Dunlop, Minister of Colleges/Universities, Skips Lakehead Debate
NDP’s Elizabeth Van Houtte says it’s ‘particularly insulting’ that Dunlop skipped event focused on his wallet, calling it ‘disservice to voters’
North Simcoe’s only university hosted a candidates’ debate today to “discuss the issues facing Ontario’s universities.”
Jill Dunlop, the constituency’s incumbent Progressive Conservative MP, who is also Minister for Colleges and Universities, did not attend the event organized by the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) and the Lakehead University Faculty Association (LUFA) .
For Dunlop, this was the third political debate she skipped this week.
LUSU Vice President Brandon Rhéal Amyot was asked about Dunlop’s absence.
“(We) look forward to working with a future Minister of Colleges and Universities who is interested in collegial relations with all members of the post-secondary sector,” they said.
“We appreciate the guest nominees who have taken the time to talk about their post-secondary education platforms.”
Dunlop did not return a call to comment on his absence.
North Simcoe candidates from the Greens, Liberals and Ontario NDP participated in Friday’s event.
Afterwards, NDP candidate Elizabeth Van Houtte tweeted: “As Minister of Colleges and Universities this is particularly insulting, and as an MP this is a disservice to voters.
During the debate, candidates answered questions about increasing funding for universities and colleges, reducing tuition fees and expanding opportunities for student loans and grants, improving work of contract and part-time lecturers and support for student mental health, among other topics.
The three candidates said they would seek to repeal the performance-based funding models for colleges and universities introduced under the current government, opting instead for an equitable mode of funding, in a bid to curb rising tuition fees. schooling.
“The performance-based funding model takes away autonomy not only from universities and teachers, but also from students,” Van Houtte said. “Students need to learn where they stand, and performance-based funding doesn’t do that. It rationalizes people, it confines people, and I don’t agree with that.
“The performance model is brutal, and we’re going to scrap it and get rid of it. We like to think our post-secondary institutions are publicly funded, but in reality, they’re publicly funded,” said Liberal candidate Aaron Cayden Hiltz.
“Moving forward, we need to undo the devastating OSAP cuts, abandon the performance-based model so students and universities can grow, and we want to eliminate interest on student loans. »
Green candidate Krystal Brooks said her party would fund universities based on a “weighted national average”, with “inflationary” funding increases each year.
“It amounts to changing a lot of things that the Ford government has done and revamping our education system, and also replacing the faculty performance-based funding model for universities,” she said. “I think that’s really important, and restoring a more stable and equitable enrollment-based funding model.”
Like Cayden Hiltz, Van Houtte and Brooks said their parties would eliminate interest on student loans.
“The (current situation) did not happen overnight. We didn’t wake up and found we were in trouble. The (Liberals and Progressive Conservatives) continued to carve out post-secondary education,” Van Houtte said. “We will reverse the cuts Ford has imposed on OSAP and ensure students graduate debt-free by converting loans to scholarships. We will eliminate all interest on student loans.
Brooks said the Greens would reverse “the Ford government’s OSAP cuts by converting loans to grants and eliminating interest charges on student debt.”
Cayden Hiltz took issue with Van Houtte’s accusations against the Liberal party, saying the only reason he was able to attend school was because the previous Liberal government increased scholarships for low-income students.
“The NDP seems to think Kathleen Wynne is still premier and hasn’t retired. I just want to expand on the proven track record that the Liberals… (expanded) OSAP. I am the beneficiary,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here if the Ontario Liberals hadn’t expanded OSAP, so we have a proven track record in education.
When asked how he would improve conditions for contract lecturers, Cayden Hiltz spoke of the difficult circumstances many have to endure to get by.
“A few of my professors are contract lecturers and I’ve had the opportunity to speak frankly with them about their situation,” he said. “Many of them work in different schools; they travel to Toronto a few days of the week and then to Orillia a few other days of the week, and this job insecurity is stressful for them.
Van Houtte, who has worked as a lecturer in the past, acknowledged that working conditions are poor.
“There was a time when I was teaching at two universities and two colleges at the same time and I couldn’t make a living,” she says. “I was earning below minimum wage.”
Cayden Hiltz and Van Houtte said their parties would repeal Bill 124, which limits pay increases for many public sector employees.
“We’re going to repeal Bill 124. It’s not in anyone’s best interest, and it’s a direct attack on the people who provide and teach services, and if you look at the health care community, the education community, it was an attack on health and education and their workers.
“Tossing Bill 124 in the trash, where it belongs, is one of our top priorities,” said Cayden Hiltz. “I was initially talking to nurses and healthcare professionals about Bill 124 about how COVID-19 was affecting our hospitals, but since then it’s become much more than that.”
Brooks said his party would also seek to remove wage restraints.
“By ensuring consistent and fair working standards and working conditions for all faculty, including contract faculty, I really think this would help to address this issue, as well as remove wage constraints and pay employees equal pay for equal work,” she said.
Brooks added that a universal basic income would also help the situation.
“I really think almost any problem can be linked to universal basic income,” she said. “I think that’s no exception, and universal basic income would really help with that too.”
When asked how his party would help students who need mental health supports, Brooks said Ontario needs expanded access to supports, especially those that meet the needs of diverse students.
“I have also had mental health issues and I know how difficult it is to access these services. I also know how difficult it is to access these services,” she said “It’s not easy, and especially when those services aren’t open and you don’t see them, you don’t know where to look.”
“I think it’s really important to incorporate more mental health supports, and more cultural supports, more supports that meet the individual needs of diverse students, as well as making it open to all students, but also to make it available to teachers,” she says.
Cayden Hiltz highlighted the current situation and suggested that a certain amount of funds provided to universities and colleges should be earmarked for mental health support.
“The waiting list for these services can go up to three or four months. It’s half of half your school year,” he said. “When students are in crisis, they don’t have three to four months – they need access to these mental services immediately.”
“Part of my proposal today is to ensure that we allocate provincial funds to education for these support services, so that this takes the form of hiring new staff who are trained and able to streamline the process. and reduce these wild arrears. .”
Van Houtte, a social worker, pointed to the NDP’s campaign promise of universal mental health care, which would also apply to students.
“The pandemic has exposed gaping gaps in our health care system and what we have seen missing is a very strong mental health program across the province,” she said. “The NDP has announced its platform to launch, immediately after our election, a mental health program that every Ontarian can use and use with their OHIP card for up to $200 per visit. With regard to universities, this means that university students would have access to them (also). »
Candidates from the New Blue Party and the Ontario Party were not invited to the event.
“For reasons of time, we chose to invite the four parties that were elected to the Legislative Assembly in the last Ontario election,” Amyot said. OrilliaMatters. “If we have other events between now and the election, we will give all parties the opportunity to be present for a discussion on their post-secondary education platforms.”
The debate will be available on the LUSU YouTube page and on the LUFA website.