passionate, being able to prove that you can tackle challenges.” Pua strongly recommends that students bring not only a résumé, but a portfolio, or samples of their work, or anything else that demonstrates their creativity.

Many of the participating companies are looking for developers and engineers, but those are not the only positions available — many of the startups are also looking to build their marketing teams, their design teams, or their sales teams. Other open positions include business analysts, data scientists, product managers, copywriters, and social media specialists, and companies will be recruiting interns as well as full-time employees.

For those who may be curious about the startup culture but do not know where their particular skill set might be best employed, the You’re Next Career Network is also offering a career expo bootcamp this coming Wednesday evening, exclusively for University of Toronto students. Attendees will hear a keynote talk about the advantages and challenges of working at a start-up, followed by presentations and the opportunity for open discussion with ten mentors from different industries. The goal is to help students decide what areas they might want to work in, and then to help them target specific roles that suit their strengths. Attendees will also get early access to the complete list of companies and positions available at the upcoming expo.

The Start Up Career Expo will be held from 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, February 25. Students who register in advance of the event will be entered to win prizes sponsored by some of the startups attending the expo. The Start-Up Career Expo Bootcamp is this Wednesday, February 12, from 6 pm to 8 pm; participation is restricted to 60 students, so early registration is advised.


Selected companies in attendance


Seamless Mobile

Seamless Mobile was founded by two U of T students and a friend from UBC, who met through Next36, a selective program for student entrepreneurs that provides instruction, mentorship, and financial support for participants. The award-winning app supports patients who are recovering from surgery and have been released from the hospital. By allowing patients to track their symptoms, catch any signs of distress or complications, and get real-time advice, the company works with hospitals to lower their surgical readmission rates. Current positions include a web and social media intern, and a market research intern; they are also looking to increase their development team.



Founded in July 2010, this startup focuses on tablet-based lead capture and data collection, allowing businesses to conduct surveys and analyze results with leading edge mobile technology. At the moment, they are particularly looking for people with experience developing applications in Java.


Juice Mobile

Also founded in 2010, Juice Mobile provides mobile marketing services to publishers, brands, and advertisers. By demystifying the often puzzling and certainly very new field of mobile marketing, Juice Mobile provides their clients with new technologies that allow for more efficient advertising. Recent achievements include launching Canada’s first real-time bidding platform, and launching live countdown, multi-tab expandable, and wipe-away advertisements. This past year, they released a new mobile platform, Nectar, that eliminates price from the purchase equation. Open positions include a junior C++ developer, a junior sales planner, and a junior account executive


Thalmic Labs

The Myo armband from Thalmic Labs seems like something out of a science fiction novel — by simply gesturing with your hand, you can interact freely with your computer, phone, or any other digital device. The company has started shipping prototypes to selected developers, and plans a wider release for mid-2014.  The armband works by sensing muscle movement, and transmitting the information over Bluetooth. If the idea of wearable technology gets you excited, they are looking for electrical, software, and mechanical engineers, as well as designers and customer support specialists.



Eventmobi’s platform allows clients to easily and quickly create a mobile app for any sort of conference or event. Just this month, they released Fusion 2.0, a tool that integrates all aspects of event coordination ­— a help desk, registration, surveys, interactive maps, sharing conference files and presentations, and more. After downloading the customized app onto their mobile device, conference attendees can access the app (and all of the relevant information) even if the event location itself does not have an internet connection. Who are they looking for? According to cto and co-founder Bob Vaez, “people who take initiative, add value, and are willing to learn every single day.”



FreshBooks is an invoicing and billing application, designed to solve the accounting and organizational problems of small business owners. It provides users with the ability to create and manage invoices, expenses, and projects, all in one place. Founded in 2003, the company now boasts over five million users in 120 countries, and bills itself as the “#1 cloud accounting solution.” Positions are available in development, marketing, product management, and design.

The first daily deal site owned and operated in Canada, TeamBuy was founded in 2009 and aims to bring its clients “great deals every day in cities across North America.” By guaranteeing their merchants a certain number of customers, they can offer the public discounts of usually around 50 to 60 per cent off. The company was also featured on the CBC show Dragon’s Den, and in less than five years, they have grown to 120 employees, with over three million online members. They’re looking for a back-end developer, and copywriting, graphic design, and social media interns, amongst other positions.

U of T steps into Internet privacy conversation

Setting privacy limits a defining issue for our generation

U of T steps into Internet privacy conversation

An open letter written last month by U of T post-doctoral fellow Christopher Parsons focused on the current state of Internet privacy and government surveillance in Canada. Parsons’ letter emphasized the importance of this issue to our local community at U of T.



The letter, which was sent to each of the country’s major phone and internet service providers (ISPs) — including Bell Canada, Telus, as well as Rogers and its subsidiary Fido — requests that the companies publicize the extent to which they provide customer information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

In the post-Snowden era of Internet privacy, Parsons and others are continuing the often difficult and unpopular work of pulling back the veil of government surveillance. Students across the country, continent, and indeed, the world, are aware of the new status quo, but may not have considered the full privacy implications of increased access to information online. It is, unfortunately, easy to ignore the droning of television anchors or the frequently updated headlines of news sources as they appear on Facebook and Twitter, especially when the medium lends itself to distraction. The irony, of course, is that as these stories appear, they are swiftly buried under an infinite stream of online information.

Last month, The Varsity published a comment piece about the administrative backdoors of Blackboard Portal, U of T’s ubiquitous online class organization service. The article noted that the online learning tool allows course administrators to see how often students in their courses access readings, the syllabus, and other materials; this effectively allows professors to keep tabs on students’ engagement without their knowledge. It is unclear how many U of T professors use the website for that purpose, nor is this aspect of Blackboard a secret. Nevertheless, many if not most U of T students don’t know that their habits can be monitored in this way. This is an example of the relatively superficial understanding most people have of their own online presence.

Canada’s government is also implicated in the surge of revelations relating to Internet and wireless communication privacy over the past year. Our own federal government has been tied to international spying efforts, as well as the sharing of metadata with foreign agencies through the Communications Security Establishment Canada — our equivalent of the American National Security Agency. It remains uncertain how much work has gone into building a national surveillance infrastructure similar to that of the United States, but what is certain is that our government — and by extension, the governments of other countries — have some access to Canadians’ online activity.

It is encouraging to see that Canadians like U of T’s Christopher Parsons are using legitimate channels to combat unjustified surveillance in Canada. Whether or not our elected government should be given the power to keep track of our movements and online presence is a valid and pertinent question. Those who suggest that these stories are harmless — or that they are the product of the natural progression of security in the information age should not pacify us, just as those who cry foul and indulge in Orwellian conspiracy theories should not panic us. Setting the boundaries of privacy, particularly online, is a defining issue for our generation. The precedents we set today will be hugely influential.  How our society debates and implements Internet privacy mechanisms now will undoubtedly have lasting effects for the future, as the scope of the Internet continues to expand. It is imperative that young people educate themselves on this process, while also being wary of what they are willing to share online. A vast network of complicated communications hides behind the familiar graphic interfaces of our mobile messengers, our Facebook profiles, our email, and so on.

True power lies in citizenship. Whether or not our personal information is being used for good or bad, it is ours, and we have a right to hold those who would take it from us to account. The work already being done by concerned members of the U of T community should act as a model for those with their own concerns. It is crucial that these decisions be made in the light of day, and any efforts to pull them into the spotlight — and to inform more people — are positive. The waters remain murky, but it is only by wading in that we can start to judge their depth.