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Fears over cutbacks surface
By John Intini
The contents of an alleged cabinet document which shows government plans to cut $800 million from the province's education system published in The Toronto Star yesterday, has raised serious concerns with student leaders across the province.
The story was based on information from a cabinet memo dated Oct. 28 made available to the Star who reported the document proposed cuts to a number of areas in the education field.
The plan would affect universities by cutting funding to research and "low priority programs," through the creation of private universities and by making adjustments to the current student loan program. It was reported $160 million would be cut from university funding in the next few months.
Thomas Walkom, the Star's national affairs writer, said he received the memo from a reliable provincial cabinet source.
But Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities spokesperson Kerry Delaney, said she did not know where the $800 million figure or the document came from. Delaney did say the Ontario government is committed to post-secondary accessibility and quality.
"We are committed to improving our education system and are reviewing and re-evaluating all the time," she said.
While Delaney could neither confirm nor deny whether the Star's document was in fact a cabinet recommendation, she said recommendations are frequently made, yet are not always taken seriously. Delaney added an announcement will be made by the Ministry today regarding education.
Ryan Parks, director of the Ontario University Student Alliance, said he was contacted by Minister Dianne Cunningham yesterday. "She told me how every year the Ministry goes through a brainstorming period and that we should wait until tomorrow's announcement before jumping to conclusions."
University Students' Council president SzeJack Tan said it was important students and administrators do not overreact. "We don't even know if this document is legitimate," he said.
However, Tan added if the document is proven to be valid, there is cause for serious concern.
Western's VP-academic Greg Moran said he was shocked when he heard news of the document. He added government support was making it difficult to provide quality education. "We can't do it with current levels of funding and we certainly can't do it with less funding," he said.
Joel Harden, Ontario chair with the Canadian Federation of Students, said although he was a bit surprised by the amount reported, the cut to funding did not come as a shock.
"It's not as if this is unprecedented," he said. "[The government] keeps talking out of both sides of their mouths and I just want to hear from the minister what the real plans are."