September 5, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 5  

Front Page >> News > Eves finally sets an election date - candidates get uppity


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Eves finally sets an election date - candidates get uppity

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

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 votes.

"We believe tuition fees are too high and have denied students access [to Ontario universities]," said Rebecca Coulter, New Democratic Party candidate for the riding.

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," she added.

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 students.

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 assist students.

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 in Ontario.

"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 faculty retires.

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.



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