September 30, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 18  

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Questions loom over Liberal promises

Karla Courtney
Gazette Writer

As election day creeps up, party finger-pointing is at its peak and this week's focus is on Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party, whose platform has been criticized for flip-flopping throughout the campaign.

Concern stems from McGuinty's promised $5.9 billion increase in spending, when the province is already $4.5 billion in debt, prompting speculation many Liberal spending priorities will be delayed, including a freeze on tuition.

"Tuition will be frozen for at least two years," confirmed Marie Bountrogianni, Liberal critic for colleges and universities, noting despite the, rumours the Liberals intend to delay freezing tuition even in the face of budgetary concerns.

According to Bountrogianni, post-secondary education is the highest priority of the Liberals and if elected, McGuinty will follow through with his election policies because the proposed Liberal budget has taken into account the possibility of a $2 billion deficit. "There may be some promises that will be delayed," she added.

"I'm telling you right now we will balance the budget," Bountrogianni asserted, adding all of the Liberal's campaign promises will be fulfilled, even if they are not followed through until the second or third year the Liberals are in office.

Members of the New Democratic Party, however, are far from convinced. "My concern is that when [McGuinty] was asked what he would cut, tuition fees were the first thing that came to his mind. For [him] the first people hurt by the Liberal flip-flop will be the students," said Rebecca Coulter, NDP candidate for London North Centre.

"He has said it and he may have retracted the statement, but why should we believe him now, given that he has already flip-flopped on other issues, like privatization," Coulter continued.

"It will be an interesting last three days of campaigning," noted Dianne Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and Progressive Conservative candidate for London North Centre, adding the Liberals do not seem to have confidence of their financial policies and they have not yet seen the budget.

According to Cunningham, the Conservatives' record with post-secondary education has been good, professors have been getting favourable wages, tuition has been frozen at an increase of two per cent a year and universities have been expanded.

Cunningham pointed out the Liberals have only asked her four questions concerning her portfolio over the last four years.

When asked to confirm or deny McGuinty's statement about the tuition freeze, many Liberal campaign members declined, repeatedly stating McGuinty will stick to his commitment.

"We have no idea what sort of shambles the government will be in if we get elected," said one Liberal campaign member who chose to remain anonymous.

"We welcome the fact that the Liberals have re-affirmed their commitment and it's much needed," University Students' Council VP-education Dave Ford said.




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