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Ontario budget brings cuts to student support

By Lee Richardson
CUP Ontario Bureau Chief and Media Editor 

TORONTO (CUP) — Cuts to student aid and support for international students are just some of the proposals included in the Ontario provincial budget released March 27.

The post-secondary sector will, however, see the 30 per cent tuition grant continuing, with a recommitment from the Liberals to fund more post-secondary spaces, as seen in last year’s budget.

There will be cuts, however, to “streamline student financial assistance” following the introduction of the tuition grant, according to the budget, which was tabled Tuesday by Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

The Ontario Work Study program will be cut, as will the Ontario Special Bursary and the Dr. Albert Rose Bursary. Several other grants will be eliminated, such as the Small Northern and Rural grant, which helps smaller colleges provide programs to attract students from smaller communities.

“With all the programs are being axed it actually means that for every dollar that’s being invested in student financial assistance, $1.20 is being cut back,” said Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario chairperson Sandy Hudson. “We’re actually taking away from students, not giving to them.”

Funding for the recruitment of international non-PhD students and study-abroad scholarships would also be cut, if the budget is passed.

But whether the budget will get the support it needs from the opposition parties remains to be seen.

Conservative Ontario leader Tim Hudak said that his party would vote down the budget, saying that the passing of the budget as is could lead to a situation where Ontario wouldn’t be able to cope with an “economic shock.”

“This isn’t structural reform in this budget; it’s simply knocking the can further down the road,” Hudak said, referring to the goal of eliminating the province’s deficit.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath also expressed disappointment with the budget, specifically at the lack of a plan to create new jobs. The budget only mentions protecting 170,000 jobs.

“There is nothing in this budget that speaks to the job crisis that Ontario has,” said Horwath. “It falls short on key fronts.”

Horwath announced her party would not necessarily vote down the budget immediately, because of concerns that doing so would trigger another provincial election only several months after the last.

Instead her party will, according to Horwath, have a discussion with Ontarians to decide whether to vote down the budget.

“We’re very frustrated by what we’ve seen in the budget,” said Hudson. “We hope that the opposition parties become a strong advocate for students — we need them to be.”

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