finally sets an election date - candidates get uppity
By Marshall Bellamy
The recent provincial election called by Ontario
Premier Ernie Eves has brought post-secondary issues to the
forefront as London North Centre candidates battle for student
"We believe tuition fees are too high
and have denied students access [to Ontario universities],"
said Rebecca Coulter, New Democratic Party candidate for the
The NDP is deeply concerned with accessibility
for students, Coulter stated, adding if elected, the NDP would
immediately roll back tuition fees by 10 per cent. The NDP would
review and overhaul the Ontario Student Assistance Program,
open up assistance to more students, create grants and programs
that would decrease student debt and re-regulate professional
and graduate programs such as medical, dental and law schools.
Liberal candidate Deb Matthews stressed that
despite the abrupt election call the Liberals are ready for
the campaign. "We're really, really ready for the call,"
The Liberals, if elected, intend to freeze
tuition fees for at least two years and recommence government
regulation of tuition fees for professional and graduate programs
in order to make post-secondary education more accessible, Matthews
said, noting accessibility is a very crucial issue.
"We have to totally reform OSAP, it
doesn't reflect the tuition now," Matthews asserted, adding
she would like to see consultations between the government and
Diane Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges
and Universities and the current London North Centre representative
for the Progressive Conservatives pointed out numerous initiatives
the PCs have already undertaken, including increased financial
assistance for graduate students, the tuition freeze (at two
per cent a year) and the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund,
which has allocated $400 million from the spring budget to financially
The PC government has also been focusing on
the quality of education in Ontario universities, Cunningham
said, noting that $60 million has been put into a fund that
will hire more faculty to lower the student-to-teacher ratio
"We want to be competitive in the world
when it comes to research," Cunningham said, noting that
billions have already been poured into research programs and
grants aimed at improving the quality of existing research infrastructure.
Over the last several years the provincial
government has been funneling billions of dollars into university
building programs that have sparked unprecedented growth on
campuses across Ontario, Cunningham said. This has allowed the
post-secondary system to accommodate 135,000 more students this
year, she added.
The NDP, if elected, plans on increasing funding
to universities as tuition fees are rolled back to ensure universities
are not undercut by tuition decreases.
"We are deeply concerned with the quality
of education," Coulter said, adding the NDP has a plan
that will involve hiring more university faculty as the older
The London North Centre riding was won with
a difference of 1800 votes in the last election, Matthews pointed
out, adding students could determine which way the election
will go in this riding.
"Convincing students of the need to vote
is tough enough - figuring out how to get students to register
is different," said University Students' Council VP-education
Dave Ford. He added the USC SmartVote initiative will be very
active this election in encouraging students to vote by hosting
an all-candidates forum, young party debates and campus blitzes.