Volume 96, Issue 61
Friday, January 17, 2003

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Dalton sniffing for student Liberal vote

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberals and candidate for premier in the next provincial election, was pressured to include policies which improve post-secondary education in his party's platform, when he visited Western yesterday.

McGuinty's brief speech, which took place in the University Students' Council chambers in the University Community Centre, began with an outline of his election platform.

"If I could stand for nothing else as premier, I would stand for education," he said, adding a Liberal government would maintain a balanced budget and not raise taxes.

"Education in this province is in a pretty sorry state," he said, noting the Harris government cut $2 billion from education. "The Eves government has taken exactly the same approach to post-secondary education.

One of the changes the Liberals would implement is the enforcement of mandatory education until the age of 18, he said.

"We're going to see to it that every Ontarian that wants a post-secondary education will get it," McGuinty said, adding investment in research, the use of a prepaid tuition plan and an increase in graduate scholarships by 50 per cent will all be parts of his platform.

McGuinty said he wanted to reduce student-teacher ratios in both public and secondary schools.

Western President Paul Davenport said he was delighted McGuinty mentioned student-faculty ratios. "I'd ask you to make an equal statement about student-faculty ratios at post-secondary institutions," Davenport said at McGuinty's appearance.

"We are intent on having something in [our education platform] to help universities with faculty renewal," McGuinty said.

"We will be speaking in very specific ways about tuition [when] we release our platform document," he said, adding he could not answer specific questions about a tuition freeze or reduction.

Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, said McGuinty's non-response on issues, such as tuition, did not mean anything one way or another. "We're going to hold them to [previous commitments]," he added .

Fourth-year political science student Mike Lawless said the Liberals are a party without direction. "I thought he had a lot of questions without answers," Lawless said.

"Liberals are known for their-flip flops," he said, adding McGuinty will say anything to appease anyone.

McGuinty's visit was arranged by the Society of Graduate Students. Sarah McCarter, SOGS VP-external, said she hoped the Liberals' advocacy for investment in post-secondary education is carried on into their election platform.


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