Election 2018

This election presents a valuable opportunity to put postsecondary education on the agenda. Each political party is making promises and proposals that will affect university faculty, students, our families, and our communities.

This election, OCUFA is focused on three advocacy priorities:

Strong public funding for universities is necessary to support excellence in teaching and research.

Launching a faculty renewal strategy will support quality education through additional full-time faculty hiring, replacing retiring faculty, and creating pathways for contract faculty into secure, full-time positions.

It’s time to deliver fairness for contract faculty.

This webpage will provide documents that help clarify how the platforms and positions of each political party will impact Ontario’s universities, and will assist you in engaging with your local candidates. Please feel free to share these with your friends and colleagues and use them to supplement your faculty association’s education and engagement efforts. Check back often for the latest news and additional resources.

On June 7, the Ontario voters elected a Progressive Conservative majority government led by Doug Ford. This election outcome has a number of important implications for professors and academic librarians in the province and will pose several challenges and opportunities for the university sector over the next four years.

During the election, OCUFA analyzed the higher education platforms of the Ontario PC, NDP, and Liberal parties, posted their responses to OCUFA’s party survey, and produced a report card evaluating the platforms of the different parties. Our analysis was based on a set of assessment criteria that included each party’s approach to university funding, faculty renewal, precarious academic work, and access to postsecondary education.

The Ontario PC platform

The Ontario PC platform was silent on almost all postsecondary issues, and did not provide a plan for postsecondary education in Ontario. It did not include any reference to addressing underfunding for postsecondary education or  the need for a faculty renewal strategy in the province. However, the platform statement did emphasize the PC party’s belief that Ontario has a “spending problem”. Such a statement should be of grave concern when it comes to public funding for all public services, including postsecondary education. Any cuts to university funding in this province would threaten the quality of education available to students, the teaching and research at our postsecondary institutions, and the good jobs and economic benefits universities provide.

On precarious work and fairness for contract faculty, the PC platform did not include any plans or references to how the party would address the problem of precarity on university and college campuses. However, prior to the election period and during the PC leadership race, Doug Ford was on record speaking against new changes to labour law introduced under Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, as well as the plan to increase the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour. This approach, coupled with the fact that the PC caucus unanimously voted against Bill 148 at its third and final hearing, is of serious concern to OCUFA.

The one area where the PC platform is clear about its plans for postsecondary education is their promise to mandate that universities uphold free speech on campus and in the classroom. The platform does not expand on this promise or explain how such a mandate would be enforced. However, in previous announcements, the PCs noted their plan would tie government funding for public universities to free speech by expanding the mandate for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to include a complaints and investigations process to evaluate speech violations on campus.

Moving forward, what can we expect?

We expect the Progressive Conservative government to move swiftly to implement their platform promises, and despite postsecondary education being largely omitted from the PC platform, it is difficult to imagine that some of the cost savings the government is seeking won’t come from education.

There are two important things to keep in mind as this new government’s plans take shape. First, that without a plan in their platform, the Progressive Conservatives were not elected with any firm mandate to make substantial changes to Ontario’s postsecondary education system. Second, that according to a public poll commissioned by OCUFA, a majority of those who voted for the PCs believe that larger class sizes and less one-on-one student-faculty engagement – both symptoms of underfunding – have a negative impact on education quality. The same poll also found a majority of PC supporters oppose universities hiring more contract faculty on short-term contracts instead of full-time professors. These issues will only be exacerbated with further cuts.

These facts alone won’t change the government’s approach, but they provide an opportunity to remind the government that Ontarians of all political stripes support fairness for contract faculty and ensuring universities have the resources they need to provide the high quality education Ontario students deserve.

OCUFA has been a constant and strong advocate for fairness for contract faculty and the need to address the rise of precarious work across Ontario. This work is vital and will continue. We will continue to advocate the government to ensure that measures are taken to protect workers at Ontario’s universities and create pathways to job security for contract faculty.

We will also continue to oppose any plans to tie funding to outcomes or performance. Creating such a system of winners and losers creates scenarios where already well-resourced institutions will thrive and those institutions struggling to keep up are punished. Such an approach ultimately hurts students and threatens the quality of their education at universities from which funding is withheld. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these contributions in the future.

