Students, who make up the future citizens, workers, and innovators of Canada, are barely mentioned in this budget except to partially extend pandemic-related economic support. Without further support for broad-based training and curiosity driven research, the innovation program will grind to a halt long before we solve the country's problems.
The news out of Laurentian is devastating. Unfortunately, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process that Laurentian was forced into by the government -- with an all too willing administration -- was always going to result in this kind of destruction. The CCAA process has been entirely inappropriate in its application to this public institution.
The best thing a government can do in the height of a recession that is being compounded by a pandemic is invest in the education of its population. Higher education -- when done well -- creates a citizenry who are able to respond to crises and develop the solutions to address the needs of themselves and their communities. Unfortunately, in Ontario we have abandoned support for higher education. Instead, the government is determined to drive an ideological agenda to distort the labour market, make workers pay for job losses, reduce access to higher education, and undermine the advanced education and research system that supports Ontario's economy.
To avoid the need to rebuild our democratic organizations -- and thus waste valuable time -- we must defend our current institutions of democracy. We must defend them even though they can, from time to time, be lead by flawed individuals -- we are human, after all. It is not the people we defend as leadership can and will be replaced, but the institution. This defense is part of the historical fight for our right to practice and perfect our own democracy. (Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash)
The proposed market-based performance funding model will tie 60 per cent (over $3 billion dollars) of postsecondary funding to each institution’s 'performance' against a set of arbitrary and flawed metrics. This dramatic shift follows years of stagnant public funding for postsecondary education in Ontario, and is only the latest in a series of attacks on the foundations of postsecondary education in the province, including cuts of over $400 million to college and university budgets, cuts of almost $700 million to student financial assistance, and cuts to the democratically determined student fees that allow students’ unions to advocate on behalf of, and provide vital support to their members.
Toronto, Sep. 4, 2019 – Ontario faculty are warning that the Ford government’s so called 'performance' funding model for postsecondary education is reckless, ineffective, and dangerous. The new funding model will link 60 per cent of government funding for universities ($2.2 billion dollars) to an arbitrary set of metrics chosen with no consultation. These metrics will not actually measure “performance” but are likely to be used as an excuse to cut university budgets. Across Ontario, OCUFA estimates that this new funding model could mean cuts of over $500 million dollars that will substantially undermine our postsecondary institutions’ academic missions and mandates.
A version of this article was presented to the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario 2018 general meeting. The domination of the neoliberal view for the previous nearly four decades has meant that all public spending has to be couched as supporting the private economy. Even for something as basic as higher education cannot be described as having an inherent value, it must be commodified and linked to some private sector profit. In the case of university, public funding is only available because it is part of the private sectors desire to have skilled workers. As such, a post-secondary education degree is only talked about as a pathway to a job, and not as a valuable process by itself.
Today is May Day, International Workers' Day. With roots in the workers' struggle for an 8-hour work day, this day has been marked for more than a century in countries across the world. May Day is a great day for socialists, labour organizers and agitators to draw connections between the workers' struggle under capitalism and the gains we have made in history. May Day is marked around the world with cultural celebrations and also protests where workers' rights are under attack.
The Ford Government's cuts to the university sector puts additional strain on an already stressed funding system. The new budget drives an aggressive free-market agenda obsessed with short-term results that does not work in a university setting and will undermine teaching, learning, and research in Ontario. The announced direction for Strategic Mandate Agreement's (SMAs) will drive universities to align their teaching and research priorities with short-term labour market demands. This will undermine of the long-term research and teaching objectives at the heart of quality academic education and research. In short, the budget is a disaster for the academy and will bring hardship to the workers, students, and faculty on our campuses.