Reacting to the Ontario provincial election results

Four student perspectives reflect hopes and fears for the new Progressive Conservative majority government

Reacting to the Ontario provincial election results

The 2018 Ontario provincial election has produced a dramatic shift in the political orientation of the legislature, with the Progressive Conservatives (PC) forming a government for the first time in 15 years. Below, Comment contributors assess minimum wage policy, voter turnout, political uncertainty, and the need for change as they react to the election results.


Improved voter turnout shows hope for democracy

Last week’s election in Ontario drew out crowds from all sides of the issues, spelling disaster for the Liberals and ushering in a new era of PC government. While this may not have been a desired outcome for many, the vote was indicative of the current state of political dissatisfaction in Ontario, with voter turnout reaching a nearly 20 year high.

Voting is an essential part of participating in our democracy: it ensures that our governments are truly representative of those they are elected to serve. The increased voter turnout in both the 2015 federal election, and in this provincial election, are hopefully telling of increased political engagement in Canada. With more people making their way to the ballot box, our democracy becomes immeasurably stronger, by ensuring all voices are heard, and therefore increasing accountability and responsibility for candidates to work to reach voters and understand their constituencies.

Many issues were raised during this election, from buzzword topics like hallway medicine to the funding of transit systems. These topics seemed to resonate with voters, as they were compelled to have their voices heard by coming out to the polling stations. Let this election’s result be a warning to Canadian politicians: the voters want change, and their ballots reflect that.

Anastasia Pitcher is a second-year Life Sciences student at New College.

 

The PCs’ minimum wage policy will harm low-income Ontarians

As the PCs take office, any hope of future increases in minimum wage will be frozen until further notice. One of Doug Ford’s platform points was to freeze minimum wage at the current $14 per hour and implement a tax credit removing those earning less than $30,000 a year from the income tax rolls.

‘Tax cut’ was a buzzword used during the campaign in order to appeal to lower-income households. This contrasted with the Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) promises to increase minimum wage to $15 at the beginning of 2019. However, Ford’s proposition of a tax credit for minimum wage earners would only apply to provincial tax, while three-quarters of the tax rate for minimum wage workers is federal.

According to economist Sheila Block, in 2015, the average tax rate for Ontarians earning less than $30,000 a year accounted for only 0.9 per cent of their income. However, only 34 per cent of this category actually pay tax, and they pay $485 on average. It is clear that such a small tax cut under new PC policy is not in any way better than a $15 minimum wage increase. In a 37.5 hour work week, a one dollar increase in wages would reap $1,950 a year, before taxes.

The PC platform point of eliminating income taxes for minimum wage earners disguises the fact that those who rely on minimum wage including students will be on the losing end for at least the next four years. This is counterproductive, considering the many students who rely on minimum wage jobs in order to pay for their postsecondary education and living costs.

Areej Rodrigo is a fourth-year English, Professional Writing and Communications, and Theatre and Performance student at St. Michael’s College.

 

Ford’s lack of a fully-costed platform lends to an ambiguous future for Ontario

It seems that Doug Ford has discovered the ultimate trick to avoiding accountability: not having an election mandate to be held obligated to in the first place. The most concerning facet of Ford Nation’s ascension to government is that the people of Ontario are ultimately taking a gamble with their government, given the lack of realistic policy statements from the Premier-elect. Barring a smattering of tweet-like bullet points on the PC website, there is very little to refer to if one is seeking to predict how Ontario’s new government is going to govern — including no trace of the fully-costed platform that Ford had promised would be released by Elections Day.

Of course, there are the promises made at innumerable rallies and debates. Yet said promises run the gamut from the reasonable to the ridiculous: for instance, “mandating” free speech in university and banning cellphones in classrooms. And it is perhaps the former that are more troubling than the latter, as Ford has been almost completely mum on the issue of paying for what Global News calculated amounts to $5.76 billion in lost tax revenue and over $8 billion in new spending.

Ford’s vagueness and inexperience — having only served a single term on the Toronto City Council — are all the more glaring when considered in light of frequent insinuations by conservative pundits that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “all style and no substance,” and that the Ontario NDP is made up of an unproven team of political rookies.

The incoming Premier’s affable spontaneity is surely a hit at his family’s annual Ford Fest, but uncertainty and improvisation is no way to run a government. In a time of increasing international political and economic volatility, it remains to be seen whether the tenuous political order in Ontario can afford an unpredictable Doug Ford.

Spencer Ki is a third-year Astrophysics and Mathematics student at Victoria College.

