By: Tomasz Bugajski
Any pedestrians walking past the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities on Thursday, October 29th will bear witness to a morbid scene.
Students ambling the premises will fall down “dead” as part of a staged “die-in,” protesting cuts to public services.
Protesters wearing Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan masks will slash down students, each representing a public service. The “dead” will be examined by EMS workers and coroners who will pronounce each student’s cause of death, including ‘lack of funding,’ ‘debt,’ ‘spending cuts,’ and so forth.
The “die-in” is an event organized by UTSU, and leads up to the November 5th Day of Action. UTSU hosted a similar event last year, which featured grave stones littered across Hart House Circle, reading “R.I.P. Affordable Education.”
Shelley Melanson, the CFS Ontario Chairperson, who will be playing the part of ‘chief coroner’ explains, “we’re calling on the government to make the necessary investment in human capital, to protect social services, and to maintain its commitments to building a poverty-free Ontario.”
For most students, the post-secondary funding issue will most likely dominate among the many public service cuts being protested. Demands for more post-secondary funding come during a bad economy, but UTSU VP-External Hadia Aktar says, “investing in education is actually better during recession times because that’s when people need to start getting retrained.” Aktar adds that rather than cutting corporate taxes, resources should be allocated to education.
Melanson mentions that “it’s a misrepresentation to suggest that the only way to fund these things is through higher taxes.” She believes that a lot of money is wasted in scandals, like eHealth, and better management and prioritizing would make more funds available.
The Liberals have repeatedly promised to improve post-secondary education. In their 2007 platform, the Liberal government points to the 120,000 grants they created for ‘in need’ post-secondary students, affirming their belief that investing in post-secondary education is the best poverty reduction strategy.
Ontario’s tuition is the highest in Canada. According to Belleville’s Pioneer, Premier McGuinty, speaking at a Rotary Club luncheon, has called a tuition freeze unlikely. This has not deterred organizers like Melanson and Akhtar, who both remain hopeful that some reduction in tuition is still possible.
John Milloy, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, speaking with the Excalibur, defended his government’s record on education, and pointed to $1.5B set aside directly for student aid. He also points to increased opportunities for grants, and claims his government’s record on accessibility has been “a great one.”
The debate over public services funding continues to heat up as the Liberal Government prepares to make cuts in light of the deficit. Time will tell whether or not the UTSU protesters will have “died” in vain.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/news/utsu-stages-die/.