Volume 96, Issue 69
Friday, January 31, 2003

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Liberal election platform calls for tuition freeze

By Shannon Proudfoot
Gazette Staff

The provincial Liberal party released its election platform yesterday, proposing an immediate tuition freeze and help for needy students, among other commitments.

Marie Bountrogianni, Liberal critic for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said the platform is the result of public concern and not pressure from lobby groups.

"This is listening to students and their families," she said.

Bountrogianni said an immediate tuition freeze is planned for the next two years, during which time consultation with students, professors and administrators will develop long-term plans.

The platform's initiatives will be funded by eliminating excess spending undertaken by the current Progressive Conservative government, such as their substantial spending on public advertising campaigns.

Andrew Bennett, spokesperson for Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Dianne Cunningham, said he does not see a significant difference between the Liberal platform and what the present government is doing.

However, Bennett said there would be a concern with the lost funding that would accompany a tuition freeze. "It will take money away from institutions that they have been planning on," Bennett noted.

Bennett said the Liberal platform is non-specific and does not address how the party will implement its initiatives. "They are sentiments, not policies," he said.

Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students Joel Duff said he sees the platform as a positive response to CFS's lobbying activities.

Duff said that, although a tuition freeze is a positive first step, he expects further progress, specifically in terms of tuition fee reduction.

Every other province that has witnessed a tuition reduction preceded the move with a tuition freeze, he explained, adding, "We have to keep the pressure on."

According to Josh Morgan, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and VP-Education for Western's University Students' Council, implementation of the Liberal education initiatives would raise some concern.

"They are making a lot of promises that would cost a lot of money," he said.

Morgan said the proposed tuition freeze is the most positive element of the platform, but maintained that government operating grants would be required if the quality of post-secondary education was to be maintained.

"Any freeze or reduction of fees requires an injection of government funds," he explained.

Provincial New Democratic Party leader Howard Hampton said the Liberal platform is unrealistic, without providing government funding to education, adding Ontario ranks last in North America, in terms of education funding.

"It's embarrassing when places like Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas invest more in their next generation in terms of education than we do in Ontario," he said.

–With files from Jillian Van Acker

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