In the upcoming months, as the new government is formed and there is more clarity on the government’s agenda, including any plans for the postsecondary system, OCUFA will be offering further analysis and engage in advocacy on behalf of faculty and academic librarians for the high-quality, well-resourced, affordable, and accessible university system that serves our students, our communities, and Ontario.

View Resource

Framework for analyzing party platforms

Over the course of the election campaign, all of the major parties will present their vision for the future of the province through their election platforms. In order to assess the impact of what each party is proposing for university professors and academic librarians, and for the postsecondary education sector more broadly, OCUFA has developed a set of criteria for assessment. When it comes to higher education, the ideal platform should:

  • Increase investments in core operating funding for Ontario’s universities to support quality research and education;
  • Ensure that the renewed funding model does not link performance metrics to funding;
  • Require meaningful consultation with faculty as part of the Strategic Mandate Agreement development process;
  • Commit to a faculty renewal strategy that supports quality education through additional full-time faculty hiring, replacing retiring faculty, and creating pathways for contract faculty into secure, full-time positions;
  • Address precarious work at Ontario universities and deliver fairness for contract faculty by taking leadership to fund and facilitate the implementation of updated labour laws and identify remaining gaps in coverage; and
  • Introduce measures to address calls from student groups to freeze tuition fees and improve access to postsecondary education for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Postsecondary education funding

The Ontario NDP platform promises additional investment in university and college operating grants in the amount 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. The NDP’s commitment to increase operating funding is a welcome shift from recent budgets in which near zero per cent increases in funding have become the norm.

Just to maintain current levels of per-student funding for Ontario’s universities will require six per cent funding increases in each of the next three years, including an additional $210 million investment in 2018-19 above what was allocated to universities in 2017-18. To bring Ontario’s per-student funding in line with the average for the rest of the country, the government will need to invest an additional $5.9 billion over the next three years. To catch up with the next worst province, Nova Scotia, will require an additional $3.7 billion investment over three years.

In our most recent budget recommendations, OCUFA proposed that a sensible step in the right direction would be to return Ontario to 2008-09 levels of per-student funding, at the height of the Reaching Higher investments. This will require an investment of $2.1 billion over three years, starting with $335 million in this year’s budget.

The NDP platform’s proposed $1.6 billion investment in university and college operating funding over five years is a step in the right direction, although it falls short of what is required to close the wide funding gap between Ontario and other provinces. It is critical for Ontario’s next government to seriously consider the investment required to close the per‑student funding gap, so the quality of university in the province does not suffer compared to other parts of Canada.

Faculty renewal and fairness for contract faculty

The Ontario NDP platform has promised the launch of a faculty renewal strategy to allow contract faculty to become full-time professors and instructors, and to invest in more tenure-track faculty positions. This commitment 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 jobs in the university sector. This is the first time faculty renewal has been included in a major party platform.

To launch a faculty renewal strategy at Ontario’s universities and colleges, the NDP platform provides for an investment of $80 million 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.

These investment figures precisely mirror OCUFA’s pre-budget recommendations for 2018‑19, however, OCUFA’s proposed figures were limited to a university faculty renewal strategy and did not include investment in faculty renewal at colleges.

In Ontario, full-time faculty hiring has not kept pace with student enrolment. In the last decade, full-time student enrolment increased by 23 per cent. Over the same period, the number of full-time faculty employed at Ontario universities increased by only 3.4 per cent. This means that, since 2007-08, the rate of increase in student enrolment has been almost seven times that of faculty hiring. More students and fewer professors leads to less one‑on‑one engagement, larger class sizes, fewer opportunities for mentorship and academic advising, and diminished chances for undergraduate students to be involved in the research projects of their professors.

Meanwhile, as full-time faculty hiring has stagnated at Ontario’s universities, the reliance on contract faculty has increased. These contract professors are generally hired on either a limited-term contract or as sessionals on a per-course basis. Contract faculty lack job security, face unpredictable scheduling, and often juggle jobs at multiple institutions. Despite the lack of security afforded them in their employment, many contract faculty have been working in these positions for years.

