Our province is once again in crisis because of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative party. This winter break has shown Ontarians that Ford and his government are not only inept but also unprepared, deserving nothing less than our total condemnation.
Of course, our university communities are already familiar with the effects of Ford and his incompetent, sorry excuse for a government. From the authoritarian imposition of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) to his cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), he has disrespected the U of T community beyond the point of forgiveness.
Ford’s interference with our universities
In September 2019, The Varsity interviewed some students and faculty who were directly affected or who knew people that were directly affected by Ford’s cuts, who had to take on extra work or give up their dreams of attending university entirely.
In that article, Ananya Banerjee, an assistant professor and interim program director at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health described the dire situation: “Fewer individuals from marginalized communities will be entering our post-secondary education system, and those that do will spiral into severe debt in order to afford it, leading to a rise in mental health issues.” That’s exactly what has happened, all because Ford and his ‘Progressive’ Conservative party cannot bring themselves to even act as if they care about their constituents. That is because, evidently, they don’t — and it seems like Doug Ford never has.
Ford has also tried to interfere with university affairs through the SCI, albeit unsuccessfully. If the SCI had remained in effect, who knows how many negative consequences could have been caused for the thousands upon thousands of our fellow students at U of T. From the very publication that you are reading, to legal services provided for students facing accusations of plagiarism, to many more student resources, important student services could have been put in jeopardy or completely erased.
We must not allow Ford to continue interfering with Ontario universities. He justifies harmful policies by claiming to purge universities of “crazy Marxist nonsense,” and in doing so, he appeases far-right members of his party by fighting against the things schools like U of T truly represent: enlightenment, free thought, tolerance, inclusivity, and progress.
Ford gets an F on COVID-19
Ford’s vendetta against good, publicly funded education continues to this day, and unions that support teachers — including countless Ontario Institute of Studies in Education alums like my own mother — continue to be treated by the provincial government as the bane of Ford’s existence.
Especially with the rise of the Omicron variant, we’ve seen teachers and health care workers, among others, working hard during the pandemic to keep essential services functioning — yet they’re not being praised and supported by the government of the people they serve. Instead, their unions and associations have criticized Ford for making their lives harder through his cuts and unfair legislation.
These workers aren’t alone. Indeed, us students, staff, and faculty know the effect of Ford’s failed premiership too well.
Because Ontario has restricted testing for COVID-19, many students, health care and education workers, and regular citizens have been made to feel so unsafe and they fear going to work or going on campus. The government’s refusal to plan ahead has also fuelled people’s fear of catching COVID-19 — his leadership has failed both the test of people’s confidence and the test posed by this pandemic.
A government responsible for over 14 million people should have stepped up to the plate by now and taken the proverbial bull by its horns. Instead, alongside the atrophy of an utterly unprepared cabinet, our own premier — the leader who controls our education and health care — disappears from public view when the going gets tough.
Let’s not forget about the public school teachers who have had to work through the pandemic with barely any improvements in classroom ventilation and no blanket mandatory vaccination mandate for teachers or students meeting in person.
Now, the government’s lack of responsibility has gone so far as to compromise our testing and health care infrastructure, leading many Ontarians to revert to a private health care dystopia, paying out of pocket for basic pandemic needs such as testing, and even for non-urgent surgeries, due to the complete collapse of our mismanaged provincial health care services. Seniors like my great-grandmother — some of our most at-risk fellow citizens — are catching COVID-19 in for-profit long-term care homes, which have received inadequate help from the provincial government.
In the middle of a pandemic, our health care system should be reinforced and invested in, but instead, it has been left disgraceful, dilapidated, and unprepared. Our public and universal health care is no longer universal because of Ford’s cuts, unpreparedness, and timidity. People have died and are dying because of that man’s decisions.
Enough is enough
Good people all over Ontario are facing difficulties due to Ford’s critical missteps. Hardworking parents, both at U of T and across Toronto, are facing the impossible choice between supervising small children doing online learning and showing up to do essential work while scrambling to find childcare options. Ontarians are now being told that they can’t get tested, and people looking to get potentially life-changing surgeries are being turned away. Due to OSAP cuts, prospective and current students at our university and across the province have to weigh education against the prospect of huge debts, the inability to get a loan, and the already existing marginalization.
It’s not enough for Ford or his cabinet to hide behind the excuse of a difficult pandemic. No province has been perfect, but not many of them have collapsed as profoundly as Ontario has. Our province is in shambles, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The next provincial general election is currently scheduled on June 2, and anyone legally residing in Ontario can register to vote on the Elections Ontario website. Those who would like a reminder to go to the polls and help stop another Ford government can schedule a pre-election reminder email on the Ontario Federation of Labour website.
We cannot make the same mistake.
We must vote Doug Ford out.
Logan Liut is a first-year social sciences student at University College.