Goodbye Merrilee, we hardly knew you! Ford government appoints a new Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities

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Following a major cabinet shuffle in Ontario on June 20th, Ross Romano, the MPP from the riding of Sault Ste. Marie was appointed as the new Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Romano replaces Merrilee Fullerton, the previous Minister of TCU who has now been granted the portfolio of the Minister of Long-Term Care.

Minister Romano is a second-term Progressive Conservative MPP who previously held the position of parliamentary assistant to both the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. He is a graduate of Algoma University and the University of Windsor Law School. Prior to his political career, he served as a lawyer at O’Neill DeLorenzi Mendes specializing in civil and criminal litigation. He also served as a city councilor in Sault Ste. Marie before being elected as an MPP in a 2017 by-election.

Similar to MPP Fullerton, Minister Romano does not have any previous professional background in the field of postsecondary education and it is unclear whether his appointment signals any shifts in the PC government’s plans for the postsecondary sector.

During her tenure as the TCU Minister, Merrilee Fullerton notoriously refused to meet and engage with OCUFA and most other major stakeholders in the postsecondary sector. She repeatedly turned down and ignored any requests for engagement and seemed particularly uninterested in understanding the nuances and complexities of the issues in the sector. Her Ministry also consistently failed to consult any of the representative bodies and experts in the sector regarding their critical policy decisions. The reckless changes to the postsecondary education funding model, cuts to Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), forced so-called free speech policies, and attacks on collective bargaining rights and the democratically elected student organizations are among the decisions made by her Ministry over the last year without any consultation with the sector.

After an eleven-month term, Merrilee Fullerton is now leaving her role as the Minister of TCU, without having once met or engaged with university faculty or most other members of the postsecondary sector in the province.

In the coming weeks, OCUFA is hoping to meet with Minister Romano to discuss his vision for the future of higher education in Ontario and current issues facing the higher education system. We’re particularly interested in engaging the new Minister in a conversation regarding the Ministry’s planned attack on senior faculty, as well as the recently announced changes to the funding model for Ontario universities and colleges. Our hope is that Minister Romano’s approach to the sector would be different than that of his predecessor and that he would value the opportunity to listen to the voice of university faculty in Ontario.


One Response to “Goodbye Merrilee, we hardly knew you! Ford government appoints a new Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities”

  1. Dr. Robert Norman

    The Ford government has inserted yet another minister of higher education who has no background in the scope of what universities actually do other than being a former student in the system.

    According to the Toronto Star (January 18, 2020) Ontario university funding will be evaluated on how many gradates of a particular university get jobs, immediately upon graduation I assume, and how much money they make.

    For 35 years, the quality of my teaching of students, based mainly on the written evaluations of students after every course, was 40% of my merit pay assessments annually. The remainder of my annual evaluation and expectations as a competent professor was for the quality of my published research and professional service inside and outside university.

    I agree that part of the role of our university system is to produce graduates who can get jobs and make money. However this is far from the only role and only measure of contributions to society by our graduates and quality of our universities.

    These definitely should not be the only criteria for evaluation of the quality of our universities and for their funding.

    Maybe if Mr. Ford had a post secondary education of more than a few months at a community college, he would understand this.

    Before implementing the “job and salary count “criteria for university funding I hope that Mr. Romano engages fully with university professors and administrators to really understand the extremely wide scope of contributions that our universities make and have made for generations in Ontario and nationally. His recent predecessor, Merrilee Fullerton, apparently did not.

    Robert Norman, Ph.D.
    Distinguished Professor Emeritus
    Former Dean, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo

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