Filling the gap between student enrolment and full-time faculty hiring with more contract faculty in precarious jobs is not an acceptable path forward. Contract faculty are highly qualified teachers and researchers, but their conditions of work do not allow them to contribute to their fullest potential in the classroom or provide the educational continuity that students deserve. Job insecurity reduces their ability to follow through with students and provide them with the ongoing support and guidance that will help them excel.

Any government faculty renewal strategy must be directed towards the dual goals of increasing the full-time faculty complement and delivering fairness for contract faculty. It is encouraging that the NDP commitment to a faculty renewal strategy embraces this approach.

Accessibility of postsecondary education

The Ontario NDP platform promises to turn all provincial loans for postsecondary students into grants, so any student who qualifies for OSAP would graduate free of debt. The NDP also promises to retroactively forgive all interest for anyone currently carrying provincial student loan debt, and end the practice of government hiring private debt collection services for student loans.

The NDP platform estimates that the cost of changing loans to grants will be $449 million in 2018-19, $467 million in 2019-20, $486 million in 2020-21, $505 million in 2021-22, and $526 million in 2022-23. The cost of forgiveness for payment of all outstanding interest on student debt has been estimated as a one time expenditure of $112 million in 2018-19.

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. Partial grants, however, cannot guarantee equitable and accessible postsecondary education, particularly in the face of continuing tuition fee increases. 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 fees. The NDP platform does not include measures to address rising tuition fees for university students.

Other postsecondary education commitments

The Ontario NDP platform includes a commitment to build on the federal Student Work-Integrated Learning Program, through the creation of 27,000 new placements; expanding the program to go beyond science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to include other fields; and doubling Ontario’s Career Kick-Start program to support experiential learning opportunities for students. The platform also promises the establishment of a Franco-Ontarian university, where students can earn a degree studying in French.

View Resource

Framework for analyzing party platforms

Over the course of the election campaign, all of the major parties will present their vision for the future of the province through their election platforms. In order to assess the impact of what each party is proposing for university professors and academic librarians, and for the postsecondary education sector more broadly, OCUFA has developed a set of criteria for assessment. When it comes to higher education, the ideal platform would:

  • Increase investments in core operating funding for Ontario’s universities to support quality research and education;
  • Ensure that the renewed funding model does not link performance metrics to funding;
  • Require meaningful consultation with faculty as part of the Strategic Mandate Agreement development process;
  • Commit to a faculty renewal strategy that supports quality education through additional full-time faculty hiring, replacing retiring faculty, and creating pathways for contract faculty into secure, full-time positions;
  • Address precarious work at Ontario universities and deliver fairness for contract faculty by taking leadership to fund and facilitate the implementation of updated labour laws and identify remaining gaps in coverage; and
  • Introduce measures to address calls from student groups to freeze tuition fees and improve access to postsecondary education for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Postsecondary education funding

The Ontario Liberal Party’s platform does not address the need for renewed public funding for Ontario universities to support high-quality education. 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. The Liberal platform does not commit to increasing university operating funding, which is urgently needed to address ongoing underfunding.

The Liberal platform addresses funding for universities only in the context of providing targeted funding for specific projects in the university sector. For example, the Liberal platform reiterates their previous commitment to investing $500 million over ten years, starting in 2020-21, to support deferred maintenance projects and help renew college and university campuses. Two-thirds of this funding is expected to be allocated to universities.

Faculty renewal and fairness for contract faculty

The Ontario Liberal platform does not include any commitment to faculty renewal. Government leadership will be crucial for providing funding and leadership for a faculty renewal strategy at Ontario universities. This gap in the Liberal platform is disappointing.

In Ontario, full-time faculty hiring has not kept pace with student enrolment. In the last decade, full-time student enrolment increased by 23 per cent. Over the same period, the number of full-time faculty employed at Ontario universities increased by only 3.4 per cent. This means that, since 2007-08, the rate of increase in student enrolment has been almost seven times that of faculty hiring. More students and fewer professors leads to less one-on-one engagement, larger class sizes, fewer opportunities for mentorship and academic advising, and diminished chances for undergraduate students to be involved in the research projects of their professors.

