Labour groups request meeting with Gertler to discuss changes to postsecondary funding

Joint letter calls on Gertler to help counter “threats to learning and employment”

Labour groups request meeting with Gertler to discuss changes to postsecondary funding

Five Toronto labour organizations which collectively represent 21,208 staff and faculty at U of T penned a joint letter to President Meric Gertler on May 8 requesting to meet for a discussion on the Ford government’s recent changes to postsecondary funding.  

CUPE 1230, CUPE 3261, CUPE 3902, the United Steelworkers Local 1998, and the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) wrote to Gertler and the university’s three Vice-Presidents to express their dismay at what they call “the provincial government’s threats to learning and employment at the University of Toronto.”

The labour groups had numerous concerns, including how the provincial government’s decision to cut domestic tuition by 10 per cent comes “after years of underfunding universities.” They also criticized the government’s move to slash $670 million from student assistance programs.

The groups were also “deeply concerned” about the decision to render some ancillary fees as optional — allowing students to opt-out of “non-essential” student services and to increase the proportion of “performance-based” funding for Ontario universities from 1.4 per cent in 2018–19 to 60 per cent by 2024–25.

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University will see revenues drop, possible changes to hiring plans

After accounting for Ford’s policies, U of T’s Planning & Budget Committee projected an $88 million revenue reduction for 2019–2020 and a loss of $65 million in 2018–2019.

According to the budget report, the cuts will mean “some combination of changes to faculty and staff hiring plans, deferral of capital projects, service reductions, and operating cost efficiencies.”

P.C. Choo is both the Vice-President of the United Steelworkers Local 1998 and an administrative governor on Governing Council. He told The Varsity that in his capacity as a governor, he does not believe that the university “will be forced to cut salaries.” However, Choo continued, “whether the University will be forced to cut jobs remains very much an open question.”

UTFA President Cynthia Messenger is equally unsure of what’s to come. Messenger told The Varsity in an email that if Gertler would be willing to meet with UTFA and the other unions, she would hope to “discuss ways in which together we could protest the Ford government’s attacks on universities.”

Despite the heightened rhetoric the labour groups employed at times toward the Progressive Conservative government, Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, defended the government’s plans.

Tanya Blazina, Fullerton’s media relation representative, told The Varsity that the changes the government is putting forward are “modern, forward thinking, and will lead to good jobs.”

Tying funding to “student and economic outcomes” reflects the government’s priority of making Ontario “Open for Business”, Blazina wrote, while restoring sustainability to the province’s postsecondary sector.

Blazina is referring to the government’s plan to base provincial funding for universities on how well the schools are performing on a number of metrics, as opposed to enrolment numbers. This decision was also criticized by the unions in their letter.

In an email to The Varsity, university spokesperson Elizabeth Church writes that the university is responding directly to the writers of the letter.

“We know how hard our students and their families work to get a university education,” writes Church. “We remain firm in our long-standing access guarantee – financial circumstances will not stand in the way of a qualified student entering or completing a degree.”

Mowat Centre to close following cancellation of funding by Ontario government

The Munk School-based public policy think-tank part of widespread budget cuts

Mowat Centre to close following cancellation of funding by Ontario government

The Mowat Centre, a non-partisan think tank located at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, will be closing by June 30, in an announcement by Director Andrew Parkin on April 29. The closure comes in light of the provincial government’s cancellation of the Centre’s funding agreement.

Established in 2009, the Mowat Centre reported on public policy topics related to Ontario and Canada. Previous research covered nonprofits, immigration, income and employment trends, the digital revolution in the health sector, and education. It ultimately aimed to “suggest new but practical ways of looking at long-standing public policy challenges, free from the constraints of short-term political pressures or policy choices of the past.”

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Christine Wood, Press Secretary for Economic Development Minister Todd Smith, wrote that “the government cancelled funding to all think tanks” as part of an effort to balance the 2019 Ontario Budget.  

While the budget does not explicitly mention the cut, it does cite research from the Mowat Centre in a section on regional economic development.

