Volume 95, Issue 57

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
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Tories to deny Queen's deregulation

Charity Ball takes on diabetes

Liz Witmer kisses USC ass, promises change

UWO clubs raise funds for starving Afghans

Crazy-ass drives concern UPD

Drive-bys? Are we in Compton?

Liz Witmer kisses USC ass, promises change

By Erin Conway-Smith
Gazette Staff

Ontario Environment Minister and Tory leadership hopeful Elizabeth Witmer visited Western yesterday on her campaign trail to replace outgoing Premier Mike Harris.

Witmer, a Western alumni, met with University Students' Council president Mike Lawless, VP-education Erin McCloskey and VP-finance Rob Irvine to discuss issues of specific concern to post-secondary students.

"We need to ensure there is accessibility and affordability when it comes to post-secondary education," Witmer said following the meeting, noting education is the second most important issue to people in Ontario, following health care.

"Some of the statistics are certainly demonstrating that by deregulating, it is preventing some of the people from low-income families to participate in these programs," she said.

Witmer said she would consider looking at an income-contingent loan repayment plan in order to ensure the affordability of post-secondary education for Ontario students.

McCloskey, who also serves as president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, recommended to Witmer that the repayment period for student loans be set at 15 years, instead of the current unlimited time span.

She also asked Witmer to look at a form of repayment based on income tax rates, so that graduates would pay what they could afford, with government funding making up the difference.

If elected premier, Witmer said she would review the issue of financial support to universities within 90 days of taking office. The impact of deregulation on students and the type of financial aid programs needed to ensure accessibility are two specific areas that would be examined, she added.

The minister also spoke of the need to build the "human infrastructure" in Ontario, by developing new ideas through collaboration instead of imposing them on people.

"It's very important to recognize that this is 2002, not 1995. We need to look at a new way of working with people in this province and providing them with the services that they need," she said.

Lawless spoke with Witmer about the lack of representation of student union presidents on the board of governors for universities in Ontario.

"She was very supportive of the issue of student representation on the board of governors," Lawless said.

"I don't think any person interested in leadership will have any choice but to listen to change," he added.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001