The Ontario Liberal platform reiterates a commitment to changes brought forward in Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. This includes new provisions that mandate equal pay for contract, part-time, casual or seasonal workers. Loopholes and broad exemptions in the equal pay provisions leave too much room for universities to avoid paying their workers fairly, including contract faculty. This provision must be strengthened. Moreover, nothing is included in the Liberal platform to address the need to improve job security for contract faculty or create pathways for contract faculty into full-time, secure positions.

These gaps are of concern because a growing number of faculty at Ontario universities are being hired on short-term, precarious contracts. OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faulty has doubled since 2000. Recent research from the Council of Ontario Universities shows that over 50 per cent of university teaching is done by contract faculty. It is widely acknowledged that contract faculty earn less for the same work as their full-time colleagues, lack access to benefits, often juggle jobs at multiple institutions, and face unpredictable scheduling and job insecurity

We need a government that will confidently set a standard of fairness for contract faculty across the postsecondary sector. As recent changes to labour and employment legislation are rolled out, close attention to gaps in coverage will be crucial. The government should take leadership to identify outstanding issues and commit to provide public funding where necessary for fairness for contract faculty to be achieved.

Accessibility of postsecondary education

The Ontario Liberal platform promises to continue the implementation of the new Ontario Student Grant program, including reductions in the minimum parental contribution required under the Ontario Student Assistance Program. This will provide students from middle-income families with additional financial aid and result in more students qualifying for the grants and loans they need to afford the cost of tuition fees, which continue to increase.

This continued commitment to increasing the accessibility of postsecondary education through reforms to student assistance is welcome. The platform does not specify the exact amount of funding that would be dedicated to this program. Partial grants, however, cannot guarantee equitable and accessible postsecondary education, particularly in the face of continuing tuition fee increases. 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 fees. The Liberal platform does not include measures to address rising tuition fees for university students.

While investments in student access to postsecondary education are of utmost importance, the lack of parallel investments in faculty hiring and university operating grants also compromises the quality of higher education. Ontario students deserve better.

Other postsecondary education commitments

The Ontario Liberal platform includes a number of initiatives and programs geared towards experiential learning, training, and apprenticeships. This includes the investment of $132 million over the next three years in innovative college and university programming directed at strengthening experiential learning opportunities, creation of an Office of Apprenticeship Opportunity, establishment of a Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for employers to hire new apprentices, creating hands-on learning opportunities for more than 98,000 students, and an increase to the College Equipment and Renewal Fund from $8 million to $20 million annually over the next three years. The Ontario Liberal platform also includes the promise of developing a plan to increase the number of graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by 25 per cent and a continued commitment to funding the establishment of new postsecondary campuses in Markham, Brampton and Milton as well as the creation of a French language university.

View Resource

Framework for analyzing party platforms

Over the course of the election campaign, all of the major parties will present their vision for the future of the province through their election platforms. In order to assess the impact of what each party is proposing for university professors and academic librarians, and for the postsecondary education sector more broadly, OCUFA has developed a set of criteria for assessment. When it comes to higher education, the ideal platform would:

  • Increase investments in core operating funding for Ontario’s universities to support quality research and education;
  • Ensure that the renewed funding model does not link performance metrics to funding;
  • Require meaningful consultation with faculty as part of the Strategic Mandate Agreement development process;
  • Commit to a faculty renewal strategy that supports quality education through additional full-time faculty hiring, replacing retiring faculty, and creating pathways for contract faculty into secure, full-time positions;
  • Address precarious work at Ontario universities and deliver fairness for contract faculty by taking leadership to fund and facilitate the implementation of updated labour laws and identify remaining gaps in coverage; and
  • Introduce measures to address calls from student groups to freeze tuition fees and improve access to postsecondary education for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Postsecondary education funding

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s platform does not include any reference to addressing underfunding for postsecondary education in the province. Without re-investment, the quality of education available to students at Ontario universities is threatened.

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. No additional funding commitments from a new government will only make the situation worse.

The PC platform statement that Ontario has a “spending problem” is a concern when it comes to public funding for all public services, including postsecondary education. Any cuts to university funding in this province would threaten the quality of the student experience as well as the quality of teaching and research at our institutions.

