Ontario’s former premier on Monday praised the work of student organizations in their efforts to oppose education cuts by the current provincial government.
“Both [the] Canadian Federation of Students and the College Student Alliance and OUSA are very, very important,” Kathleen Wynne said from Humber College’s North Campus.
Wynne, speaking to journalism students, also encouraged students at the individual level to get in touch with their local politicians.
“I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that students in jurisdictions all across this province go and talk to MPPs,” Wynne said.
As premier, Wynne and her ruling Liberal Party made reforms to the student loan system in 2016 that allowed over 200,000 of the province’s lowest income students enroll entirely with grants that did not need to be paid back [LINK1].
When the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Doug Ford took over Queen’s Park in 2018, the student loan reforms were rolled back. This caused significant backlash from student groups.
However, Wynne insisted that students still have a role to play in influencing the government.
“Student voices are paid very close attention to by local representatives,” she added.
Wynne, who was the first female premier of Ontario, explained that MPPs “know you have parents, they know you have family members who are concerned”.
Strikes by teachers are ongoing this week that impact nearly elementary and high school in the Greater Toronto Area [LINK2].
Wynne, 66, said the protest action by post-secondary students and the strike shows a weakness in the province’s education policy.
“The speed with which students rose up here and the degree to which students and parents are supporting the teachers right now in the labour unrest is a real signal that this government is on very shaky territory in their education policies,” Wynne said.
Wynne declined to endorse one of the six candidates currently vying for the leadership of the Ontario Liberals, sticking with tradition by remaining neutral.
Thousands of students will have their say during the next provincial election in 2022, when the PC Party will look to remain in power, the Liberals will seek to return and the New Democrats will aim to build on their previous opposition victory.