For a University sector in crisis, Ford Conservatives' 2021 budget a
'shocking dereliction of responsibility'
The Provincial budget tabled yesterday by Finance Minister Peter
Bethlenfalvy represents a "shocking dereliction of
responsibility" to Ontario's university sector by the Ford Conservative
government, according to David Simao, Chair of the Ontario University
Workers' Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) which speaks on behalf of more
30,000 university workers represented by CUPE across the province.
"Even in a normal year, this budget's complete disdain and
indifference towards post-secondary education would have stood out, but
in the midst of a once-in-a-century global pandemic that has exposed so
many critical needs in every sector of the economy across Ontario, this
is a shocking dereliction of responsibility by the Minister
responsible for Universities and the entire Ford Conservative caucus,"
budget tabled yesterday continues the trend of ongoing cuts in real
dollars for Ontario's universities. The base operating grant of $3.6
billion proposed for Ontario's 21 publicly-funded universities in
yesterday's budget document fails to even keep up with inflation,
effectively reducing the amount Ontario spends per student has fallen
every single year of the Ford Conservative government.
Additionally, $700 million in funds announced to expand the
province's ranks of Personal Support Workers (PSWs) to support
Ontarians receiving home care or living in Long-Term Care (LTC)
facilities is not new money; rather the Ford Conservatives have
diverted funds intended for the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP)
provides financial support for Ontario students pursuing post-secondary
"Minister Bethlenfalvy's budget speech yesterday ran for nearly
6,000 words, but two words were conspicuously absent. At no point in
the Minister's speech did he utter the words ‘university' or
‘universities'," said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.
as if a vital pillar of any major industrialized nation's economic and
social development doesn't exist in the eyes of the Ford Conservative
government's most senior officials. Where does the Cabinet think the
doctors, nurses, researchers, scientists, public health experts, and
countless other disciplines directly tasked with combating
pandemics like COVID-19 are taught and trained?" he added.
Since assuming office early in the summer of 2018, the Ford
Conservatives have presided over millions of dollars in cuts to the
university sector. Last February, Laurentian University in Sudbury was
forced to seek protection from its creditors while the Ford
Conservatives stood by and did nothing to keep the Northern Ontario
"A government that can't even say the word ‘university' in
their budget speech has nothing to offer a sector of the economy that
ought to be at the forefront of helping Ontario emerge stronger from
this pandemic," said Hahn, who urged "every Ontarian who cares about
quality, public post-secondary education to organize and make sure this
government understands how you feel."
Simao echoed Hahn's sentiment, saying, "This budget does nothing to
help Laurentian, nothing to help students, academic workers, or support
staff at Ontario's campuses. It can't even be bothered to offer empty
platitudes, so the hard work of advocating on behalf of universities
before this government pushes the sector even further into crisis
falls to all of us."
This article was published in
Voluem [volume] Number 24 - April 2, 2021 - No. 24