Fife: ‘Two-way commmunication’ with students is key

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Catherine Fife didn’t wait to be sworn in as Kitchener-Waterloo’s newest MPP before getting busy at Queen’s Park.

The NDP representative, who was elected in last Thursday’s byelection, was getting ready to attend her first caucus meeting Tuesday morning. Fife, a former Waterloo Region School Board trustee and chair, as well as mother of two, will be officially sworn in this coming Saturday.

“I’ve already been taking calls for constituents and attending events,” Fife remarked.

The NDP victory marked a momentous change in the political landscape of the riding, which had been claimed by popular PC representative Elizabeth Witmer for the past 22 years.

Fife won with just over 18,000 votes, beating out PC candidate Tracey Weiler, who came in second, and Liberal Eric Davis, who followed in third. Speaking to her group of supporters on the night of the election, Fife reflected, “I realized that people of riding and this province want to be part of something positive — and real.”

In a riding that holds approximately 40,000 students, the appointment will undoubtedly be of large consequence to both universities as the functioning of the new relationship is determined.

When asked how she envisioned her relationship with the riding’s post-secondary students, Fife responded, “I think it’s really important for me to work with your student governments,” and outlined her intention to set up a meeting soon.

She also mentioned that she had met with student leaders earlier in the campaign, noting that “the communication is two-way.”

One issue that Fife intends to address, in response to concerns voiced by students, is the Liberal tuition grant. The grant provides a 30 per cent rebate on tuition for university and college students in Ontario.

Fife noted that students have expressed “genuine concern” over barriers to accessing the grant, which she has taken into consideration.

Thus far, however, Fife observed that her interaction with students has been more limited than is ideal. The timing of the election, nearing the end of Orientation Week, may have impacted the ability of students to engage fully with the issues and candidates of the critical byelection.

Fife observed that she was not able to speak with students “as much as I would have liked to.”

“When it comes down to between Frosh Week and a byelection,” she said, “Frosh Week gave us a run for our money.”

Citing jobs, education and health as three of her primary focus points moving forward, Fife expressed her intention to represent all citizens of the riding.

She concluded, “I definitely think that the job an MPP is to ensure the voices of its citizens are being heard at Queen’s Park.”

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