 

New leadership promises fresh ideas and balance

During the Ontario provincial election cycle, the Liberal Party were challenged by an overwhelming dissatisfaction against the policies they enacted over the past 15 years. Their growing unpopularity culminated in the loss of 48 seats and official party status in parliament.

The election of the PC majority government brings forth an alternative leadership. It gives voice to the opposition whose views have otherwise failed to gain support under the Liberal administration. Although I am a consistent supporter of the left and center-left parties, I am open to ideas that the conservative right may bring to the fore ideas which may have been left behind when looking through the tunnel vision that defines our political spectrum.

The substance behind policies are frequently lost in the ideological and personal debates surrounding politics, leaving legislation to be interpreted into simplistic extremes. However, policy outcomes are complex. The radical shift brought about in the 2018 Ontario election will ideally compel more critical reflection and debate in citizens and politicians regarding legislation, which may have been pushed on or discarded without further thought.

With the newly formed Conservative government and strong NDP opposition acting like two knobs of an Etch A Sketch, hopefully, we can build a political system that prioritizes competition between ideas, balance between parties, and accountability toward the elected government.

Vaibhav Bhandari is a graduate student in the Biochemistry program.

One NDP, two PCs elected to Ontario Legislature representing U of T ridings

Doug Ford's PC party secures majority government as NDP forms opposition

One NDP, two PCs elected to Ontario Legislature representing U of T ridings

The votes are in and New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Jessica Bell has been elected the new MPP for University—Rosedale, representing UTSG-area residents at Queen’s Park in the coming session.

Vijay Thanigasalam, the Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate in Scarborough—Rouge Park, won the riding UTSC is located in, and Sheref Sabawy, PC candidate in Mississauga—Erin Mills, will represent UTM’s area.

Bell took a victory over Liberal candidate Jo-Ann Davis, PC candidate Gillian Smith, and Green candidate Tim Grant.

Bell won with 49.66 per cent of the vote, followed by Davis with 22.06 per cent, Smith at 21.11 per cent, and Grant at 5.37 per cent.

Sabawy won with 41.70 per cent of the vote, followed by NDP candidate Farina Hassan at 27.59 per cent, Liberal candidate Imran Mian at 25.30 per cent, and Green candidate Libby Yuill at 2.74 per cent.

Thanigasalam won with 38.61 per cent, followed by NDP candidate Felicia Samuel at 36.32 per cent, Liberal candidate Sumi Shan at 20.91 per cent, and Green candidate Priyan de Silva at 2.41 per cent.

Doug Ford will be the next Premier of Ontario, leading a majority PC government. He replaces Kathleen Wynne of the Ontario Liberal Party, who held on to her seat in Don Valley West by a slim margin. Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Ontario NDP, will serve as the head of the Official Opposition.

NDP’s Jessica Bell in University—Rosedale

In an earlier interview with The Varsity, Bell, the founding executive director for the transit advocacy group TTCriders, spoke on transit, mental health, and her party’s plan to convert provincial loans into grants.

The NDP’s plan had been “to properly invest in the TTC and all local transit systems across Ontario, so the TTC can improve service in all routes across the city and [have] the option to reduce fares.”

On mental health, Bell’s party would have looked at making a Ministry of Health and Addictions, as well as funding 2,600 more mental health workers and creating 30,000 new supportive housing units. Ford’s PC government has pledged to spend $1.9 billion over ten years on mental health and addiction.

PC’s Sheref Sabawy in Mississauga—Erin Mills

Mississauga—Erin Mills voted for PC candidate Sabawy, a networks professor at both George Brown College and Centennial College. He is a self-described human rights activist and community leader, and holds an undergraduate degree in engineering from Alexandria University.

In 2015, Sabawy sought the federal nomination for the riding under the Liberal Party banner, but lost the race. He later ran for and won the PC provincial nomination under former leader Patrick Brown.

PC’s Vijay Thanigasalam in Scarborough—Rouge Park

Scarborough—Rouge Park’s new MPP is first-time candidate Thanigasalam, who narrowly defeated the NDP candidate in the riding. Thanigasalam, 29, holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, and previously worked as a financial advisor.

Thanigasalam’s campaign website states that he advocates for “youth development and employment opportunities, and wants to build an Ontario where young people can pay less and get ahead.”

NDP commitment to student issues hindered by possible lack of funding

Re: “In conversation with Jessica Bell, NDP candidate for University—Rosedale”

NDP commitment to student issues hindered by possible lack of funding

The New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for UTSG’s riding, Jessica Bell, stresses her party’s commitment to issues such as accessible transit, housing, mental health services, and education, all of which make her a relatable and viable candidate.

