Ontario Liberal party excludes student media

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One of the most important events in the history of Ontario occurred over the weekend and it was something that I, as a 20-something progressive, was extremely proud to witness: Ontario has its first-ever openly gay, female politician premier.

I was glad to watch the strong enthusiasm unfold on my television screen and Twitter feed. What a sight it must have been to see Kathleen Wynne become the first female premier of Ontario in person. But unfortunately, like many other student newspapers in Ontario, The Cord was declined access to the leadership convention—twice.

In our second attempt to gain media accreditation to the convention, our Editor-in-Chief, Justin Fauteux, wrote to the Liberal media contacts, “Politicians are constantly talking about the lack of engagement among young people and the need to reach out and connect with voters from younger demographics. Student media is one of the best ways to reach younger demographics and it’s extremely disheartening to see an opportunity like this missed.”

Yet the request was still denied with the media relations team of the convention claiming that they “had to turn down a number of media outlets due to space constraints.”

I saw nearly every other media organization there—even smaller-sized radio stations and bloggers—but not a single student media outlet was seen on Friday and Saturday at Maple Leaf Gardens. At first, I somewhat believed the Ontario Liberals that they had no space in an old professional hockey arena, but I contacted the Eyeopener, one of the student papers at Ryerson University, which is a ten-minute walk away from Maple Leaf Gardens, to learn that they were also declined access due to “space constraints.”

The national bureau chief of the Canadian University Press (CUP), Arshy Mann later confirmed that other student papers were refused coverage for the event that decided our next premier.

While CUP could have been taken a more aggressive approach to gain access, the fact that most student papers, even one as close as a block away from the event, was not given access is appalling. For a party that has claimed it has substantially improved post-secondary education in the past ten years, to decline one of the main communication lines to those university students they insist they’re helping so much is just wrong. The Cord and other outlets don’t typically have issues getting into federal conventions such as the NDP leadership convention in Toronto last March. Dalton McGuinty made an appearance at Wilfrid Laurier University last spring to announce the 30 per cent tuition grant as well as at a Waterloo home in the summer to announce the controversial wage-freeze bill and we were there both times to cover it. So why block us out now, Ontario Liberals? This is supposed to be a proud moment for both you and Ontario, yet you excluded an entire group of people.

I know the Liberals have done some great things for post-secondary education, but with the province reaching $300-billion debt and university graduates increasingly having trouble getting jobs, do you think we should just accept everything you do?

We, like other media outlets, just want to get information out to the public and our public consists mainly of students. If you really want to reach out to students and the younger demographic, you should voice that support and what better way than through the student press. Wynne, the best possible outcome of that leadership convention, will have to make strong efforts if she wants to re-engage the student body. With the uncertainty that has surrounded Ontario politics during the last few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if another provincial election is called before the summer, unless Wynne has the magic to bridge gaps between the NDP and Progressive Conservatives.

But if an election does happen, don’t worry, Ontario Liberals, we’ll still cover you — if you’ll let us.

letters@thecord.ca

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