THE UPDATE | Issue 3: Crazy Marxist Nonsense

THE UPDATE | Issue 3: Crazy Marxist Nonsense

Written By: Aidan Cole Currie, AVP Administration; and Tyler Biswurm, Vice-President Operations

Welcome back to The Update, the weekly blog where you’ll be able to keep up with recent developments, how students and the UTSU are responding, and media coverage of the Ford government’s changes to student finance.

Last Week, In Review

Everything you need to know about what has happened recently

        In a fundraising email to Ontario Progressive Conservative Party members, Doug Ford defended the decision to make non-tuition fees optional by accusing student unions of engaging in “crazy Marxist nonsense.” An article published by the CBC covers how student groups and opposition politicians condemned the message, and the consensus among them that “the premier’s language confirms what they’ve suspected — that the fee changes announced last month are politically motivated.”

        The statements made in the email represent a significant milestone in understanding the motivations behind the Ontario government’s announced tuition reductions, OSAP cuts, and non-tuition fee changes. To date, public statements made by the government about the changes have asserted that they are based in a commitment to the affordability of post-secondary education. In the eyes of many, that rationale has been a partial one at best, and an untruthful one at worst. From the beginning, doubts abounded:

  • Which priority was higher in the government’s plan: protecting student wallets, or balancing the budget?
  • How interested in educational affordability can the government be if its plan disproportionately benefits the rich over the poor?
  • How did the government’s plan account for the hits to university and college budgets: as an acceptable sacrifice in protecting student wallets, or as an intended blow against the liberal political environments they host?
  • And distinctly relevant now: Why the sudden attention to the peripheral subject of non-tuition fees?

        Now, with what appears to be an unguarded explanation from the premier himself, we can begin to narrow down the speculation and establish some firm answers to the questions raised by the government’s unrevealing statements. One especially serious conclusion can be drawn from our newfound clarity on the government’s thinking: the Ford government is more invested in its own ideological crusades than it is in the best interests of students.

        The biggest failure of the government’s plan remains its deeply flawed approach to achieving affordability for postsecondary students. Now, in close second, comes the stunning fraudulence of perverting what could have been a positive change for students in Ontario with a covert ideological attack against the student organizations that serve them.

        While Premier Ford’s statements have clued us into the motivations behind the government’s changes, we still await answers to important questions raised by the government’s patchwork implementation plan. Whereas various useful analyses have been surfaced by advocacy groups and the media in recent weeks, it must be understood that these rely on a wide set of assumptions made in a vacuum of official information. Until the government decides to be more forthcoming, the best anyone can do is guess at what the exact changes to OSAP and non-tuition fees will be and what specific consequences they will have.

Students in Response

An overview of how students and the UTSU are responding and organizing

        The UTSU continued work on its #UTSUwithU campaign, hosting two online Q&A sessions where members asked executives questions about changes to OSAP, changes to non-tuition fees, student services, and student action. Executives addressed subjects ranging from how students can involve themselves in advocacy efforts to the UTSU’s own plans in the event that it suffers a shortfall in funds. In case you didn’t get the chance to check them out, they’re available to watch on the UTSU’s Facebook page.

        On February 19, students organized another demonstration to Welcome Doug Ford back to Queen’s Park. Groups like the Ontario Student Action Network and Students for Ontario invited students to meet them at Yonge-Dundas square in the morning of that day. Also on that day, a small group of students organized a protest within the legislative chamber at Queen’s Park. These students were escorted out of the chamber and followed by accusations of “indoctrination” from Premier Ford.

Digging Deeper

Some helpful media coverage for you to check out

        VICE published an excellent article in response to Ford’s accusations about “crazy Marxist” student unions, breaking down what student groups on campuses across Ontario actually provide.

        In December of 2013, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) issued two “binding policy directives”—one to colleges, and one to universities—regulating the fees that postsecondary institutions in Ontario charge to their students. These directives comprise the tools which the Ontario government uses to govern postsecondary institutions in the province, and it is expected that the MTCU will need to pass down a document of this kind in order to give effect to the plans outlined in statements and presentations given by the government so far.

        For all the media attention it received, the exact contents of the fundraising email sent to Ontario PC Party members seems to have mostly evaded public disclosure. We enclose the full contents of that email, in all its bluster, below.

“[NAME], you won’t believe this.

For all of their talk, the Liberals never lowered tuition.

So, we did.

We cut tuition by 10% across the board.

What are the Liberals saying about it now?

That we’re gutting the system.

These guys are nuts.

Take OSAP. A family bringing in $170,000 a year was still getting $2000 in grants.

Sorry folks, but government grants should be for people who need it most.

So, we fixed that too.

You know what else?

Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions.

I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to.

So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.

It’s little things [NAME].

But they add up.

Just like your $1 donations.

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Thanks for reading. Check back next week for more of The Update.