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students occupying Glen Murray's office

Max Baru

April 4, 2012

When Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, tweeted yesterday that “the great joy of being Minister of TCU is the inspiring young people I meet—We should all have confidence in the future because of them”, little did he know his constituency office would soon be occupied by inspiring young people. Ontario has the highest tuition fees in Canada and the Ontario Liberals campaigned on a promise to reduce them. Now the government has broken their promise and plans to increase fees next fall. Max Baru reports from inside the occupation.

We’re at 514 Parliament street, Toronto. There are twenty-five or so of us, including from the Student Association of George Brown College, the Ryerson Students Union, York Fedration of Students, UofT Grad Students’ Union, and the Canadian Federation of Students. There are lots of supporters outside, including from the Ontario Federation of Labour, CUPE, OPSEU, and the Toronto-York region labour council.

We’re trying to send a message to decision makers at Queen’s Park in opposition to the Ontario budget and the tuition policies in Ontario. Over the past seven years tuition has increased by up to 71 per cent. Students want the NDP to vote against the budget.

We know it’s not about money. Mexico has two free universities and they are poor. Germany has free universities and they are wealthy. But our public education system is being dismantled.

What’s going to be left is education for the 1% and all else is going to be for vocational training. Higher education is supposed to be for the public and those institutions are supposed to fulfill a public trust. Even now UofT classifies itself as a semi-public institution.

There are people who are primarily involved with the Quebec student strikers who were here earlier to show solidarity. Everyone knows what’s been happening in Quebec and we’re all very inspired. We also think that while it’s easier to feel outraged by a sudden hike of 75 per cent as in Quebec, it’s not so obvious here because the ministers have honed the art of stretching out the cuts so it appears less bad.

People told personal stories of poverty and debt in higher education, and are adding up our collective debt: 17 people here have a collective student debt of over $400,000. I’m just stunned by the civility and sophistication of the people here. There are also chants. Now people are pumped.

For the press release from the Canadian Federation of Students go here. Send solidarity messages by calling 647-637-5317. And tell Glen Murray to make education accessible:416-972-7683 (constituency office) and 416-326-1600 (Queen’s Park Office).

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