On April 11, the 2019 Ontario Budget was tabled. Given the track record of the Ontario government to date, this budget delivered what OCUFA expected: a continued attack on workers’ rights, university autonomy, and public services, including postsecondary education.
The overall postsecondary education and training sector budget is projected to be cut by $700 million, which mainly reflects a deep cut (over $670 million) to the Student Financial Assistance (OSAP) budget. The cut to student financial assistance and the removal of the grace period on provincial loans will leave students with significantly higher debt loads.
In a drastic shift, the budget proposes tying 60 per cent of university funding to “performance outcomes” by 2024-25. In dollar figures, funding tied to performance will increase from $50 million (the current figure for 2018-19) to an estimated $2.2 billion by 2024-25.
OCUFA has long cautioned against shifting towards allocating university funding based on performance. This shift is counterproductive as it will, by design, create inequities and slowly but certainly undermine the integrity of Ontario’s postsecondary education system. This new funding model will only serve to destabilize the sector, make long-term planning impossible, encourage more bureaucracy, and stifle innovation.
The Ontario budget, including legislation that targets the rights of senior faculty, further signals this government’s intention to undermine unions across the entire public sector. OCUFA is very concerned by this development and views it as a direct attack on collective bargaining and collective agreements. It is worth noting that faculty members are employed by, and negotiate their contracts with universities, not the province. Any attempt by the Ford government to interfere in university collective agreements and bargaining practices would violate university autonomy and the constitutionally protected rights of faculty and staff.