Bell acknowledges the TTC’s high fares and the effects of poor service quality. She mentions the NDP’s plans to invest in the TTC and introduce discounted passes for students and low-income riders. While this plan is exciting, Bell does not discuss how much money the NDP plans to invest in the TTC and how this investment would accommodate the TTC’s estimated 850,000 riders.  

Bell responds to the demand for mental health services by saying that these stresses are often related to unaffordable housing and mental health support. She highlights the NDP’s plan to make housing more affordable and introduce 30,000 new supportive housing units. She also adds that the NDP is considering funding 2,600 more mental health workers for shorter wait times. These plans would admittedly help many postsecondary students. However, an NDP government might not have enough funds to put all of these plans into action after making up for the current provincial government’s deficit spending.

On education, Bell explains that the NDP is considering converting any new student loan to a grant, and eliminating government debt on all current loans. Funding would come from raising corporate taxes and personal taxes for higher income brackets, an act that would likely draw protest from voters. Bell also mentions that the NDP plans to create 27,000 co-op positions to ensure paid work experience for postsecondary students, but doesn’t explain how the NDP plans to create them.

Though all of Bell’s platforms address student concerns, there remains doubt regarding the NDP’s ability to finance all of its proposed plans, as the next provincial government will have to work hard to balance the books upset by the current Liberal government.

Zeahaa Rehman is a fourth-year student studying Linguistics and Professional Writing and Communication at UTM.

The fall of the Liberal centre puts students’ issues at a crossroads

Students must review the big issues that affect them, be informed, and vote on June 7, no matter the party

The fall of the Liberal centre puts students’ issues at a crossroads

After four controversial years of Liberal reign, a new government will emerge from the provincial election on June 7. Ontario is poised for big change — and not just because change is inherent to elections.

Kathleen Wynne, the well-qualified, perpetually unliked Liberal premier, has already conceded the election — telling voters to not worry about her being premier and to vote in as many Liberal candidates as possible, instead.  In a pessimistic call for strategic voting, the Toronto Star’s editorial board has urged Ontarians to vote for Andrea Horwath’s New Democratic Party (NDP) — to stop Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives (PC) from occupying the top post in Queen’s Park. Meanwhile, the Green Party remains a fringe option but reminds us of the necessity of a sustainable future.

The fall of the Liberal centre means that the future of students’ issues are at a crossroads between arguably the two most ideologically divergent parties. The party that wins will control an economy that will very seriously affect you over the next four years. Tuition, youth unemployment, housing, and transit are the big issues that should be on your mind as students, graduates, and future workers.

As of 2016, millennials outnumber baby boomers by 3.5 million in Canada, so student turnout at the polls could cause significant change for the future of Ontario. Do your part — review the big issues, as we describe them, and be informed when you take to the ballot box on June 7. If you understand what is at stake, you will know that you have no other option than to vote — whatever the party.

Tuition

Arguably the most concerning issue to students’ pockets is the rising cost of tuition and debt that accumulates from postsecondary education. In March, the Business Board of the university’s Governing Council approved widespread tuition fee increases, with three per cent raises for domestic Arts & Science, Architecture, Music, and Kinesiology & Physical Education faculties, and five per cent for the Engineering faculty.

A 2015 analysis found that Ontario has one of the least affordable tuition rates in the country for median-income families. This past academic year, Canadian full-time undergraduate programs cost students an average of $6,571, which increased by 3.1 per cent from the previous year. For students in Ontario studying business or the sciences, however, tuition fees exceeded this average, with fees for business programs topping out across Canada.

Provincial and federal policies have been implemented to offset the cost of postsecondary education, and to encourage students from lower-income families to pursue further education. As a result, student enrolment in postsecondary education has steadily increased since 2001, especially of students with lower parental incomes.

Federal and provincial financial assistance programs, like the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), mainly use family income to assess which students are eligible for grants. However, strict cutoffs for OSAP eligibility mean that many students cannot afford postsecondary education. In that case, students often take out high-interest loans and accumulate student debt. In 2017, the Ontario Student Grant (OSG) was formed to help students in such tricky situations by easing restrictions to financial assistance. However, the OSG was designed to cover the ‘average’ tuition costs of a student’s program, despite the fact that many programs cost significantly more. The government did not invest new funds into this initiative.

The rising cost of tuition is a central election issue. The NDP mapped out a 10-year plan to convert all student loans to grants and forgive interest on all provincial student loans. The Liberals will put new funds into the OSAP program, particularly in the form of grants, as opposed to simply shifting funds around. The Green Party aims to eventually guarantee fully public tuition for all. The PCs have not yet discussed their take on tuition costs.

