Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina—Fort York and the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Critic for Training, Colleges and Universities, was hosted by the U of T New Democrats on January 30 to discuss the changes made by the Ford government to postsecondary education, and how these changes will impact students.
Glover, a former adjunct social sciences professor at York University and graduate of Innis College, spoke to a handful of students on a cold Wednesday evening.
During his opening presentation on student financial issues, he reiterated the NDP’s position on the provincial government’s reforms to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), the elimination of the six-month interest free grace period after graduation for OSAP loans, and the new opt-out feature for “non-essential” student fees.
The Ford government’s changes to postsecondary education were not welcome news to the MPP.
While Glover said that he agrees with the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) that the previous Liberal government’s Free Tuition plan was never really free tuition, he disagrees with the tuition cut, as it is unfunded.
“Ontario universities… will have $380 million less in operating revenue [next year], and colleges [will have] $60 million less in operating revenue,” Glover said. “If it was a fully funded tuition cut it [would have been] a wonderful thing because you would have been paying less for the same quality of education.”
While Glover had sharp criticism for the old plan under the Liberals, he did say that it allowed more students from low and middle-income families to benefit from the program, and that if it had continued, more of those students would have graduated with less debt.
Glover also voiced his concerns about the effect on student groups. He noted his dismay at the opt-out nature of student fees, saying that student unions could lose out on much of the revenue that they use for advocacy. He also claimed that the change is a political move to hamstring organizations and prevent them from fighting to reverse these and future cuts.
When asked what an NDP government would do, Glover cited the party’s 2018 provincial platform, in which it committed to working toward ending interest on student loans, converting more loans into grants, eliminating the province’s policy of using private loan collection agencies to collect OSAP, and lifting the budget freeze on colleges and universities.
When asked for solutions to the cuts and their effects, Glover said, “This is not inevitable,” adding that students need to organize at Queen’s Park and especially call on students in PC ridings to confront their local representatives.