U of O student union not represented at week-long event
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) sent delegates to the provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park for this year’s annual Lobby Week, which took place from Feb. 25 to Feb. 28.
CFS representatives met with members of provincial Parliament from all three parties, but ultimately were unable to meet with either Premier Doug Ford or Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, despite attempts to arrange a meeting.
The CFS outlined several policy goals that it would target in its lobbying, including the continuation of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants to low-income students, the repeal of the Student Choice Initiative, and the reinstatement for funding for a Francophone university in Toronto.
“This year’s lobby asks are a little bit in response to some of the cuts that we’ve seen, but also still setting the direction for (the) future, as to what we can see happen with post-secondary education,” said Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the CFS.
The accompanying document for Lobby Week 2019 is called “We the Students,” seemingly in response to the provincial government’s “For the Students” branding on its policy changes.
In January, the Progressive Conservative provincial government announced a 10 per cent reduction to tuition fees, but also took away guaranteed funding for many student organizations as part of the “Student Choice Initiative,” instead leaving the choice up to individual institutions as to which groups should receive automatic financial support.
In effect, this means that many student groups which now receive funding from their institutions may be dependant on the voluntary support of students, depending on what each institution decides.
The CFS is also asking for more reductions in tuition fees, including suggestions to chop off another 10 per cent per academic year starting in 2020-21.
Alideeb also highlighted the Lobby Week goal to implement a support system for Indigenous students, including researching Indigenous students’ access to post-secondary education in the province.
Despite not meeting with Ford or Fullerton, the CFS met on the morning of Feb. 27 with MPP and U of O alumnus David Piccini, who is Fullerton’s parliamentary assistant.
Speaking to the Fulcrum before the meeting, Piccini said that they would be discussing the tuition reduction, referencing it as a shared goal between the government and the CFS.
He also said that the government is “not in a position … to fund a Francophone university in Toronto,” saying that the funds need to be allocated instead to paying down the deficit. He maintained, however, the government was still committed to supporting existing bilingual education in Ontario.
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, which continues to represent U of O students on an interim basis until April 30, did not send any representatives with CFS to this year’s Lobby Week.
Alideeb said that there was a representative from Carleton University who could raise some Ottawa-area interests.