Two projects, the Mowat NFP and the Research Initiative on Education + Skills, are expected to be relocated within other agencies, according to Reuven Shlozberg, the Centre’s Knowledge & Outreach Coordinator. These projects focus respectively on research and analysis of issues within the nonprofit sector; and education, skills, and labour markets in Canada.

There are still no details on how and where the initiatives will be relocated.

The Centre’s most recent budget showed that much of its $2.8 million budget was covered by a $1 million grant from the Ontario government. Close to $1.9 million of the expenses went toward salaries and benefits for the Centre’s staff. Eleven staff stand to be directly affected by the closing of the Centre.

In his letter, Parkin wrote that the Centre’s closure is happening at a time when the “challenges of transforming government and strengthening the federation are perhaps more acute than ever.”

He hopes that “the work that the Mowat Centre has conducted since its inception will continue to be a useful resource for all of us working to address these issues.”

U of T professors, alumni call on Gertler to “speak out” against Ford funding changes

Open letter asserts performance-tied funding serves ideological goals, not students

U of T professors, alumni call on Gertler to “speak out” against Ford funding changes

After the Ontario government announced in its 2019 budget that it would dramatically change the funding model for postsecondary education, a group of U of T professors and alumni wrote an open letter to President Meric Gertler on April 24 to express their concerns.

Among the changes in the provincial budget are plans to tie the amount of funding a school receives to how they are performing on a number of metrics, such as skills and job outcomes. Previously, funding was mainly tied to enrolment numbers.

In the open letter, the professors and alumni called on Gertler to refuse to participate in this new model, saying that the “proposed metrics do not in fact measure educational performance,” and their pursuit would only lead to “terrible incentives.”

The signees included professors Rachel Barney of philosophy and classics, James Allen of philosophy, Jennifer Nagel of philosophy, Sergio Tenenbaum of philosophy, and Jonathan Weisberg of philosophy, as well as alumni Stephen Chen and Terri Chu. 

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The letter cited graduation rates as an example of a damaging incentive, claiming that pressure to increase the number of postsecondary graduates would encourage universities to further privilege the admission of wealthy students, for whom finances would not interfere with graduation. Further, professors would be incentivized to pass all students, regardless of performance.

According to the signees, indicators such as this would “achieve the remarkable feat of making an Ontario university education at once less accessible and less meaningful.”

Furthermore, they assert that other proposed metrics do not correlate at all to education itself but rather to particular knowledge streams, which align with the government’s broader goals. In short, they say, “this is a radical attempt to realign what we teach and how we teach it on the basis of a political ideology.”

The letter acknowledges that the particular fogginess of the government’s plans make a “wait and see” approach palatable to institutional leaders, but it insists that this would be a “grave mistake.”

This is not business as usual, they write, and U of T should not collaborate with such a dangerous policy. They called on Gertler and his fellow academic leaders to “step up and speak out, and to refuse to collaborate in devising a regime that can only undermine the institutions [they] lead.”

Although the signees are sparse, the group expressed an intention to launch a grassroots advocacy campaign and an online petition to further share their message.

U of T response

According to U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church, Gertler has since sent a response to the professors reassuring them that the university, as it is renegotiating the Strategic Mandate Agreement that governs provincial funding, will attempt to shape the way “performance” is defined.

Church went on to say that each university determines the weight of each indicator measured in the new provincial funding system, and as such, the university can place emphasis on areas of strength.

According to the budget, by 2024, 60 per cent of all university funding would be dictated by their adherence to these objectives. Currently, only 1.4 per cent of university funding and 1.2 per cent of college funding is connected to performance outcomes.

The performance indicators remain unreleased by the provincial government.

Sexual violence survey results “deeply saddening,” MPP Piccini says

TCU Parliamentary Assistant talks delay in report’s release, working with student groups

Sexual violence survey results “deeply saddening,” MPP Piccini says

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.

