Admin may face review
Government announces cuts
Province may find itself home to private universities
Reform policy may harm UN friendship
The mysteries of medicine revealed
Government announces cuts
By Paul-Mark Rendon
An announcement by the provincial government yesterday detailed Ontario's plans to tighten its belt to the tune of $300 million in spending cuts over the next year.
Announced by management board chair Chris Hodgson at Queen's Park, the cuts are part of an ongoing process to trim the fat from the Ontario system, said Craig Sumi, spokesperson for the management board secretariat.
Sumi said the cuts, including a $90 million reduction to spending on administration and a $75 million reduction in social assistance payments, would enable the province to maintain fiscal responsibility as part of their pledge to reduce an inherited $11 billion deficit when they took office in 1995.
Sumi said the $300 million in spending cuts would help put the Tories on track towards balancing next year's budget, but Tracey Sobers, press secretary for Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, served up a scathing commentary of the cuts. "The Tories always claim they're just cutting fat. The last time they said that, they cut 42 per cent of the Ministry of the Environment's budget," she said.
Ryan Parks, executive director for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, said he was glad to hear the cuts went no further than what was mentioned in last month's provincial throne speech.
"I guess my opinion is [the announcement] was certainly better than what was reported in the Toronto Star [Wednesday], but we still have to wait and see what the funding announcement is like," he said of next spring's budget details.
Sumi said there was no connection between Hodgson's announcement and the front page article in the Star, detailing $800 million worth of education cuts based on an allegedly leaked confidential document.
Kerry Delaney, spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said she could not confirm nor deny the leaked document, but added the Ministry constantly receives recommendations, many of which are not pursued.
She added, several initiatives mentioned in yesterday's announcement which did pertain to post-secondary education included a clampdown on credit checks and income verification for Ontario Student Assistance Program recipients. "[OSAP] is not a grant it's a loan. We'll guarantee they have a good credit rating and this will make sure they don't default on their loans," she said.
Delaney said a streamlining of administrative costs, representing $5.4 million in savings, would also be implemented alongside the crackdown on OSAP fraud. "It will save us in the neighbourhood of $15 to $16 million," she said.
However, Mark Kissel, VP-education for the University Students' Council and Ontario director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said he felt the OSAP predicament was brought on by the Ministry itself. "It is true, they are getting defrauded out of a lot of money," Kissel said.
"But at the same time, they wouldn't have to go after these people if they didn't keep raising tuition."