CFS-O preparing for potential general student strike

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By Sherina Harris

The 2019 Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) of the Canadian Federation  Students-Ontario (CFS-O) fell at an almost auspicious time. 

The opening plenary was held just hours after the Ontario minister of training, colleges and universities held a press conference detailing changes to student post-secondary tuition and student fees, as well as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Here are some of the motions from the meeting. 

Statement against privatization of the TTC—PASSED

This was the first of three emergency motions presented at the closing plenary. 

The Ontario government is expected to introduce legislation to upload the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to the province. 

In other words, the province wants to take control of the TTC. The motion called this a “privatization of public assets,” which could result in “less democratic control for users” of the system. They cited the privatization of Hydro One as an example of this. 

The motion asked CFS-O to donate $1,500 to TTCRiders, an advocacy group whose goal is “to build a TTC that works with and for transit riders,” according to their website. The motion also asked CFS-O to issue a statement condemning the attempt at privatization. 

Measures in response to government’s OSAP changes—PASSED

This emergency motion involved some of the ideas that were mentioned over the weekend in response to the government’s announcement. 

It called for CFS-O to establish a central coalition—including student unions, labour unions, student organizations, faculty associations and community groups—to mobilize against the changes. The coalition will focus on direct actions such as toolkits for locals to lobby their campus administrations.

“I think people are trying to come up with a  long term strategy” 

Also included in the motion was a clause to create a petition calling on the government to reverse the newly-announced policies, with an emphasis on student union levies. This was amended to say “an emphasis on student union levies and other student fees” after some discussion around the fact that making certain student ancillary fees optional would impact more student groups than only a school’s students’ union. 

The motion also includes a clause for the CFS-O to investigate a legal challenge against the provincial government. 

Hire a mobilization coordinator to prepare for a potential student strike—PASSED

The third and final emergency motion, also in response to the OSAP cuts and ancillary fee opt-out announcement, and mentioning the impact of the changes on graduate students, asked CFS-O to hire an Ontario-wide mobilization coordinator to help campuses prepare for a potential unlimited general student strike.

A clause also asked CFS-O to either discuss the possibility of establishing a mobilization agent on every campus, or to encourage locals to hire someone for this role on their own campus.

 In the meantime, CFS-O executives and other member locals are “encouraged to…volunteer their time to serve as mobilization agents.” 

Mobilization agents will be provided with templates for documents and emails to prepare for a general assembly general strike on post-secondary campuses across the province.

“I think people are trying to come up with a long-term strategy and that’s why we saw motions around…sort of creating a plan—not necessarily wanting to go ahead with a strike, but exploring the possibility of what that means for students,” said CFS-O chairperson Nour Alideeb.

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