In light of the provincial government releasing the results of an Ontario-wide sexual violence survey on March 19, The Varsity sat down with David Piccini, current MPP for Northumberland—Peterborough South and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU), to discuss the implications of the results and the delay in their release.

Student Voices on Sexual Violence was a survey commissioned by the previous Liberal government’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (AESD), the Ministry of TCU under the current Progressive Conservative government.

“It’s, as far as I’m aware, the most comprehensive and in-depth look that’s gone to campuses and colleges around Ontario,” Piccini said.

It was sent to over 746,000 full-time students in all provincially-funded postsecondary institutions from February to April 2018. Across Ontario, over 160,000 students responded.

The results showed that at U of T, 61.7 per cent of respondents reported that they did not understand how to access supports, including how to report sexual violence. In addition, 22.9 per cent reported being dissatisfied with U of T’s response to sexual violence, 22.1 per cent reported that they had been stalked, 17.2 per cent reported a non-consensual sexual experience, and 58.7 per cent reported experiencing sexual harassment.

“The results were deeply saddening,” Piccini said. “One experience of assault or harassment on campus is really one too many.”

Piccini emphasized that the ministry took immediate action, mentioning the four initiatives released by TCU Minister Merrilee Fullerton alongside the release of the report.

Fullerton announced that the government would double the Women’s Campus Safety Grant, and require publicly-assisted colleges and universities to review their sexual violence policies by September, deliver annual reports to their board of governors about measures taken in response to sexual violence on campus, and create task forces to address sexual violence on campuses.

When asked about the potential release of further results from the survey, Piccini told The Varsity that the ministry has “referred [the report] to the Privacy Commissioner,” echoing Fullerton’s statements at the press conference when the report was released.

Fullerton had said that Ontario’s Information & Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish will be consulted “on the release of additional survey results.”

When asked about why there was a delay in the release of the report, Piccini confirmed that it was a delay on the part of CCI Research, the company that developed and distributed the survey.

Piccini told The Varsity that the TCU received the survey results on March 17, two days prior to the public release on March 19. He also confirmed that postsecondary institutions received the report prior to its public release.

This is a marked shift from the release plan of the previous Liberal government, as this timeline leaves a window of no more than a day between when the report was released to postsecondary institutions and when it was released to the public.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail last year, Mitzie Hunter, previous Minister of AESD and current MPP of Scarborough—Guildwood, said that the results would be shared with postsecondary institutions in summer 2018. Hunter added that some of the data would be made public and has since criticized the Ford government for “hiding” the results.

However, Piccini contradicted this point. “The previous government had no plans to release this to the public,” he said.

When asked about Hunter’s statement that the AESD had planned to publicly release the data, Piccini said, “I can’t speculate on what she was planning or what she wasn’t planning when we were given this report.”

In terms of implementing the four initiatives, Piccini said that he expects “an ongoing dialogue.”

“The realities are different from one campus to the next. The geographic realities, the size, the various different marginalized groups on campus all present unique challenges that I think must be addressed uniquely to that institution.”

He emphasized his commitment to work further with student groups across campuses to discuss and develop better strategies to continue the conversation about the issue of sexual violence on campus.

“There is not a group I will not meet with,” he said.

When asked if there are any more initiatives on the horizon from the ministry surrounding this issue, Piccini did not give any specific examples, but he cited the ministry’s commitment to viewing this issue holistically, involving mental health in the discussion, and continuing “this ongoing dialogue, and ongoing discussions we’re having with universities.”

“[It’s] important to engage students,” he said. “The solutions to this are going to involve all of us, our entire community.”

Op-ed: Labour must continue to resist

Fight for $15 and Fairness UofT reflects on the dangers of Bill 66

Op-ed: Labour must continue to resist

Only a few months ago, Premier Doug Ford’s Bill 47 repealed many of the labour protections won through advocacy by decent work coalitions across Ontario — including the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign. Workers lost two paid sick days; pay equity between full-time, part-time, and temporary workers; and the scheduled increase of minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The bill passed despite persistent outcry, proving that Ford is not “for the people,” no matter how often he repeats it.

