January 31, 2018

Young Communists mobilise for the Ontario Day of Action for Free Education

Special to RY

In 2017, the CFS Ontario, delegates voted in favour of an Ontario Day of Action on February 1st, 2018 with free education as one of the main demands. After the positive experience of the November 2nd, 2016 Pan-Canadian Day of Action, which mobilised 56 campuses in 38 cities, the YCL-LJC welcomed the mobilisation for an Ontario Day of Action.

"Considering the increasingly difficult situation for students in Canada and in Ontario, we thought it was important for us, young communists, to actively participate and mobilise for this Day of Action and focus on the need to organise and fight for free education, which we see as the first priority and uniting demand for the student movement", says Peter Miller, Chair of the Student Commission of the YCL-LJC.
Indeed, far from getting closer to free education, students in Canada face skyrocketing tuition fees that, for the current academic year have increased by 3.1% on average across the country. In Ontario, tuition fees add up to $ 8,454, making it the province where post-secondary education is the least affordable. In addition to tuition fees, students often end their studies with mortgage-sized debts that average the amount of over $ 25 000.

This Day of Action also coincides with the recent introduction by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government of the so-called ‘Free Education Grant’. Contrarily to what is suggested by the name of the so-called Grant, this has nothing to do with free education. Although it pretends to provide the funds to cover tuition fees for families with incomes under $50,000, the reality is that this doesn’t cover textbooks, ancillary fees, and tuition fees foremost programs. Even the term of "grant" is fallacious as it could be transformed into a loan in the case where students don’t meet all the criteria required. Moreover, the Liberal government doesn’t even allocate more money to education as this grant is nothing less than a rearrangement of previous programs while tuition fees keep increasing.

Despite attempts to coax the youth and the people (as illustrated by Wynne’s defense of the $14 minimum wage in front of corporations’ blackmail), young people and students of Ontario are still confronted by a pro-business government whose main concern is to ensure big corporations and banks will continue to make ever bigger profits and to guarantee warmongers that they will continue to benefit from their support in imperialist wars and arms trade. To such a government, questions like free education are secondary.

According to Miller, "Unless we stand together and fight for free education, the government, regardless if it is NDP, Liberal or Conservative, will not implement free education. It will instead continue to rule in favour of Bay Street and students will be facing higher student debts, increasingly corporate-controlled education and prohibitive tuition fees. When we are told that we don’t have money for free education, we say that’s bullshit. The money is there: in the last 20 years, Ontario governments have implemented tax cuts that amount to a total of $18 billion in lost revenue each year for the province. This is much more than the $1.9 billion that would be necessary to eliminate tuition fees. Also, it is worth mentioning that Canada’s 6 banks reported $31.5 billion in profit between January and September 2017; and that Canada announced last June an increase of the military budget by 70%."

This illustrates that the core of the problem isn’t related to management issues, but to the rotten capitalist system where the golden rule is to supply the capitalist class’ insatiable greed for profits and where the interests of the people can’t match those of big corporations. Not only do they force governments to safeguard their profits, but also they make sure, by supporting a less publicly funded and accessible education, that they keep a hold on science and knowledge.

To this, Miller affirms that "or us, communists, it is clear that the solution is socialism. Obviously, demanding free education is not revolutionary, but it is still an important battle to win for young people in Canada. Hopefully, after the Day of Action, committees will continue to mobilise for free education and connect this demand with other struggles the youth are involved in like the feminist, anti-racist, LGBTQIA2S, peace, environmental, labour movements. The idea, in the end, is to build the youth’s unity in the struggle against our main enemy, and the fight for free education is one among many ways to engage young people in the fight. This is why we encourage all students and progressive young people, including our members, to actively take part in the activities of this Day of Action."

Here is a list of actions organised across Ontario :

- Guelph : "Invest in Education, Divest from Fossil Fuels", at 12 :00 PM on Branion Plaza https://www.facebook.com/events/1808008809211173

- Hamilton: outreach at McMaster University Student Centre from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

- Mississauga (UTMSU) : 11 :00 AM – 4 :00 PM at the Student Centre https://www.facebook.com/events/454558498279694/

- Ottawa (Carleton University) : student outreach from 10 :00 AM to 4 :00 PM, at the Atrium https://www.facebook.com/events/156049315182962/

- Orillia : "Fairness for Students Coffee House" starting at 6 :00 PM https://www.facebook.com/events/1936465670003960/

- Scarborough : "UTSC Goes All Out!" 1 :00 PM – 7 :00 PM

- Toronto (UofT) : outreach at Sid Smith Hall from 10 :00 AM to 5 :00 PM

- Toronto (Ryerson) : Fairness for Students Carnival, outreach at 10 :30 AM and from 12 – 4 PM at the student centre

- Toronto (York University) : "Drop Fees Not Bombs ": Day of Action for Free Education and Weapons Divestment

- Windsor : "Fight the Fees !", at 2 :00 PM in front of CAW

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