Protesters address rising tuition and hospital cuts

A group of protesters gathered outside the front steps of Queen’s Park in Toronto to protest Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government cuts to public services and social programs on Monday afternoon.

Chants of  “Stop, stop, stop austerity cuts!” and “Get sick — you’ll make somebody richer!” resonated from the park.

Faiz Ahmed, a researcher for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) in Ontario and political science PhD student at York University, was there to represent students across the province in the fight for lower tuition.

“Tuition in this province needs to be fully accessible and that means fully funded and free for students,” he said.

Earlier that morning, Ontario’s CFS president, and former Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president, Rajean Hoilett gave a budget submission presentation that advocated for Ontario’s tuition to be lowered by 50 per cent, bringing it back to the level it was in 1999-2000, according to Ahmed.

Hoilett is currently in Ottawa giving similar depositions at National Lobby Week, in anticipation of the 2016 federal budget.

“(We are) saying that the time is well gone that universities can keep hiking university tuition to make up for government deficits in post secondary education,” Ahmed said.

The rally was organized by the Ontario Common Front, a coalition of over 100 community groups and labour unions. The groups included the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), a central labour body that represents all working people and their unions in Ontario, and the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), a network of over 400 community organizations all across Ontario.

“Ontario funds our hospitals at the lowest rate of any province in Canada and we have seen the most devastating hospital cuts of any province in the country,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the OHC, in her speech to the crowd.

“[The cuts] are dismantling to the single tier health care system in this province. It is an agenda on privatization and it must stop.”

She went on to describe other significant cuts that are problematic to Ontarians, specifically students and tuition fees.  She said that our students face higher user fees than any other province in Canada.

Ontario students pay the highest tuition fees and the reason for that is that “Ontario funds all public services at the lowest rate per person of any province in Canada,” said Mehra.

Chris Buckley, president of the OFL, also talked about problems young adults face in the province saying, “I believe the youth of Ontario has been robbed, and it’s absolutely not fair. The youth unemployment sits at 16.1% in the province of Ontario, that’s not the Ontario we want sisters and brothers. We must create hope for the young people in the province … They are the future.”

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