Following Bill 47, the Progressive Conservative (PC) government tabled Bill 66 in December, an omnibus bill titled “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act,” which proposes amendments to several, unrelated laws dealing with childcare, environment, and labour, among other things. The PCs claim it will “eliminate red tape and burdensome regulations so businesses can grow, create and protect good jobs.”

However, the so-called red tape that will be removed crucially protects workers’ rights. The bill is at its third reading stage and will almost certainly pass in the very near future.

When organizing works: the Greenbelt

When it was announced that Bill 66 would open the Greenbelt for development, the PCs were met with strong opposition. The Greenbelt, an established protected land strip, includes more than two million acres of environmentally-sensitive areas and farmlands. That section of the bill allowed municipalities to create “open for business” zoning bylaws, giving them the option to override legislation that prohibits development in the Greenbelt.

Individuals, communities, and environmental organizations were active in opposing this legislation. A testament to political organizing, the opposition was ultimately successful: Schedule 10 of Bill 66 relating to the Greenbelt was repealed.

However, while Bill 66 has received significant media and public attention around the Greenbelt, less attention has been given to its labour implications. This lack of awareness is partially due to the fact that Bill 66 is an omnibus bill that makes changes to multiple pieces of legislation at once.

Though omnibus bills save time by shortening legislative proceedings, they limit the ability for MPPs and constituents to express their objections to specific components of the bill. Instead, they are forced to either support or reject the bill as a whole. In majority governments, omnibus bills become a strategic way to quickly push through enormous policy changes — allowing segments of the legislation to fly under the radar without accountability.

Bill 66 continues the attack on labour

According to the current Employment Standards Act, for an employee to be able to work more than 48 hours a week, both the employer and employee are required to sign an agreement and gain approval from the Ministry of Labour. This specific provision has existed for nearly 75 years in Ontario thanks to labour advocates. However, Bill 66 removes the extra step of approval by the ministry, allowing employers to ask employees to work overtime with little to no oversight.

Ministry oversight is, ideally, meant to keep the power of employers in check. It can be difficult for many workers, especially workers in low-wage, precarious positions, to say no to their employers when asked to work overtime. Removing a mechanism of formal accountability makes workers vulnerable to abuses in the workplace.

Current laws also allow employers to average out hours worked over two or more weeks, but only with the agreement of workers and approval from the Ministry of Labour. For example, working 30 hours in one week and 50 hours in another could be averaged to 40 hours both weeks — and would thus not be considered ‘overtime.’

Bill 66 scraps the requirement for overtime averaging to be approved by the Ministry of Labour. Without oversight, employers are sure to take advantage of this loophole by avoiding paying workers time-and-a-half overtime pay.

When the Ford government says it wants to get rid of ‘red tape,’ what it really means is that it wants to give the green light to employers to place their bottom line above workers’ safety. Agreements between employers and workers are shaped by a clear power imbalance, in which workers are beholden to the whims of their boss, especially if they are relying on a paycheck to put food on the table.

Students are at risk

Students trying to make ends meet by working in precarious sectors, like retail or service, are especially vulnerable. As Ford’s policies, like cuts to Ontario Student Assistance Program grants, make postsecondary education more expensive, students will find it difficult to say no to a boss who asks them to average their overtime hours or work excess hours.

Bill 66 also scraps the requirement for the Employment Standards Act poster to be displayed in “a conspicuous place” in all workplaces. While this change is quite small, it is not trivial: it limits workers’ access to crucial information about their rights, making them less likely to seek justice if they have been wronged.

Lastly, the bill harms construction workers. Ontario’s Labour Relations Act has a “non-construction employer” provision, which means that any employer deemed to be a “non-construction employer” is not beholden to any collective agreement that unionized construction workers would regularly be covered by.

Bill 66 expands the definition of “non-construction employer” to include municipalities, school boards, hospitals, universities, and colleges. Workers performing construction work in these settings would not be afforded the protection that their union usually offers them. By allowing these public employers to dissolve collective agreements, Bill 66 effectively undermines the power of unions, hindering access to fair working conditions and wages.

