Volume 92, Issue 30

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

hot air


Harris defends debt

©Dipesh Mistry/Gazette

MIND IF I HAVE A LITTLE NAP? Ontario Premier Mike Harris was caught resting while in London to clear up some facts about recent cuts to healthcare yesterday.

By Mark Brown

Gazette Staff

While students are incurring a higher debt load, a university education is still a heck of a good deal, according to Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

Harris tried to clarify a statement he made last week at the jobs and prosperity conference in St. Catharines in response to a comment made by McMaster Student Union President Fayez Quereshy.

At the conference, Harris said debt may put off a BMW for one more year, but he didn't think it should be a barrier to anybody. These comments were interpreted by Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty as Harris' failure to comprehend the student debt issue.

Harris responded by attacking McGuinty as taking the comments out of context. "If Dalton would attend these non-partisan functions he would get the straight goods.

"I indicated that in my view, any student who was going to graduate as a doctor, where we cap their income somewhere around $300,000, that in fact I felt the investment in education was a bargain and a heck of a good deal."

"Accessibility is actually improving under our government even though tuition fees were up a little bit while those who could not afford to attend university were receiving significantly more assistance," Harris said.

He added, he called McMaster to see if students were in fact turning down the chance to go to Mac because of financial reasons, but was told this was not the case. "They had 2,200 applications for 100 spots. All 100 who were accepted into the program paid their own way and some were getting student assistance."

Quereshy said Harris' comments at the conference were directed at his statement about how some students choose not to go to McMaster's medical school because of the price ticket. He added these comments were not taken out of context.

"Harris speculates that parents are paying for students' education – that's simply not true," Quereshy said.

Lyn McLeod, Liberal critic for colleges and universities, said it is hard to believe Harris' comments could be taken out of context. "This is another example of Mike saying what he really thinks about students going into debt."

"We don't have any data for those students whose dreams have been shattered," said Nick Iozzo, University Students' Council VP-education.

Iozzo added he does not believe the Tory government truly understands the problem of student debt. "They don't see the two or three part-time jobs students are taking on or the sacrifices students make to make their loan payments."

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Copyright © The Gazette 1998