The CSU has extended their support to Ontario students’ unions after Ford announced dramatic fee changes
Annalisse Crosswell, Associate News Editor
The Ontario government announced drastic changes to post-secondary tuition and fees Jan. 17. At face value, the 10 per cent cut to tuition for domestic students seemed like a positive move, but this change comes with no increase to government subsidies and a $450-500 million decrease in annual revenue. The changes also include cuts to financial aid and mandatory fees that fund student groups. The cause of much concern for the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) comes from the fees that will now be possible to opt out of and that compromise the future of Ontario’s student unions.
“It’s a very frustrating situation, looking at it, because it comes under the guise of giving students more choice and trying to lower costs for them, which initially sounds like a good thing,” said Anna Rempel, CSU president and vice-president equity & sustainability, “but the way that they’re going about it is actually having really negative impacts on students.”
The changes will not benefit the lower and middle-income students that are most at risk of being unable to attend university due to costs. “It doesn’t impact all students to the same level, if you are someone who comes from a relatively privileged background or if you don’t face some of the additional barriers, it’s likely not to have the same impact on you…” said Rempel. The sentiment of this comment is echoed through news and opinion articles across the country.
Rempel, along with Noah Berson, vice-president external, has been involved in writing letters of support to student unions in Ontario, as well as letters stating the CSU’s concern addressed to the Minister and every other Member of the Provincial Government. The CSU has also signed on to the University Students’ Council of Western University letter.
There is concern that student unions in Ontario will no longer be able to advocate for student concerns without fear of having their funding cut, which is exactly why these unions exist. There is also concern that this could have a domino effect across the provinces. Rempel noted that one Alberta political party’s platform already seeks to introduce this same change.
Students may not be aware of how their student unions advocate for them, though the CSU, and other student union members across the country, sit on many boards to be the voice of the students they represent. This plays a part in preventing situations such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s recent announcement that they will be increasing international fees by 15 per cent, which came without warning.
Rempel thinks that this lack of understanding on the students’ part is something that needs to be addressed. “I think it’s on the student unions to do a better job of communicating to students what we do and making it very visible the kind of positive impact that we have,” she said. She also said that if students at Capilano University have concerns about how the CSU is using their student fees there are many opportunities to have their voice heard such as committee meetings, board meetings and annual general meetings.
Despite the concerns of having a domino effect, student unions in BC are in less immediate danger because of the Societies Act put in place by the previous Liberal Party. However, Rempel noted that there is no certainty of how politics will look in the future and protecting future students is a priority.
‘I want students to know that we exist for them and that they have every right to participate in all the processes that we go through,” said Rempel, “we work for students, we want to hear from them.