The New Democratic Party (NDP) was the first out of the gate with their platform in the 2018 Ontario Election. It contains important commitments, including support for faculty renewal, that will impact faculty working conditions and support students at universities across the province:
The Ontario NDP platform promises to end the stagnation of operating funding for the province’s universities and colleges. Their platform commits to an additional investment in university and colleges operating grants of $101 million in 2018-19, $203 million in 2019-20, $308 million in 2020-21, $415 million in 2021-22, and $523 million in 2022-23.
Many years of inaction and inattention to public university funding has put Ontario in a difficult position, where sweeping change is needed to make up for lost ground. Recent budgets have seen operating funding for universities stagnate, resulting in real cuts after accounting for inflation, and leaving Ontario with the lowest per-student funding levels in Canada. To return to 2008 levels of per-student funding and start to close the funding gap with other provinces, OCUFA has estimated that it would require an investment of $2.1 billion over the next three years. The NDP’s proposed $612 million investment over the first three years of their mandate definitely falls short of what is required to close the funding gap between Ontario and other provinces, but is a step in the right direction.
The Ontario NDP platform promises to launch a faculty renewal strategy at Ontario’s universities and colleges to support contract faculty becoming full-time professors and instructors, and to invest in more tenure-track faculty positions, supported by an $80 million investment in 2018-19, followed by $160 million in 2019-20, $240 million in 2020-21, $240 million in 2021-22, and $240 million in 2022-23.
This is the first time faculty renewal has been included in a major party platform. This investment is in line with OCUFA’s call for the establishment of faculty renewal as part of a broader government commitment to reverse the rise of precarious work and support good academic jobs at Ontario universities. These investment figures mirror OCUFA’s pre-budget recommendations for 2018-19; however, OCUFA’s proposed figures were limited to supporting a university faculty renewal strategy and did not include investment in faculty renewal at colleges.
The Ontario NDP platform promises to turn all provincial loans for postsecondary students into grants, so any student who qualifies for OSAP can graduate free of provincial debt. It also promises to retroactively forgive all interest for anyone currently carrying provincial student loan debt, and to end the practice of government hiring private debt collection services for student loans.
The promise of turning student loans into non-repayable grants is a welcome reform that would help many students and their families cover the costs of high tuition fees. OCUFA has long argued that tuition fees are a barrier to access that prevent students from pursuing a postsecondary education and should not be relied upon as a foundation for university funding. We support calls from student groups to freeze tuition fee levels. The NDP platform does not include measures to address rising tuition fees for university students.
You can read OCUFA’s full analysis of the Ontario NDP platform here. The other major parties have yet to release their platforms. As they are released, OCUFA will prepare analyses of those platforms and post them on our website.