Youth unemployment

Ontario is one of the worst provinces in Canada for young job-seekers. Many recent university graduates have difficulty securing work in their field of study following graduation. A 2014 Canadian Teachers’ Federation report, referenced by CBC News, states that more than 40 per cent of youth in Canada are unemployed, working fewer hours than they desire, or have given up on the job hunt entirely. Since previous work experience is greatly preferred by employers, many new graduates have difficulty getting their foot in the door. Challenges in finding work are even more pronounced for already marginalized young people, such as those who are racialized, LGBTQ+, disabled, or low-income.

Those who do find work are met with a changing employment landscape. Increasingly, people are being hired on short-term contracts or as temporary workers, leaving them with no job security and a great deal of stress. Additionally, these jobs often have irregular hours, low pay, and no benefits. ‘Side hustles’ are becoming increasingly common for millennials in order to make ends meet. These bleak prospects are of particular concern for new graduates, since many face large debts upon completing their studies. Students need more assurance that the time, energy, and funds invested into their degrees will not be for naught.

In their platforms, all of the parties express interest in creating new jobs in Ontario. The Liberal Party highlights its record of creating nearly one million new jobs since the recession, and plans to continue this success by attracting industry, investment, and innovation to the province. The PCs plan to create jobs by lowering business taxes, stabilizing hydro bills, and cutting red tape. The Green Party is interested in creating more green jobs. The NDP plans to create more opportunities for postsecondary students to gain real-world work experience while they complete their degrees. The NDP also plans to allow more workers to unionize to improve the current problem of precarious work.

Housing

The Varsity’s 2018 Winter Magazine highlighted a serious yet largely invisible issue: student homelessness. As the Parkdale rent strike demonstrated last year, affordable housing constitutes a crisis in Toronto. Even though a 2017 U of T report indicated that U of T needs 2,300 beds by 2020 to meet housing demands, the City of Toronto has largely opposed housing expansion projects — such as the proposed Spadina-Sussex building near campus.

A heated housing market and gentrification have culminated in skyrocketing rent and a lack of affordable housing, affecting vulnerable communities — including students — the hardest. Students are often left to pay more to access housing, with compounding debt on top of their tuition. In the GTA, 23 per cent of residents pay half their income on rent. A lack of supply and intense demand for housing has led to unreasonable rental rates. However, students must concern themselves not only as current tenants, but also as near-future homebuyers who will be affected by the next government for up to four years. The rate of Canadian renters is currently higher than the rate of homebuyers, meaning that home ownership is an obstacle for young graduates and workers.

Ontario is in desperate need for an increased supply in affordable housing. All parties agree that there must be change, and that people should be able to access the housing market without taking on unreasonable risks or burdens. The Liberals’ Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan (FHP) of April 2017 was intended to improve rental affordability for all units in the province. They hope to continue to extend the FHP, increase the supply of housing, and protect renters and real estate consumers, with a $1 billion investment in affordable housing. Following sharp criticism, Doug Ford backstepped from his housing development proposal in the protected Greenbelt area, and has instead pledged to increase housing supply and cut red tape. The NDP views housing as a human right and has promised 65,000 affordable homes over 10 years. The Green Party announced that its housing plan will prioritize seniors, youth, and families.

Transit

Transit is a hot-button topic for U of T students in the upcoming Ontario election. The voter participation seen in the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) failed U-Pass referendum illustrates the crucial role that affordable transit plays for students.  In March, a total of 12,428 students turned out, with 35.4 per cent in favour and 65.6 per cent in opposition of the U-Pass. If approved, U-Pass would have provided undergraduate St. George students with a discounted TTC metropass, but with little option to opt-out.

Transit is not solely an issue for St. George students. Students at UTM and UTSC rely on GO Transit and the TTC to attend classes and also get around the GTA.

In the upcoming Ontario election, it is in the best interest of students who use transit to support candidates who prioritize low-cost and reliable transit. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s campaign promise to reduce GO Transit fares for PRESTO users is an example of such a policy. The Liberals also pledge to invest $79 billion for different public transit projects. The PC Party supports underground transit and has committed an additional $5 billion for transit infrastructure, including subways and relief lines in Toronto. Meanwhile, the NDP and Green Party promise to fund 50 per cent of the TTC’s operating costs.

