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Province renews cap on post-secondary tuition fee increases for two years

Renewal to coincide with rollout of new tuition grants

Province renews cap on post-secondary tuition fee increases for two years

The province has extended the three per cent annual cap on university and college tuition fee increases, with the cap scheduled to last for another two years.

The limit was set to expire in 2017 and takes place amidst the rolling out of the new Ontario Student Grant (OSG), which will see OSAP integrated with a number of distinct provincial and federal grants and loans to create a holistic system of financial aid. Between the rollout of the OSG and the imminent question of whether or not the Ontario Liberals will retain control of Queens Park after the 2018 election, there is significant pressure on the government to implement reforms.

University of Toronto Students’ Union President Jasmine Wong Denike views the extension of the caps not as an end in itself, but rather as a process through which to enact broader reform.

“Although I don’t think that renewing the tuition increase caps is sufficient, I see it as an opportunity for the government to meaningfully consult students, and student-run organizations, on their policy suggestions to ensure that as many students as possible have access to affordable, high-quality education,” she told The Varsity.

Denike continued: “The OSG and the extension of the caps heading into 2017 prove to be an interesting change, and given the upcoming Provincial Elections (2018) it gives students a real advantage in engaging with the government to ensure that student issues, especially tuition, play a major role moving forward.”

Deb Matthews, who is Ontario’s Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, describes the extension as a stopgap measure before full financial aid reform.

“Limiting tuition fee increases balances affordability for students and their families, while providing postsecondary institutions with financial stability as we work to transform OSAP – making tuition free for low-income students and more affordable for students from middle-income families,” Matthews said in a press release. “Moving forward, we’ll continue to ensure that every qualified student has access to postsecondary education through our generous student financial aid program.”

A conversation with Matthew Thomas

The Varsity sits with the UTSU’s new Vice-President External

A conversation with Matthew Thomas

Matthew Thomas, who was recently appointed as the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Vice-President External, sat down with The Varsity to discuss his past experience in student government, social issues on campus, and his goals for his new position, including lowering tuition for undergraduate students.

Thomas fills the position vacated by Lucinda Qu, who resigned in October. The Vice-President External’s duties include organizing advocacy campaigns through the Community Action Commission and liaising with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) as well as student unions from other universities.

He applauded the CFS for its “Fight the Fees” initiative, but said that the campaign lacked short-term outlook.

“We need to work on what we can work on right now not just on the long term. I respect the CFS and their advocacy work, they are the largest national students movement in Canada and it wouldn’t make sense for us to not work with them. That being said, I think we can do more,” said Thomas.

Thomas has previously served on the University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit) as a First Year Representative, Athletics Commissioner, and University and Academic Affairs Commissioner. He highlights his role in the publishing of the University College Mental Wellness Handbook, running events such as exam de-stressors, and liaising between the UC Lit and the University College Council.

He added that he plans to “focus on bringing folks together, bringing together our divisional councils, [and] stopping the petty squabbling between them. Instead of promoting a culture of competition, promoting a culture of cooperation between them and doing what really matters — doing what student unions are here to do which is put the voice of the students first.”

On the controversy surrounding psychology professor Jordan Peterson, who became the subject of international media attention due to his comments on gender and Bill C-16, Thomas stated: “As an ally, as someone who is trying to stand in solidarity with trans and non-binary folks, I have to speak up. It is my obligation. The situation with Peterson, and I’ve tried to keep this to myself because that is not my place to speak and I don’t take up space, but as an ally I’m obligated to speak up in solidarity.”

“This has never been something that is about free speech, this is about human rights. This is about respect. This is about making sure that our students who are paying tuition to be here, our trans students, our non-binary students, feel safe in their classrooms. The UTSU has a role to play in this. The UTSU needs to stand up for their students,” Thomas continued.

“The campus is, right now — I will be the first to admit — just a little bit broken,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s beyond fixing. And I’m ready for the challenge.”

Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale speaks at Varsity office

Dale talks the U.S election, Trump's lies, media successes and failures 

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On December 16, Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star‘s Washington correspondent, gave a talk at The Varsity‘s office  at 21 Sussex Avenue.

Dale received considerable attention for his persistent fact-checking of statements made by Donald Trump during the recent U.S. election campaign, and was named one of 2016’s breakout media stars by Politico for his coverage.

Prior to covering the U.S. election, Dale covered Toronto City Hall during Rob Ford’s turbulent mayoral administration from 2010 to early 2015.

Beginning in June 2015, Dale’s election coverage focused primarily on the absurdity of Donald Trump’s campaign and his loyal followers.

The event lasted just under an hour and a half with both students and non-students in attendance. Dale’s talk was also streamed live on The Varsity‘s Facebook page.

Dale spoke about his peculiar experiences covering the campaign starting with his first interaction with Trump supporters at a Virginia rally in a NASCAR racetrack. Following this half-hour period, questions were opened to the audience both in-person and online.

Dale touched on the topic of Trump fans and their grievances: he saw them as a complex group filled with a variety of different kinds of people, saying: “There’s economic anxiety, yes there are a lot of racists out there, and yes there’s a whole bunch of other reasons why people backed him as well.”

With regards to Trump’s lying, Dale said it was more than strategic fibs: “What I found most remarkable wasn’t even particular lies. It was the casualness and needlessness with which he lied.”

When discussing the media’s failures in the election, which some say potentially contributed to Trump’s victory, Dale said the primary media failure was not, “that the media didn’t explain that there was this level of anger and support out there,” in fact, Dale said that there was plenty of reporting on Trump’s electorate. Instead, Dale believes that the media, including himself, was too “hyper-certain.”

“I think we had a polling error and we had a media error in explaining what polling data means and where it can go awry,” Dale said.

The future of media was discussed as well. This included the decline of traditional news reporting and outlets, the rise of social media and fast-paced news cycles, and the prominence of fake news.

The event concluded with online questions asking Dale about his background, as well as him offering some advice to young journalists.

Since the election, Dale said that he took a much-needed two week vacation, but will continue covering the Trump administration for the Star in the future.

Watch the recording of the livestream of the talk on Facebook.