Taking tuition to heart, Ontario NDP leader vows to stand for students

Taking tuition to heart, Ontario NDP leader vows to stand for students

LONDON, ONT. (CUP) — The leader of the Ontario NDP wants to lower the province’s tuition by 10 per cent. As part of his campaign tour for next month’s provincial election, party leader Howard Hampton and two local candidates stopped off at Fanshawe College to spread the word of their “PublicPower” platform. Also on the New Democrat Party platform is increasing minimum wage, decreasing drivers’ insurance rates and putting $2 billion aside for education.

Underlying all of these proposals is the belief of NDP members that Ernie Eves and his Tories have failed Ontario’s students. “For the past eight years the conservatives have used teachers and our public schools as essentially a political football,” Hampton said. “They’ve cut $2 billion out of our elementary and secondary schools. That money must be restored and we’re going to do it.”

Hampton says he is going to establish an Education Assistance Fund – a $2 billion coffer devoted specifically to education that will be subsidized, in part, by an Educational Excellence surtax on citizens who make over $100,000 per year. Hampton says, if elected, the plan will take effect immediately.

“First of all, you’re going to see about a $200 per year savings on your tuition fees,” he said. Privatization of once-public services is also a target of the NDP platform. “They’ve gone down the road of privatization and this has been disastrous for heath care, hydro, and social services,” said Patti Dalton, MPP candidate for the London West riding. “[All of this] has harmed the majority of the population of Ontario.”

Dalton also said that access to post-secondary education in Ontario has decreased dramatically under the Tories. “[Under Tory leadership] the tuition fees for undergraduate programs have gone up 150 per cent and 800 per cent for professional programs,” she said. Dalton went on to note that the availability of financial aid is decreasing.

“It is our commitment to make post-secondary education or job training available to all students so they have equal access no matter what their financial situation is.” Irene Mathyssen, NDP candidate for the Fanshawe riding, says that although their plan calls for increased spending on public services most people will not feel the pinch. “We are going to re-introduce the corporate income tax the Tories disposed of in 1997 to help fund public services,” said Mathyssen. “Corporations were doing just fine before the Tories cut the tax and they’ll do just fine with it again,” she said.