U of T residents in the University—Rosedale electoral district can vote at Hart House from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on June 7.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

In conversation with Jessica Bell, NDP candidate for University—Rosedale

MPP candidate discusses transit, mental health, student loans

In conversation with Jessica Bell, NDP candidate for University—Rosedale

Ahead of the Ontario provincial elections on June 7, The Varsity sat down with the MPP candidates for UTSG’s riding, University—Rosedale. The candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) is Jessica Bell, the founding executive director for the transit advocacy group TTCriders. She spoke with fellow NDP candidates for provincial parliament at U of T last March about women in politics. In her interview with The Varsity, Bell discusses transit, mental health, and her party’s plan to convert provincial loans into grants.

Bell focuses on improving mental health facilities, assisting students who are unable to pay for their own education or loans, and improving TTC funding while also providing fare relief for students and low income individuals. Bell also goes into detail about the NDP’s plan for funding these programs by incorporating a progressive tax system.

The Varsity: What is the NDP’s plan to alleviate transit costs for students?

Jessica Bell: When I think about transit, there’s two issues that come to mind. One is the cost, the high cost of fares that have been going up faster than inflation for years; and the second piece is about service quality, because when service quality is poor, which it has been, students spend way more time commuting and way less time doing what they want to do with their life. Our plan is to properly invest in the TTC and all local transit systems across Ontario, so the TTC can improve service in all routes across the city and [have] the option to reduce fares. As the Executive Director of TTCriders, a transit advocacy organization campaigning for better service and lower fares, we found the TTC wasn’t able to provide fare relief properly because they didn’t have the funding to do it… It’s the most efficient transit system in North America [but] when we have approached them and said, ‘Hey, what about a discount pass for low income riders, or two hour fare transfers so we can get on and off without paying twice, or further discounts for students,’ their response has been ‘we don’t have the money.’ By investing in the TTC, the NDP is giving the TTC money to provide this kind of relief.  

TV: Mental health services are in very high demand, especially among students. What type of mental health services do you plan on providing, how can they help students specifically, and how much of your provincial budget do you plan on spending on them?  

JB: I remember going through university, and stress and anxiety is a daily part of being in university, especially around exam time. And then there’s that added stress of, in my case, putting myself through university, and there are a lot of people I know who need to have a part-time job as well as going to school, and then it’s just compounding. So we’ve got a few pieces to it. One, we find that a lot of the stresses that students face are often related to affordability… We’re looking at making housing more affordable in particular, and student debt much lower, which would provide some kind of ease for students, especially if they are having to work and go to school full-time. We are looking at making a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions because, as we’ve currently seen… mental health [care] is currently administered by up to 30 agencies and departments across Ontario. We’d want to amalgamate that.

We’re [also] looking at funding 2,600 more mental health workers, so that if someone is facing a mental health crisis or needs to seek support, there’d be a much shorter wait time… We’d expect up to 400 of them to be in high schools.

In addition to [reducing wait times], we’re looking at creating 30,000 new supportive housing units, so if people are struggling, there’s a place for them to go… We also have an opioid crisis in Ontario, and we want to declare it a public health emergency and take a harm reduction approach to tackling that, which would include safe injection sites.

TV: The NDP platform states that it will “take on student debt by converting loans to grants and creating thousands of student jobs.” Can you expand on this?

JB: Our plan to help students is a signature piece in our platform. We are looking at any new student loan — any new student OSAP provincial loan — [which] will be converted from a debt to a grant that doesn’t need to be paid back. We’re also looking at eliminating the [provincial] interest [on] all current student loans… I have a friend at the campaign office, she has $50,000 in student debt and she pays five per cent interest on that, which is ridiculous. It’s the government making money off of students, and you’re already pushed pretty tight when it comes to your finances… By helping make school so much cheaper, it pushes the idea that education is a human right… We’re [also] looking at creating 27,000 co-op positions, so students who are going through university or college can access a paid internship co-op position, so they can get that critical work experience and get their foot through the door in the career that’s important to them.

TV: You mentioned that the NDP plans to convert provincial loans into grants. Where will the funding for this come from?

JB: So we have a fully costed plan — it’s 98 pages. We are looking at that funding coming from general revenue, [which] is available because we’re looking at asking corporations and high income people to pay a little bit more. We’re looking at raising the corporate tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 13 per cent. We’re looking at increasing the personal tax rate for individuals earning $220,000 by one point, and by three points for those earning $300,000. So by creating a more fair and progressive tax system, we can provide these critical services that we need, such as making education more accessible and investing in mental health.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A university student’s guide to the 2018 Ontario election

Party-by-party breakdown on tuition, jobs, transit, and more

A university student’s guide to the 2018 Ontario election

A university student’s guide to the 2018 Ontario election

 


As Ontarians head to the polls, four major political parties vie for their votes: the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Progressive Conservative Party (PC), and the Green Party. The Varsity has looked through each party’s platform to see how they plan to address issues that affect students, from tuition to jobs to transit and more.

