Province urged to take time to rethink flawed post-secondary education bill

Province urged to take time to rethink flawed post-secondary education bill

A provincewide coalition of students, faculty and staff at Ontario colleges and universities is urging the Ford government to delay voting on a hastily crafted piece of ill-defined legislation, currently scheduled for third reading on Monday.

Bill 166 is being touted as a potential law to improve transparency and student mental health, and to combat racism and hate on the province’s post-secondary campuses. However, it was clearly thrown together quickly and there was no consultation with students, faculty or staff, says the Ontario Universities and Colleges Coalition.  

Unfortunately, the bill as written does not create a comprehensive funded plan to tackle issues such as mental health. There was no consultation with mental health professionals or with post-secondary students, faculty or staff about what is needed. What this section of the bill appears to do is introduce a new layer of red tape without any real funded programs, and duplicate ministerial powers that already exist.

In all sections, Bill 166 is vague and the government has been opaque about the regulations it plans to enact under the proposed law. For example, there are no definitions attached to the section on requiring “policies and rules to address and combat racism and hate.” While we all are deeply concerned about racism and hate on our campuses, an academic environment also needs to foster healthy discourse and debate. Without clear definitions and parameters, this section of the bill may well be used to stifle political discussions and intellectual freedom in academic settings.

This is all coming at a time of increased government interference in arms-length institutions, particularly colleges and universities. In short, the sections on ministerial directives suggest an intention for unprecedented political interference in academic freedom and in research that is contrary to universities acts.

We agree with Premier Ford’s comments that the government should not be involved in governing universities and colleges. Unfortunately, the government later backtracked with a statement noting the Premier fully supports the bill.

The provincial government is using a manufactured crisis as an excuse for increased ill-informed ministerial interference. This is not a path to stability for Ontario’s colleges and universities, nor a path to prosperity for Ontarians.

What we do need is a real solution to the real crisis created by government through more than a decade of funding cuts and squeezes. Ontario needs to immediately bring in annual increases of at least 11.75% to per-student funding for the next five years to bring the province’s post-secondary institutions up to just the Canadian average.

The Ontario University and Colleges Coalition (OUCC) represents over 435,000 faculty, staff, and students from every public postsecondary institution in Ontario.

On behalf of the OUCC:

  • Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario 
  • Fred Hahn, President, CUPE Ontario
  • Nigmendra Narain, President, OCUFA
  • Jenny Ahn, Executive Director, OCUFA
  • Christine Kelsey, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO College Support Full-Time Division
  • Kella Loschiavo, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Universities Sector
  • Sara Timofejew, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO College Support Part-Time Division
  • Jonathan Singer, Chair OPSEU/SEFPO College Faculty Division
  • JP Hornick, President, OPSEU/SEFPO
  • Karen Littlewood, President, OSSTF/FEESO
  • Samia Hashi, Ontario Regional Director, UNIFOR