All of the changes to labour laws that this bill proposes are discomfiting, but the changes to the Labour Relations Act especially belie a pattern of the Ford government. Ford’s Student Choice Initiative effectively defunds student unions by making their fees optional, undermining their ability to provide services to students and advocate for structural change.

The collective power of students to challenge establishments like U of T is threatened by the Student Choice Initiative, just as the collective power of construction workers’ unions to advocate for workplace protections is threatened by Bill 66.

We must continue the resistance

In moments like these, when another piece of Ford legislation claws back worker protections, it is essential to remember that making noise has worked before and can work again. Though Bill 66 will pass very soon, we can still hold Ford’s PCs and exploitative workplaces accountable by continuing to organize and agitate.

Indeed, many of the labour protections that we’ve retained, such as domestic or sexual violence leave and the $14 minimum wage, are the direct result of tireless organizing by activist groups like the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign. Students have been a part of this movement for decent work, and we’re a part of a broader struggle that is resisting Ford’s continued attacks on our collective rights.

In this political moment, we must not only remind ourselves of the fights that have been won, but also be vigilant in advocating for one another in our workplaces and communities. Under Bill 66, when employers no longer have to answer to the Ministry of Labour, they will have to answer to us: the people.

Vidhya Elango is a fifth-year Linguistics, Anthropology, and Computer Science student at Victoria College. Talia Holy is a second-year Political Science, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies at Victoria College. Simran Dhunna is a first-year student in the Master of Public Health in Epidemiology program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. They are members of the U of T chapter of Fight for $15 and Fairness.

The Ontario Autism Program: what you need to know

A U of T medical student reflects on the proposed changes and what they mean for patients and families

The Ontario Autism Program: what you need to know

Last month, Lisa MacLeod, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), announced sweeping changes to the provincial autism program. These changes were met with outrage from parents, health care professionals, educators, and autism advocacy groups, culminating with the resignation in protest of a Ford staffer — who was the former head of the Ontario Autism Coalition and a parent of a child with autism.

These changes affect a subset of Ontarians in ways that many may not fully be able to grasp. With April being Autism Acceptance Month and U of T accepting a $25-million donation for establishing the Leong Centre of Healthy Children, now is an important time to discuss how changes to the Ontario Autism Program will affect patients and families.

Defining and managing Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by “persistent deficits in social communication and interaction,” as well as “restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activites.”

Individuals with ASD present in a variety of ways. Some may only require help learning complex language skills and particularly nuanced social situations, while others may need more comprehensive training to develop basic language and life skills, as well as deal with challenging and potentially dangerous behaviours, including running away from home, food refusal, and aggression toward themselves and others. Due to this variability in presentation, each individual with ASD is affected differently, and programming must be personalized to their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) is a high-intensity application of the principles of the gold standard therapy for ASD: Applied Behavioural Analysis. IBI involves up to 40 hours of one-on-one therapy per week for at least two years, and is generally recognized by published literature and by the Board Certified Behaviour Analyst guidelines as achieving favourable results.

The Ontario Autism Program

Currently, treatment for ASD is primarily managed through the Ontario Autism Program (OAP). Children under 18 are admitted into the program and assessed by an experienced analyst. This assessment determines the amount of funding they require to receive the best possible treatment to address their needs, which may cost up to $100,000 per year.

This cost is covered entirely by the Ontario government, allowing all enrolled children, regardless of income or age, to access effective treatment with the goal of learning to manage behaviour, enhance communication, and participate effectively in schools and communities.

The OAP’s biggest flaw is undoubtedly its massive waitlist. IBI is demanding in terms of time and funding, although economic analyses show that providing effective and early IBI to a greater number of children actually saves money in the long term. However, it is not feasible under current funding levels to provide effective IBI to every single child diagnosed with autism beginning at the time of their diagnosis. This leads to waiting periods that can last over two years, according to Amy Fee, Parliamentary Assistant to the MCCSS. Recent statements by MacLeod claim that over 8,000 children are receiving IBI through the OAP while 23,000 are still on the waitlist, a number the Ford government is accused of inflating by instructing regional providers to covertly stop accepting waitlisted families.