Voters choose one candidate from their riding to send to the Legislature as an MPP. The party that wins the most seats forms the Provincial Government. Incumbent Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is competing with PC Party Leader Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner for the position of Premier, which leads the majority party and represents the Head of Provincial Government.

 

Tuition

BELINDA HOANG/THE VARSITY

While Schreiner and the Green Party do not specify a plan to address rising tuition fees and student loan debt, they do advocate for the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). If elected, Green MPPs would call for a $3.4 billion increase to the 2018-2019 budget for social assistance, and invest $6.4 billion per year by 2021-2022 to provide all Ontarians with the BIG that matches the low income cut-off.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Wynne’s Liberal government increased the number of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants by 235,000, bringing the total number of supported students with financial need to 435,000. The 2018 Ontario Budget draft aims to further expand OSAP loans and grants by increasing financial aid and assistance to more middle-income families to decrease the amount parents and guardians are expected to contribute.

Horwath and the NDP have pledged to replace loans with non-repayable grants for new post-secondary students eligible for OSAP. The NDP would also cancel interest on provincial student loans held by current or past students who still hold provincial loans.

Ford and the PC Party have not revealed any plans concerning tuition costs, but have stated that they would mandate that universities uphold free speech on campus and in classrooms. Ford has stated on the campaign trail that his party will “ensure publicly funded universities defend free speech for everybody.”

 

Health care and dental care

FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

The Green Party platform pushes for a $4.1 billion increase in funding for mental health care over four years, ultimately including mental health services in the Ontario Health Insurance Plan+. According to their website, the Party supports increased funding for culturally-sensitive mental health services.

After passing a policy introducing publicly-funded pharmacare — also known as prescription drug care — for health care recipients under 25, the Liberal platform states that, in addition to an $822 million investment in hospital care and infrastructure, they will also allocate funds to support and hire long-term care nurses. The budget also includes $2.1 billion to reform Ontario’s mental health system and infrastructure, and cover 80 per cent of specific drug and dental costs.

Horwath and the NDP have pledged to introduce dental care for all, bring in universal pharmacare for 125 commonly prescribed drugs, and provide complete coverage for self-administered cancer drugs and transition drugs. The NDP plans to meet growing hospital capacity needs by adding 2,000 hospital beds and investing at least $19 billion over 10 years in hospital capital expansion. In addition to preventing further layoffs of nurses and frontline health care workers, they would hire 4,500 new nurses, increase hospital funding, and ensure there is an adequate number of hospital staff. This would allow hospitals to remove arbitrary caps on the number of surgeries, lead to fewer surgery cancellations, cut wait times, and end hallway medicine. The NDP will also establish a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and hire 2,200 new mental health care workers.

The PC Party promises to spend $1.9 billion over the next decade on mental health and addiction support. Ford has also called for an end to hallway medicine and has pledged to add 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years, and 30,000 new beds over the next 10 years. A PC government would also invest $98 million a year to provide dental care to low-income seniors. Ford has also voiced opposition to safe-injection sites in Ontario.

 

Jobs

FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY

The Green Party wants to relieve the financial stress on employers to ensure better wages for employees. The Party would increase the Employer Health Tax exemption from $450,000 to $1 million in payroll. To reduce the precarity many face in the workforce, the Greens argue that their BIG plan provides a social safety net to all Ontarians.

The Liberal government pledges to continue its current policies in its platform. Following the 2018 minimum wage hike to $14 an hour, as well as the planned investment of $124 million to develop youth employment, the Liberals would increase minimum wage to $15 an hour on January 1, 2019 and leave the corporate tax rate unchanged.

The NDP have pledged to create 27,000 new work-integrated-learning opportunities, such as paid co-ops, apprenticeships, and internships that allow students to graduate with real-life work experience while pursuing their post-secondary education. The NDP would also increase the minimum wage to $15 before indexing it to inflation.

According to the PC platform, their government would make Ontario “open for business” by focusing on policies that make it easier to start, grow, and invest in businesses. This would involve stabilizing hydro rates, cutting corporate income tax from 11.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent, and eliminating “stifling” regulations to spur job growth.

 

Affordable Housing

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

The Green Party would require 20 per cent of all new developments to be affordable housing. They would also increase the budget for shelters, social, co-op, and supportive housing by $200 million.

In the 2018 Ontario Budget, the Liberal government laid out plans to maintain provincial investments of more than $1 billion each year in affordable housing to target “four priority areas: youth, Indigenous peoples, chronic homelessness, and those who are homeless following transitions from provincially funded institutions and services.” This includes $3 million to develop a fund to encourage new cooperative housing.