Faculty renewal and fairness for contract faculty

The Ontario PC platform does not include any commitments to addressing fairness for contract faculty, supporting full-time faculty hiring, or ensuring equal pay and job security for contract faculty.

In Ontario, full-time faculty hiring has not kept pace with student enrolment. In the last decade, full-time student enrolment increased by 23 per cent. Over the same period, the number of full-time faculty employed at Ontario universities increased by only 3.4 per cent. This means that, since 2007-08, the rate of increase in student enrolment has been almost seven times that of faculty hiring. More students and fewer professors leads to less one-on-one engagement, larger class sizes, fewer opportunities for mentorship and academic advising, and diminished chances for undergraduate students to be involved in the research projects of their professors.

OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faulty has doubled since 2000. Recent research from the Council of Ontario Universities shows that over 50 per cent of university teaching is done by contract faculty. It is widely acknowledged that contract faculty earn less for the same work as their full-time colleagues, lack access to benefits, often juggle jobs at multiple institutions, and face unpredictable scheduling and job insecurity.

The PC platform leaves both the need for a faculty renewal strategy and fairness for contract faculty unaddressed.

Accessibility of postsecondary education

The Ontario PC platform does not include any reference to measures that will ensure the affordability and accessibility of postsecondary education. The platform is also silent on whether current funding allocations, for example to the Ontario Student Grant program, will be maintained.

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. OCUFA supports reforms to student assistance that help students cover the cost of tuition through grants. OCUFA also supports calls from student groups to freeze tuition fees.

Other postsecondary education commitments

The Ontario PC platform includes a promise to mandate that universities uphold free speech on campuses and in classrooms. The platform does not expand on this promise or explain how such a mandate would be enforced. However, in previous announcements, the Ontario PC Party noted that their plan would tie government funding for public universities to free speech through an expanded mandate for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) that would include a complaints and investigations process to evaluate free speech violations on campuses. OCUFA opposes any plans to tie funding to outcomes or performance, which ultimately hurt students (and the quality of their education) at universities from which funding is withheld.

View Resource

Ontario poll: Supporters of all political parties concerned about growing numbers of contract faculty

TORONTO – According to a new poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), 68 per cent of Ontarians oppose universities hiring more contract faculty on short-term contracts instead of full-time professors with better pay and access to benefits. Potential voters for all political parties disagree with the current hiring approach, including 74 per cent of Liberal supporters, 73 per cent of NDP supporters, and 58 per cent of PC supporters.

“This poll confirms that fairness for contract faculty has broad support,” said Professor Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “With the provincial election next week, it is time for all political parties to commit to fairness for contract faculty. Their supporters certainly believe in it.”

The poll of 600 Ontarians over the age of 18 shows concern that a lack of job security for professors impacts the quality of student learning experiences. When asked, 60 per cent stated that forcing professors to work contract-to-contract, with no job security, has a negative impact on education quality. Contract faculty often lack dedicated office space and their working conditions make it difficult to make time for engagement with students. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent believe less one-on-one student engagement also negatively impacts education quality.

“Ontarians understand how difficult it is to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve when we’re forced to work contract-to-contract with little or no support,” said Kimberly Ellis-Hale, Chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty Committee. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, and that’s why it’s important we have job security, fair pay, and benefits.”

Poll participants were also asked how they feel about the current level of government investment in Ontario’s universities. The province provides the lowest per-student funding in Canada, with public funding making up less than 50 per cent of university operating revenues. When asked whether government funding should make up a higher, lower, or similar proportion of university revenues, 49 per cent said the proportion should be higher than it currently is, with only 8 per cent believing the proportion should be lower.

“It’s time to invest in a fair future for Ontario’s universities,” said Phillips. “With strong public funding for our universities, more full-time faculty hiring, and a commitment to fairness for contract faculty, we can make that future a reality.”

The telephone survey was conducted by Innovative Research Group from May 23rd to May 29th, 2018 and included 600 randomly-selected Ontario residents, 18 years of age or older. After weighting a sample of this size, the aggregated results are considered accurate to within ±4.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information and the full poll results, please visit www.ocufa.on.ca/ontario-election-2018.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca
OR Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or mrosenfeld@ocufa.on.ca

View Resource

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