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by Dominique Blain

Last Friday Premier Dalton McGuinty hit the big red button on Ontario post-secondary students without even offering a preliminary ‘3-2-1’ countdown.

Kaboom: tuition just exploded.

To a certain extent, this does not come as that big of a surprise: McGuinty announced last February that the tuition freeze would stand until next September.

What does come as a surprise is that he had been in discussion with student representatives for drawing up a tuition fee framework, which would be implemented once the freeze was lifted, since July 20. Parts of this dialogue actually involved tuition fee decreases.

But during a public address at Carleton University in Ottawa, McGuinty dropped the bomb that lifting the freeze meant increasing tuition fees starting immediately.

Jessie Greener, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, has been vocal in his disbelief.

“We had no idea this was coming. In fact, all indications to us and the general public was that there was going to be consultations with stockholder groups and that those consultations were still ongoing.

“Either McGuinty has made a snap decision to cut short the dialogue with students and unilaterally remove the popular tuition fee freeze, or the consultation process was a sham from the start.”

Why did the two-faced monster rear his ugly head and start roaring instead of listening? Apparently because it just dawned on McGuinty that we don’t live in an “ideal world.”

“You would like me to promise tuition fees will never go up again and, in an ideal world, I would love to be able to do that but I can’t. I have to live in this world,” he told students at Carleton.

Gee, Mr. McGuinty. If that’s how you feel, why even bother entering consultations with the Canadian Federation of Students this summer? You met with them not three weeks ago — couldn’t you have mentioned your “ideal world” concerns with our representatives then? And why can’t your objectives for the future of Ontario youth fall in line with this ideal world… this is your call and you decided that we were fucked.

Ontario is most certainly not an ideal world, but it is nevertheless one of the best ones in the bigger scheme of things.

It is increasingly apparent that McGuinty’s respect for student voices is reduced to bare facade.

In his address, McGuinty compared a university education to the staples: “Yes, (tuition will go up), and the price of milk, bread, rent, mortgage, houses will go up.”

The fact of the matter is, though, milk, bread, rent, mortgages and houses come in different price ranges, from free to expensive. More importantly, purchasing those staples ensure survival on a short-term basis — a post-secondary education opens you up to a literally better life full of more milk, bread, etc., in the long term. It opens up a world where the staples are more easily come by. And then there’s the fact that the costs of those staples did not increased at four times the rate of inflation, as tuition did, between 1990 and 2004 (you have a Conservative premier to love for that one).

McGuinty is pretty gutsy — he dropped the bomb barely three days after Stats Can published a study showing the middle class is getting edged out of a higher education. The Liberals are always finding ways of widening the gap between the poor and the rich and this one is a prime example of this growing Ontarian epidemic.

To be sure, our representatives may just have been tremendously naive to believe that they could persuade a Liberal Ontario premier to reduce tuition fees. But McGuinty’s preemptive strike against us — not to mention his lack of respect — demands that we go straight to the streets and forget the niceties.

It’s time to find your inner hippie and stick it to the man. Wear the buttons, chant the chants, go to the rallies. Judging by McGuinty’s way of doing things, actions counts for much more than words. Let’s make the big red button he pushed on Friday the “Execute” button for our communal voice and make him hear that a better life should not be open to everyone, not just those who can afford it.

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