Changes to the program

Blaming financial constraints, the Ford government’s priority shifted to eliminating the waitlist. Over the next two years, the amount allocated for autism programs in the annual budget will remain at $321 million, but coverage will be rationed between all 31,000 children who are either waitlisted or currently receiving full therapy.

Funding will be awarded to children based on age and family income, with clients receiving up to $20,000 per year until the age of six, followed by $5,000 per year between the ages of six and 18. Families with a household income exceeding $250,000 won’t receive any funding at all.

While earlier treatment is correlated with more effective outcomes, scaling funding with age has been criticized due to the highly variable nature of the disorder. For example, a more neurotypical child at age five could be less functionally impaired than a 10-year-old farther along the spectrum.

However, since March 21, the Ford government announced a number of concessions for which details are still unclear, with MacLeod announcing that she would take the next few months to deliberate further. These updates included removal of the consideration of household family income in determining funding maximums; additional funding for children with autism to access speech language pathology, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy; increasing the total budget allocation to a minimum of $600 million; and committing to additional needs-based funding, without any further numerical or logistical details.

Despite MacLeod’s alleged threats to the Ontario Association of Behaviour Analysis warning the organization against disagreeing with the changes, pushback against the policy from groups across the board as been immense. The OAP revamp has been met with protests and criticism by parents, therapists, and self-advocacy groups. Many parents are saying that despite the unfairness and deep flaws of the previous system, they would rather wait for a full, intensive course of therapy than try to make do with what the government is providing. A significant number of families are being forced to choose between paying differences in cost that can amount to multiple times the Ontario median income, which may involve selling family property and depriving their child of effective therapy.

In response to backlash, the Ford government announced that it would be providing school boards with an average of $12,300 per child with autism enrolled in school, to help train teachers and ensure there are additional supports available. However this was not a new announcement — according to an August 2018 announcement by the provincial government, school boards will receive $12,300 for any student enrolled in school, regardless of their diagnoses or educational needs. Other significantly smaller funds in addition to the standard $12,300 are available for students with special needs in Ontario, but MacLeod’s announcement was deliberately misleading. The push for earlier integration of children with ASD into Ontario schools is particularly ominous when set against the backdrop of significant cuts to education, which will increase class sizes and reduce staffing at Ontario schools.

The broad impact of the changes

No amount of deception by the Ford government can hide the fact that all children, especially those with more severe autism coming from families with lower incomes, will be affected by the sweeping changes to the OAP and the education system as a whole. The ripple effects of these changes should be of concern to all of us. Anyone, from high school students soon joining U of T to mature student parents unable to afford both tuition and appropriate childcare, could be affected. It is up to us to join with all of them and advocate for evidence-based solutions to the needs of some of the most vulnerable citizens of this province.

Imaan Javeed is an MD student in the Faculty of Medicine. The author would like to acknowledge Kristin Bain, a Senior Therapist at AlphaBee, an intervention centre specializing in IBI and other behavioural analytic therapies.

UTSG students join province-wide walkout in protest of Ford cuts

Canadian Federation of Students pushes for repeal of changes to postsecondary funding

UTSG students join province-wide walkout in protest of Ford cuts

On March 20, around 150 UTSG students took part in a province-wide walkout to protest the Ford government’s announced unfunded tuition cut, changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and an opt-out option for certain incidental fees, known as the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). The students began by rallying at Sidney Smith Hall before marching on Simcoe Hall. 

The walkout was organized by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) in conjunction with campus groups as part of a province-wide campaign to bring awareness to the postsecondary funding changes. The protesters were joined by representatives from the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, the Arts and Science Students’ Union, and the Graduate Students’ Union. 

