Wynne government must support college students let down by unprecedented strike
QUEEN’S PARK—In question period on Wednesday, NDP Education Critic Peggy Sattler was determined to get answers for college students concerned that the strike at colleges throughout Ontario is costing them financially. She also raised concerns about how the impact of the strike on students’ career, family, financial and life plans is negatively affecting their mental health.
The labour dispute between college faculty and the College Employer Council is now in its fifth week, and a potential lawsuit is now in the works. Sattler said the legal move shows just how much Wynne has let students down – and how little they’re willing to trust her to take care of them going forward.
“Today college students will be demonstrating at Queen’s Park for a tuition refund, and yesterday a class action law suit was launched on behalf of the 500,000 Ontario college students whose classes were cancelled because of the strike,” said Sattler. “The lawsuit seeks to recover damages related to tuition, as well as meal plans and residence fees, because students are not getting what they paid for. This Liberal government’s failure to fund the college system appropriately [and] its failure to lead during this labour dispute has created a hot mess.”
New Democrats have consistently called on the Wynne Liberals to address their chronic underfunding of post-secondary education, which created conditions that resulted in the labour dispute. This systemic underfunding by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments, resulting in the strike now in its fifth week, has also led to unprecedented stress for students who have career, family, financial and life plans on the line, leading to a crisis in student mental health.
Sattler noted that earlier this month, the College Student Alliance joined the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, Colleges Ontario and Council of Ontario Universities at the Queen’s Park launch of “In It Together,” an action plan to address student mental health. “The plan was developed through an unprecedented collaboration across the post-secondary sector, because of this Liberal government’s failure to deal with the crisis in student mental health, with rates that have more than more than doubled over the last five years,” said Sattler. “There is already a crisis in student mental health, and as this strike drags on, with no end in sight, we are hearing alarming stories of even more students being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. These students feel despair as they watch their futures slip away. They worry how they will ever manage the increased debt they will have to take on to complete their programs.”
“What specific plans has this government put in place to support the thousands of college students who are suffering, and whose mental health has been compromised because of this strike?” asked Sattler.