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.”

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.