The Student Choice Initiative (SCI) is one of the other changes announced by the provincial government that would mandate an opt-out option for certain incidental fees. It threatens the funding of many organizations that rely on mandatory student levies for funding, including the student unions in attendance at the protest. 

In its January announcement, the Ford government characterized the mandate as giving students the freedom to choose what they would be funding. For organizations like the CFS, this could mean a severe funding cut.

However, the CFS has a plan to keep organizing even with potential losses of revenue. CFS–Ontario Chairperson Nour Alideeb said in an interview with The Varsity that while she can’t speak to the specifics of how the CFS will operate on a reduced budget, it does have a plan for continued advocacy.

“We have strength in numbers, and the reality is that this government’s going to be removed in the next four years, and there will be governments that will be around after that… Because of our strength in numbers, we are actually able to create change,” said Alideeb, also expressing a hope to unite campuses across the province to repeal the SCI. 

While protests continue across the province, the fight to reverse the Ford government’s changes continues at Queen’s Park. Ontario New Democratic Party MPP for Spadina—Fort York and Critic for Training, Colleges and Universities Chris Glover has announced that he will be introducing a private members’ bill next week. 

The bill is set to ask the Ford government to relieve student debt by converting all future OSAP loans into grants, and ending interest on student loan debt by the provincial government.

In a statement released to The Varsity, Glover wrote, “Cutting and ultimately eliminating student debt will also be good for our economy. Currently students and graduates are saddled with debts that can take decades to pay off.” Glover sees student debt as restricting participation in the economy and hopes that the government will see education as an “investment in our future, both economically and socially.”

Editor’s Note (4:00 pm, March 27): This article has been updated to clarify that the CFS organized the walkout in conjunction with campus groups, as well as that the protest was also in relation to the SCI.

“I don’t know how I’m going to come to school next year”: UTSC students walk out in response to Ford’s education reform

UTSC participates in province-wide walkout

“I don’t know how I’m going to come to school next year”: UTSC students walk out in response to Ford’s education reform

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) organized a UTSC Solidarity Action event with a walkout on March 20 as a part of a province-wide walkout to protest the Ontario government’s changes to postsecondary education funding.

The event took place across three locations at UTSC: the Bladen Wing, the Instructional Centre, and the Student Centre. At all locations, SCSU representatives and volunteers collected signatures for its petition against the provincial government’s reforms, as well as letters to be sent to various MPPs.

The SCSU warns that the planned tuition reduction will result in a loss of “approximately $360 million from university operating budgets,” and will increase the already “skyrocketing tuition fees for international students.” 

The province announced the changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) on January 17, saying that the previous model, which granted tuition funding to families earning up to $175,000, was fiscally unsustainable. 

The government eliminated the six-month interest-free grace period on OSAP loans, while also lowering the income threshold at which students can qualify for grants. This may force students to take on more loans and accumulate more debt.

In an interview with The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President External Hana Syed, who helped to organize the event, emphasized the importance of participating in solidarity action. 

“The services that our student union offers, like operating a food bank, and the Women’s and Trans Centre, or Racialized Student Collective, and [Free Book Network] that support marginalized communities especially, are now going to be cut.”

Speaking on the changes to OSAP, Syed said, “The way that I’m even able to access education and be here is because I am on OSAP… I have three siblings; it would be impossible for my parents… to send all of us to school, and education is that important to my family.” 

Chemi Lhamo, current SCSU Vice-President Equity and President-elect, believes the government’s changes affect all students. 

“It’s an attack on us,” Lhamo told The Varsity. “When you don’t invest in our future generations, it’s a testament to where your morals lie.”

“I am a part-time student because education is already highly inaccessible to someone like me who comes from different intersectional identities, and I think this can be relatable to a lot of other students, especially in the Scarborough campus because about 80 per cent of our students are racialized folks,” Lhamo said. “A racialized woman came into my office in tears, and said, ‘Chemi, I don’t know how I’m going to come to school next year.’ And that shakes me to the core.”