The NDP have pledged to add 65,000 new affordable housing units over 10 years. They would also increase the percentage of affordable homes required and bring rental properties under regulation by overhauling the government’s inclusionary zoning regulations to ensure that they accomplish what they set out to do. Horwath’s party has also pledged to introduce legislation to make rentals more affordable, apply a Non-Resident Housing Speculation Tax, and fund Ontario’s one-third share for social housing repair costs.

Although few specifics have been made available, Ford has said he would preserve rent control for existing tenants across Ontario and increase the supply of affordable housing in the GTA while protecting the Greenbelt.

 

Transit

MALLIKA MAKKAR/THE VARSITY

The Green Party has pledged to implement a $1-1.5 billion per year increase for transit funding. They want the province to fund 50 per cent of the operating costs of municipal transit systems. Green MPPs would also push for a $2.17 billion increase over four years for the long-term development of municipal walking and cycling infrastructure.

In their platform, the Liberals have promised to invest $79 billion into various transit projects, including $11 billion to develop the groundwork for a high-speed rail between Toronto and Windsor. The remaining $68 billion would go toward integrating municipal services to allow for broader regional infrastructure.

The NDP have pledged to fund 50 per cent of municipal transit operating costs, build Hamilton’s Light Rail Transit and the Downtown Relief Line in Toronto, and implement two-way all-day GO rail service between Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto and year-round GO rail service between Toronto and Niagara.

The PCs would commit $5 billion more in funding for subways, relief lines, and a two-way GO Transit service to Niagara Falls. They would also take the proposed $1.3 billion Hamilton LRT Project to a vote.

 

Changes in taxation

Queen’s Park, home of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. HELENA NAJM/THE VARSITY

The Green Party has proposed numerous methods to increase funding. This includes implementing a 0.5 per cent increase on taxes for the largest corporations, and taxing the top one per cent of income earners by one per cent more. They would also introduce a housing speculation tax.

On top of preserving the 11.5 per cent corporate tax rate, the Liberal Party plans to maintain the tax rate for approximately 8.6 million people. Readjusted tax brackets would see 1.8 million people paying about $200 more and about 680,000 people paying $130 less. In addition, in line with gradual increases over the past two years, the Liberals propose another $4 per carton increase in cigarette taxation in 2019.

The NDP have pledged to return the corporate tax rate to 13 per cent, while maintaining the one per cent reduction for small businesses. The NDP will raise income taxes for Ontarians earning over $220,000 by one percentage point, and for those earning over $300,000 by two percentage points. In addition, the NDP will introduce a three per cent luxury tax for vehicles over $90,000.

Ford has vowed to lower the corporate tax rate to 10.5 per cent and to reduce the rate for the provincial middle-class tax bracket by 20 per cent. He has also stated that a PC government would eliminate income tax for workers earning minimum wage anyone making less than $28,000 a year while also freezing the minimum wage at $14.

Election day in Ontario is June 7.

NDP, Liberal candidates for University—Rosedale talk student issues at forum

Transit, affordable housing, mental health dominate debate

NDP, Liberal candidates for University—Rosedale talk student issues at forum

Ahead of the Ontario election, an All Candidates Forum was hosted at U of T by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, the Graduate Students’ Union, and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students. The candidates for UTSG’s riding, University—Rosedale, were invited to debate student issues.

Jessica Bell of the New Democratic Party of Ontario (NDP) and Jo-Ann Davis of the Liberal Party of Ontario took the stage at U of T’s Centre for International Experience to address student concerns as they vie for leadership. Candidates from the Green Party and the Progressive Conservative Party were unable to attend.

Graduate and part-time students

Discussing support for graduate students, Davis focused on the Liberal Party’s plans to reduce costs of living, which include introducing stricter rent controls to create affordable housing. Bell echoed Davis’ comments on the affordability of living in Toronto, adding that lowering transit costs and implementing workplace reforms that include and protect students are equally important to improving the graduate student experience.

Bell also noted that the NDP has a “faculty renewal plan” to introduce more tenure-track positions for sessional instructors, many of whom teach at the graduate level.

The candidates were also asked about their party’s plans to respond to the Ontario Student Assistance Program’s new policy that rolled out this past September, which, while making more grants available for full-time students, did not increase financial assistance for part-time students. Both candidates appeared to be unaware of this exclusion.

However, Davis expressed her devotion to ensuring that “individuals have an opportunity in all stages of their life… to learn.” Bell concurred, highlighting the NDP’s plan to introduce universal child care, which may assist part-time students who are also parents.

