Ontario Campus Conservatives debate public transit, mental health at regional conference

OPCCA conference opportunity for students to craft, propose policies
DINA DONG/THE VARSITY
DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) hosted its South Regional Policy Conference on January 19 at UTM. Students gathered to debate and pass policies on transit and mental health.

The conference, as its chair and former president of UTM Campus Conservatives Philip Power explained, was a chance for students interested in politics to gain experience in policy-making.

Public transportation and mental health were the two main topics up for debate at the conference. The conference was structured as a general debate — students formed delegations to propose appropriate policies — followed by a debate to amend the proposals.

Any amended policies that received a majority of the room’s vote would pass and be recommended to the OPCCA committee.

Following a talk by Mississauga—Lakeshore MPP Rudy Cuzzetto, the chair led a vote on which topic to debate first; public transportation beat out mental health by a landslide.

The general debate saw a myriad of proposals, including privatizing the transit system throughout the province, “uploading” the TTC to the provincial level, reducing travel times and costs, increasing transit service between Toronto and the Niagara region, and increasing the speed limit on the Queen Elizabeth Way.

Students expressed concerns regarding the cost of implementing certain proposed policies — namely uploading the TTC to the provincial level and building additional subway tracks.

Ultimately, policies proposing regular transit service in the Niagara region, increased private sector investment in public transit, and increased express bus routes to postsecondary campuses passed.

This gave way to the topic of mental health among students. In the interest of time, the chair dispensed with amending policies, which resulted in far fewer proposed policies.

“There has to be a protocol followed that if you’re being provided with [mental health] resources then you need to follow through with them, and if you’re not, then the university is not to blame for the repercussions,” proposed student Meara Deery.

“In contrast to that,” said student Ethan Bryant, “whereas mental resources and policies on Ontario’s postsecondary campuses fail to address their mental issues, be it resolved that there be an evidence-based… standard of mental health resources, one centred on accessibility and transparency.”

Deery’s proposal failed while Bryant’s proposal passed unanimously; this brought the OPCCA South Regional Policy Conference to a close.

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