Ontario Liberals do not understand what universities are for | Citizens' Press

The Ontario Liberal's 2018 budget had a few large progressive sounding programs to announce. However, none of these were focused on the university system. Almost all of the budget outside the announcement of large subsidies to private childcare providers and pharma continued to be a standard Liberal fare - progressive sounding, regressive in implementation. The true impact of government spending on the university system will be the implementation of funding reforms not written explicitly into government spending. This is the case for much of the government's policies that seem to be ignored during budget time – even though these policies give the budget its true political framework.

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2018 Ontario Budget and Universities

The Ontario Liberal government’s reforms of the university funding system are regressive – driven by the further commodification of education, the marketization of access, and commercialization of research. The funding announcements in the 2018 budget for universities reinforce funding policy reforms already underway. Liberal spending focuses on supporting business rather than researcher, students, and the support workers that allow Ontario universities to function.


Canadian Liberals do not understand what a university is for. The entire focus of the Liberal’s budget is on supporting the mythical home-grown Ontario Innovative Technology Entrepreneur. The amount of money being spent by the Liberals on birthing these imaginary creatures is a breathtaking $2B a year. This does not include the government’s spending on active leveraging all levels of the public bureaucracy and university administration on supporting anything that can be marketed as “innovation”.

The Ontario Liberal’s policy on subsidizing corporate interests on campus is nothing new. The focus has always been coerced reform of the university system into a mill that spits out workers for high-tech industries. All major initiatives of this government involving recruitment, funding, and infrastructure programs are geared towards the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. The Liberals have set the absurd and academic freedom denying goal of increasing STEM enrollment 25 per cent - all at the cost of basic science and humanities studies.

Special attention in policy reform is also on training these graduates in entrepreneurial ideology - so that they can deal with the fact that they will have to make their own jobs since no decent jobs exist for them to get hired into.

Absent from the budget is any money for the people that allow for the training of these graduates – as if students teach themselves at home watching online videos instead of being trained at elite institutions by leading-edge researchers. This fits the model of the tiered worker streams in research institutions between full-time tenured researchers and part-time teachers.

While there is massive amounts of money in the budget for failing tech-Utopia inspired policies, there is little for the workers that work in real jobs on our campuses.

The Liberals continue to tout their “Free Tuition” (sic) grants program as a success. But, only one third of students (225K college and university students) receive financial support from the government through OSAP that is enough to cover even their tuition fees. At the same time, fees that continue to grow and are at the highest in the country.

Only the Liberals would take credit for spending huge amounts of money in an attempt at reducing the harm of their own policies.

The non-universal nature of tuition grants and sticker shock issues aside, the marketization of access to truly academic university programs continues to favour more wealthy students.

As university training in the STEM programs becomes more aligned with the teaching model in colleges, the true university experience of being immersed a liberal-minded pluralist system of cutting edge development of knowledge and understanding is lost. If you read between the lines of the budget, Liberal Arts degrees are only for those who can truly afford not to have a job after going to university for four years.

Main Budget Programs Outlined

These are the main highlights of a section of the budget supposedly dealing with universities – public institutions of higher education and research:

Investing in Industry Partnerships and Innovation at Postsecondary Institutions

  • Strengthen their partnerships with local employers to provide more students with hands-on experiential learning opportunities;
  • Provide more dual curriculum opportunities that partner with employers to create flexible postsecondary programming with intensive experiential learning components, including paid employment for students; and
  • Increase the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates by 25 per cent, to ensure that the province’s diverse, educated and innovative workforce continues to help globally recognized technology companies grow.

Dual Curriculum — Shopify and Carleton University

Carleton University is currently working with Shopify as its initial Industrial Partner in its Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS) Honours Industrial Applications internship option — an example of a new dual curriculum program.

Students in the internship option program are full-time BCS students and paid by Shopify. At the end of four years, students earn an Honours BCS degree from Carleton and gain work experience with a leading software development company.

$63 million over three years to create the first Ontario Training Bank to serve as a one-stop shop for employers, job seekers and workers to access the skills training that meets their needs.

Employer Partnership Training Fund

The Employer Partnership Training Fund, as part of the Ontario Training Bank, will replace the Canada Ontario Job Grant. The refreshed program will encourage employees to implement training programs to meet their hiring and skills needs, and also make it easier for small and medium-sized employers to access the fund. The new program, effective April 1, 2018, will:

  • Incentivize employers to team up so that higher value training can be delivered across a number of employers to support hiring and skills needs. - Simplify contribution requirements to reduce administrative burden for employers as well as service providers. Large employers who have greater capacity to invest in training will have higher cost-sharing contributions, thereby also freeing up resources to support more small and medium-sized employers.

Making Labour Market Information Accessible

Having access to accurate and timely labour market information (LMI) is integral for students, career counsellors and job seekers to help them make career and education decisions.

Modernizing Ontario’s Employment and Training System

The government currently invests more than $1 billion annually in a range of employment and training programs, supporting approximately one million Ontarians to improve their skills and help them find jobs, as well as assist employers in addressing their workforce needs.

Investing in Postsecondary Education Infrastructure

$3 billion in capital grants to postsecondary institutions over the next 10 years.

In addition, over the next three years, the Province will more than double the funding under the College Equipment and Renewal Fund — with an increase from $8 million to $20 million per year.

Improving Business Competitiveness

As part of the Good Jobs and Growth Plan, the Province will renew, enhance and extend the Jobs and Prosperity Fund (JPF) with an increase of $900 million over the next 10 years, for a total of $3.2 billion in support since 2014–15. The fund will support investments designed to help Ontario’s businesses grow with the aim of creating and retaining over 70,000 jobs in Ontario and leveraging more than $9 billion in private-sector investments. Provincial support will also help businesses work with education and training partners to retrain employees, hire students through co-op programs and expand the talent pipeline within companies. The renewed JPF will encourage business investments in machinery, equipment and innovation, and protect intellectual property assets.

Investing in Cybersecurity

Ontario is investing an additional $64 million over three years to enhance existing cyber practices and attract highly skilled and in-demand cybersecurity talent using new recruitment methods, including through innovative partnerships with postsecondary institutions.