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By Tim Shufelt

A campaign to extend Ontario’s tuition freeze may be a lost cause.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said earlier this week that tuition increases will improve post-secondary education. Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Students continues to lobby the government with petitions and results from campus polls on tuition.

The premier’s comments are premature, CFS president Jesse Greener said. “If tuition increases are McGuinty’s personal goal, that’s his prerogative,” Greener said. “But to assume that increases will definitely occur undercuts the democratic process at Queen’s Park.”

Bill 12, a private members’ bill to keep fees frozen, has support from members spanning all parties, including Progressive Conservative MPPs Frank Klees and Joe Tascona, Greener said. But Chris Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, was dismissive of Bill 12. “Private members can introduce whatever they like,” he said. The tuition freeze has served its purpose: to allow the government to develop a “tuition framework,” he said.

“Freeze it while we develop a plan, and invest heavily. Government is back in investing in post-secondary, and we’re back in a big way.” The 2005 Ontario Budget included an additional $6.2 billion for post-secondary institutions over five years.

This includes $1.5 billion to reintroduce student grants and increase loan limits, debt reduction and interest relief, Bentley said. The new money is significant, but there are problems with the policy, said RSU Vice-President of Education Nora Loreto.

“Any system where the answer is ‘how can we be more creative with our loans’ is absurd,” she said. “We’ll be forcing students to indebt themselves further.” McGuinty and Bentley have not revealed how much students will be paying next year.

Bentley said the new policy will be announced in about a month, but Loreto said she isn’t optimistic. “We’ve heard rumblings of them wanting to raise tuition fees by inflation plus one per cent (per year), which is on par with the increases we saw under Mike Harris,” she said.

“It’s unacceptable for our government to be treating us like this,” she added.

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