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.


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