February 8, 2006

McGuinty’s Corporate Steamroller is on – but students can stop it!


As winter’s ice covers Ontario, a freeze of another kind is being forced away – in spite of widespread complaint. “We are going to lift the tuition freeze,” Premier Dalton McGuinty coldly told students at Carlton University in September. This announcement is a radical shift in McGuinty’s official approach towards post-secondary education.

McGuinty’s plan is a “new tuition framework,” or deregulation. The fees students pay for their schooling would be set by “the market” rather than a body elected by and accountable to the people. While the banks would get big profits from debt, Ontarians would get less democratic, less accessible and poorer quality education.

In other parts of Canada like the East Coast and Quebec, significant gains have been made by students in the fight against loans and high tuition. If these policies are stopped in Ontario (one of the largest student populations in the country) not just the students’ agenda but all people’s struggles against corporate power could get a real boost. So the CFS fight back will impact more than just its members.

The YCL is 100% behind the CFS in this struggle. But there is a real need to up the anti, and go for militant tactics – for the CFS to team up with as many progressive forces as possible. After all, we’re up against one of the most powerful groups in society: the big corporations and financial interests – aka: capitalism.


McGuinty’s announcement comes at a time when public opinion widely supports tuition fee reductions, and Ontario’s share of Federal dollars for such reductions sits at $600 million. Plus, according to many observers, a big campaign – mobilizing students and other allies like the labour movement – has more potential for victory than we’ve seen in years.

While the old Harris Torries and the new Mc Guinty Liberals share the same corporate agenda, the Liberals are in a weaker position: they campaigned against the incredibly unpopular Tory agenda they are now steamrolling in using their majority in Queen’s Park.

Last spring, the Liberals presented three options at a stake-holder consolation process: tuition increase, tuition staying the same, or tuition decrease. As the head of the CFS Ontario, Jesse Greener, told Rebel Youth in an interview in late October, CFS leaders wanted to combat youth cynicism with politics and “plug youth into the [stake-holder consultation] process.” He added: “We were told time and time again that, in fact, there had been no decision and that our opinions at the table were valued.” Not true.

Jen Hassum and Estefania Toledo put it accurately in a letter to U of T students: “The stakeholder consultation proved to be a farce, and quite frankly students got screwed.” Well said! With the freeze off, student leaders across Ontario sent a strong and united message of opposition. The CFS Ontario have also laid out an action plan on the steps of Queens Park.

The Next Step

The new CFS tactic is combining plebiscite votes on tuition fees with lobbying. On November 21, Ryerson students voted 97% to reduce tuition fees; November 9, Sudbury students voted 96% in support of lower tuition fees; and November 7, University of Toronto Students Vote 98% to Freeze and Reduce Tuition Fees.

The lobbying side is summed up by The Varsity headline: “NDP, CFS lobby for new tuition freeze.” Rosario Marchese (NDP Trinity-Spadina) introduced a bill to simply keep the freeze. But currently, the Liberals hold 70 seats at Queens Park, the Conservatives 24 and the NDP 8. Even if the Conservatives voted for the freeze (when pigs fly!) the vote would be lost.

What could turn it around? Mobilization – large, powerful student protests at Queens Park, occupations of ministers offices, and joint-action with other progressive forces beyond the NDP such as like the labour movement, citizen’s and political organizations that oppose privatization such as the Health Coalition and Communists. “In the past, we have held public forums with the Health Coalition and met with the OFL [Ontario Federation of Labour] working group on tuition,” Greener told RY. It can be done again.

Stopping the Steamroller

A big-time fight could force the hand of McGuinty. In fact, York University – home to one of the most militant student unions in the country – has announced that fees may not go up for students. Plus, Quebec student last year went through one of the largest student actions in Canadian history.

This magnificent struggle was completely unreported by the corporate media. But at its peak in mid-March, an estimated 230,000 post-secondary students, over half of the total in Quebec, were on strike against a move by the Liberal provincial government to convert $103 million in grants to low-income students into loans. Striking students blocked access to the port of Montreal, disrupted highway traffic, occupied the offices of the Conseil du patronat (the principal employer association) and briefly took over the offices of Liberal ministers and members of the provincial legislature.

Quebec and Ontario aren’t in the same place. But we need something equally militant if we’re going to win quality, accessible, and democratic post-secondary education. Sitting on the sidelines would be a disaster. Unless there is a fight back, the government will literally steam-roll Ontario students with the corporate high-tuition agenda.


We need:

  • 100% public post-secondary education system
  • Reduce then abolish tuition fees and user fees
  • Grants not loans! eliminate all current student debt
  • Full-funding for Aboriginal education; cut higher fees for international students
  • Boldly expand apprenticeships and set compulsory quotas for on the job training
  • Make childcare accessible to all students!
  • A people’s government in Ontario and Canada

Join the Movement
Young Communist League


- Comments

1 comment:

  1. okay, great -- so what has the CFS just done?

    hold a rally with a speaker from the ndp who says "Guys, you must use your POWER, you must....

    lobby more, but with like 30 people this time"

    oh fuck.


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