Indigenous and minority groups on campus

The candidates were further pressed on how their party would ensure that Indigenous students and those from other minority groups have access to post-secondary education.

According to Bell, funding healthcare, addressing the drinking water crisis, and working to reduce overall poverty in Indigenous communities are important steps the NDP would take outside of the classroom. She believes these initiatives would work toward broadening Indigenous students’ academic prospects.

Davis, who has been a Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee since 2010, believes the accessibility problem starts with academic streaming in secondary schools.

“Students that are coming from various ethnic communities as well as students who are living in poverty” are disproportionately streamed into non-academic programs, she said.

Sexual violence and mental health

“Survivors need to be listened to, believed, and supported,” stressed Bell, when asked about what her party would do to help victims of sexual violence.

She asserted the NDP’s commitment to investigating all reports of sexual assault, funding sexual assault clinics and health and safety programs in the workplace, and investing in 30,000 supportive housing units across Ontario.

Meanwhile, Davis applauded the Liberal Party’s existing Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, though she recognizes that sexual harassment in academia is “still an issue.”

On the topic of mental health, Davis said that her party is committed to ensuring that existing investments in mental health on campus are made more accessible to students.

Bell said that the NDP’s strategy to respond to the demand for greater mental health services involves the creation of a ministry for mental health and investments to add 2,600 mental health workers to the system.

Off-campus: transit, affordable housing, and $15 minimum wage

Bell, the founding Executive Director of TTCriders, an organization that advocates for improved TTC service, stood behind her party’s promise to invest in Ontario’s municipal transit systems. Bell hopes the investments will allow the TTC to lower fares and make accessibility upgrades.

Davis emphasized the importance of putting existing Liberal investments in transit to use, particularly in the downtown relief line, something she promises to work with City Council to improve should she be elected.

Affordable housing was recognized as another important student issue. Davis reiterated her enthusiasm for the work that the Liberals have done, citing Liberal MP Adam Vaughan’s recent successes in revamping public housing policy in the city.

Bell said that the NDP has pledged to create 60,000 affordable housing units in the province, as well as introduce inclusionary zoning and an out-of-province property speculation tax.

Finally, regarding workplace reforms, Bell and Davis both announced support for the increased $15 minimum wage, but also for closing loopholes that prevent students from earning the full wage.

In her closing remarks, Bell said that the NDP’s platform is full of “progressive, sensible, bold things that will help move Ontario forward, not backwards.”

Davis concluded by reflecting on why she is proud to be a part of the Ontario Liberal Party. “It’s not just because of the change that could happen,” she said, “it’s because of the change that has already happened.” She believes the Liberals have “shown that they’ve got vision and they’ve got the will to do things that aren’t always the most popular, but are the right things to do.”

Polls for the 42nd Ontario general election open on June 7.

Davis’ relatability to U of T students challenged by Liberal spending habits

Re: “In conversation with Jo-Ann Davis, Liberal candidate for University—Rosedale”

Davis’ relatability to U of T students challenged by Liberal spending habits

As the Liberal MPP candidate for UTSG’s riding, Jo-Ann Davis’ inclusion of key platform points concerning education, mental health, and housing reform are strategic: they are issues that affect much of the student population, therefore making her as relatable as possible to a good chunk of her potential supporters.

Davis mentions that as an alum of U of T’s St. Michael’s College, she understands the hardships of student living. She says that one of the great impacts the Liberal Party has made for students in the University—Rosedale riding is the investment of $9 million to mental health supports. However, what should be questioned about this investment is what exactly the money is being put toward. With an investment of that size attached to something very important to the well-being of all students, making sure that all of it is being put to good use is crucial. For example, additional psychiatrists and mental health workers and shorter wait times at the Health & Wellness Centre would be ideal for students.

Davis also discussed investing in co-op programs for more than just the engineering and computer science students, which would cost $190 million over the next three years. As other postsecondary institutions ⏤ such as the University of Waterloo ⏤ already have these kinds of programs in place, this would allow students at U of T to be more competitive in the postgraduate job market.

Overall, Davis seems to be a candidate best suited for the University—Rosedale riding based not only on her personal history, but also on her relatability. Being a U of T alum, Davis would most likely be able to focus on the issues that she may have dealt with as a student. However, an overarching issue the Liberals have been struggling with is overspending deficits, which may hinder Davis considering the large amounts already invested in student care and development.

Areej Rodrigo is a fourth-year English, Professional Writing and Communications, and Theatre and Performance student at St. Michael’s College.