What's Left 2016-02-21 Volume 46

| February 23, 2016


What’s Left This Week includes an analysis of post-secondary education in Ontario and the call for a Franco-Ontarian university, the Uber fight in Montréal, a book review of February by Lisa Moore and the resurgence of independent bookstores.


 

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“FEATURE”

Traps to avoid for the Franco-Ontarian community

This week, Franco-Ontarian students rallied at Queen’s Park to demand government action on creating a Franco-Ontarian University. On the same day, roughly 100 km away, students at the Barrie campus of Laurentian University started an occupation of their administration’s offices, demanding the right to complete their program after learning that their campus was closing its doors.

It is concerning that Laurentian University, that offers programs in French in Sudbury, cannot maintain its services in Barrie, one of the fastest growing cities in Ontario. The contrast between the request for a new university and the closure of a campus says a lot about the current state of post-secondary education in Ontario. The Franco-Ontarian community would benefit from evaluating the current economic and political context when formulating its demands in order to avoid a setback for students in the province, both francophone and anglophone.

1. The Liberals are no friends to students

In the last 10 years, Liberal governments have done nothing to increase access to post-secondary education – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The funding formula in effect since 2009-2010 has resulted in sky-rocketing tuition fees. The Barrie campus of Laurentian University was opened with the support of the Liberal government, without having the means to guarantee its success. If the Kathleen Wynne government takes action on the question of a new university, it will be more of a political decision to court the vote of the francophone community than it will be to advance the interest of students.

2. The University is in crisis

Apart from the question of tuition fees – which have put education out of reach for many students regardless of language spoken – the University as an institution is going through tough times. There is a tension between historic understandings of the University as a place for high learning and knowledge development, and modern efforts to create facilities where individuals are trained for very specific jobs. The student movement identifies this shift as the commercialization and corporatization of university campuses – a tendency that puts the pursuit of profits ahead of the pursuit of knowledge. In that context, it would not be the place of cultural gathering and sharing that the community is requesting.

3. A two-tier system

As a result, an institution dedicated to the francophone community would exist on the margins, and in conflict with the world-renowned institutions that already exist in Ontario. As a small institution that is unlikely to establish a strong national or international reputation in any particular discipline, it would be under-valued and under-funded. And while the size and global reputation of an institution shouldn’t impact the education of its students, the current funding structures being maintained and promoted by the Ontario government leave little doubt that this would be the case. Given this reality, the question then is, does the community want a second-rate education for its students?

During the media coverage of this week’s day of action for a Franco-Ontarian university, Radio-Canada promoted a survey to determine the preferred form of university for the Franco-Ontarian community. There were two critical questions blatantly absent from this survey (which have also been largely ignored the larger discussion): What form would this institution need to take in order to ensure it received adequate government funding? How can this institution provide universal access to education for students?

In sum, all students in Ontario have an urgent need for increased access to education. In the current context, it seems clear that the liberal government will be unable to deliver any much needed change.

Quelques pièges à éviter pour la communauté franco-ontarienne

Laurentian students, community members stage sit-in to demand program completion fairness for Barrie students

 

“CANADA”

The Uber fight comes to Montréal

Montréal is the latest city to take on the fight against Uber. The city’s taxi drivers have taken to the streets as decision-makers are grappling with how and where to regulate the neo-capitalist service. In this article written by the Institut de recherche et d’information socio-économiques, the left-wing think tank seems to have succeeded in framing the issue better than when the fight was raging in other Canadian cities: “Uber has nothing to do with innovation. Uber is, put simply, capitalism in its most brutal form.”

Six observations sur Uber

Book Review: February by Lisa Moore

This week marked the 34th anniversary of a tragic event in 1982 when an oil drilling unit off the cost of Newfoundland sank and killed 84 people aboard.

Lisa Moore’s February tells the story of Helen who loses her husband in the incident and struggles with grief throughout her life. She recalls memories, navigates dire economic situations, raises four children, all while constantly reflecting on the painful memory of that morning in February where she learned that her husband and life partner wouldn’t be coming home again.

The author relied on historical material, including local media and inquiry reports, to construct the story. As a result, we learn about the company’s safety shortfalls and lack of established emergency procedures that combined to take the lives of so many workers. History has established the employer’s negligence as the primary cause of this incident.

The title of the book may give the impression that the author will take the reader through a sombre, frigid journey of pain and sorrow. This is not the case. Thanks to a non-linear, personal and at times humorous writing style, combined with a story that spans a lifetime, the book is surprisingly stirring and bright.

In 2013, the novel won Canada Reads. It’s a book to read if you’re looking to get a sense of the impact a tragic event such as this has on a community that not only loses so many loved family members, but also the people and jobs that supported so many. It is a thoughtful exploration of an important event in Canadian labour history.

 

“ELSEWHERE”

The resurgence of independent bookstores

There is a quiet kind of redemption with independent bookstores making a come-back in the United States. During a time when innovation, technology and the internet seem to present all sorts of shiny alternatives to books, it’s great to see people renew their passion for the specialized knowledge that books provide. And, as part of growing movements to create and support local businesses, thoughtfully curated independent bookstores seem to be the ones benefitting. The isolated and focused experience of reading a book is a singular experience, and it sounds like more people are spending hours in bookstores for just this reason.

Just remember, libraries are great too!

Indie Bookstores Are Back, With a Passion

 

“BONUS READS:”

 

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