Opinion: What students should do with this election? Take it Over!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

  • On October 6th students have a chance to vote for future with less debt

    On October 6th students have a chance to vote for future with less debt

What students should do with this election: Take it Over!

The provincial election will be happening in Ontario on October 6th. As the election is looming the future for students in Ontario is bleak. Post-secondary education is facing a crisis as years of underfunding have resulted in tuition rising almost four times above inflation since 2006. Per-student funding in Ontario is the lowest out of any province and less than half of the per-capita funding in Alberta. Because of a lack of funding, Ontario also has the highest tuition out of any province; Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador students pay half or three times less than the average student in Ontario.

With the election campaigns occurring, students should make sure to look at all the parties and see how their policies impact the interests of students and workers. Students who care about affordable, quality public education should also get students to vote for a progressive representative in parliament. Low voter turnout is a result of voter participation being suppressed by the right. The main parties do not make an adequate enough effort to engage students, young workers, and the unemployed. Some of the main parties even hope for a low voter turnout
 because their policies are not related to the interests of the majority and a high voter turnout would have the potential to lower their percentage of the vote.

Under a system where voting is suppressed and the needs of a few wealthy individuals and corporations are equated with the interests of everyone, the McGuinty Liberals have chosen to lower corporate tax rates instead of lower tuition. Ontario has the lowest corporate tax rates in North America. In 2010 the $2.4 billion dollars of corporate tax cuts by the Liberals were enough to pay for free education for every post-secondary student in Ontario. Policies that lower
corporate tax rates in order to “reward job creators” and increase employment are a farce. There is no correlation between corporate tax rates and employment. The jobs that have been created in Ontario are service sector jobs that provide poverty wages.

But where do the parties stand for this election? Are there any good policies when it comes to education?

The Progressive Conservatives have decided to scapegoat international students. They pledge to end the public scholarships set up by the McGuinty Government for foreign students in Ontario. They are doing this while saying that it shows they care more about the local population. This xenophobia should be countered. Instead of making barriers to international students even more substantial (international students pay three times the average tuition of the Ontarian student), parties should change their priorities to freezing and lowering tuition for all. At the same time, the Tories promise to “raise the threshold on financial support to make it more accessible for middle-class families to send their children to college or university.”  But won’t this just increase the amount of students in debt in Ontario as they attend post-secondary education? This policy is definitely inadequate.

  The NDP are going for a freeze in tuition. This is notable and something that students should encourage; the NDP have the best education platform of the main parties this election. A freeze in tuition after it has been rising well above inflation is positive, but something that many students would say is not enough. If the NDP presented a commitment to freeze tuition and then lower it, it would be a position that more students would get excited about. At the same time the NDP wants to get rid of interest on public loans to students. This is helpful as well, but would still result in debt among many students.

 The Liberal Party is providing an education platform that is divisive for students. The party is offering a $1600 grant to university students and a $730 grant to college students whose families make less than $160 000 a year. This would help many working class students, but it would be implemented without a freeze in tuition, and the grant is also based on academic performance. After your first year, you will have to maintain a certain academic standard to keep getting the grant. The grant is also discriminatory. Graduate students, professional students, part time students, and international students will not receive the grant. A type of policy like this that does not equally benefit all divides students. This policy is not close to as good as an across the board tuition freeze let alone the reduction that students are asking for.

When it comes to tuition, The Green Party's platform leaves much to be desired. They are offering a freeze in tuition for a year and then a rise of tuition equal to inflation. This is not enough when average debt in Ontario for the graduating student is $37, 000.

 The Party with the best platform is the Communist Party. They plan to eliminate tuition fees, and end the corporatization and privatization of campus in favour of quality public education. According to them, this can be accomplished by raising the corporate tax rates to levels previously seen in Ontario.  Unfortunately, the likelihood of electing a Communist candidate is slim.

            So how do we get more out of our politicians?  Students at the University of Guelph are encouraged to help out with the Take it Over campaign. This campaign is happening across Universities in Ontario. The campaign is being done to encourage students to put pressure on the main parties to have adequate education platforms and promise more. The campaign also knows that voting is not everything and that we need to educate all students and community on post secondary issues. Campaigns across Ontario are taking part in different initiatives to get media attention.

Anyone who wants to help out with the Take it Over campaign should contact
. Help is always needed to flyer, poster, and table at different
all-candidates debates at Guelph. Ideas are also needed to provide help with developing different initiatives to get media attention concerning inadequate funding of post-secondary education. The campaign also wants to stay strong throughout the year and participate in a Canada Wide Student Day of Action in February for quality, public education, and a dropping of tuition fees.

Many countries have free tuition. Examples include; Mexico, Germany, Cuba, Denmark, Brazil, Norway, Greece and more.  Several countries also provide a living stipend to
students. The UN’s Declaration of Human Rights calls on governments that can afford it to provide free education at all levels.  Why can so many smaller and “poorer” countries afford it and we can’t?

As Ontario students face rising tuition they are dealing with larger class sizes. A higher cost for education does not equate with a better quality of education but a worse one. Education is becoming privatized; students now pay for almost fifty percent of their Post-secondary education. Students at Guelph are encouraged to advocate for something different: free, public education that is a right and not a privilege. Any help, no matter how small or large, would be greatly appreciated for the Take It Over campaign and the time is now to secure gains for students that will benefit us for the next 4 or 5 years.

For more information, please visit http://www.take-it-over.ca/home/

Peter Miller is a student at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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