Ontario Premier Doug Ford has accused student unions of getting up to “crazy Marxist nonsense” in his latest fundraising letter to party supporters.
Last month, Doug Ford’s government announced a plethora of changes to the financing of the postsecondary education system, including a plan to make many student fees optional. Student groups have protested the proposed changes.
Many believe that giving students the right to opt-out of some fees could hobble the student unions that provide services.
In a letter to supporters Monday where he goes through the government’s achievements, Mr. Ford said that under the previous system, students were “forced into unions” and were also “forced to pay for those unions.”
“I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to,” Mr. Ford said. “So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”
Student unions have emerged as one of the loudest voices of opposition to Mr. Ford’s proposed changes to higher education. Groups have rallied outside Queen’s Park several times since the government announced its intention to make significant changes to the way postsecondary education is funded.
The government said some fees would be considered mandatory, such as campus athletic facilities, and those related to student health and safety, such as campus safe-walk programs. A full explanation from the province has not yet been made public.
The letter from Mr. Ford also touted his government’s decision to reduce tuition fees for domestic students at Ontario colleges and universities.
“We cut tuition by 10 per cent across the board. What are the Liberals saying about it now? That we’re gutting the system. These guys are nuts.”
The loss of tuition revenue for the schools will not be covered by the government. Universities and colleges will need to adjust their budgets, likely either by increasing revenue from international students or finding ways to reduce costs.
The government also said the grants promoted in 2016 by the former Liberal government as “free tuition” for low-income students would now be a mix of grants and repayable loans.
“A family bringing in $170,000 a year was still getting $2,000 in grants. Sorry folks, but government grants should be for people who need it most,” Mr. Ford wrote.