Resignation could have effect on students

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A week after former premier Dalton McGuinty announced his resignation, questions are rising about how this could impact the province’s students.

A new premier could mean big changes for the province, and some are speculating that the change in leadership could result in a general election sometime next year.

Rylan Kinnon, the executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), affirmed that while it is still too early to determine the full impact this shake up in Canadian politics will have on students, they can expect some kind of change in the near future.

“‘We don’t know yet’, is the short answer. It’s going to depend on who decides to put their hat in the ring for the leadership race, what their priorities are,” Kinnon said.

“It does mean that some conversations that we’ve been in and some things that required legislation are off the table for now. And in terms of the productivity consultations, the strategic mandate process, we’ll have to see basically, how the chips fall moving forward, in terms of what the result will be, what a new cabinet, what a new potentially training for colleges and universities minister sees in the process.”

Last January, McGuinty announced a 30 per cent tuition grant for students to alleviate the pressure of high tuition costs for university and college students.

When McGuinty stepped down, some were concerned that this would change the tuition grant as well.

Wilfrid Laurier University political science professor Barry Kay predicts that the tuition grant will remain unscathed.

“I would doubt that the new premier in the few weeks that he had of being elected, that he would start cancelling policies that McGuinty initiated,” Kay said.

“That was certainly a signature policy, I wouldn’t be particularly apprehensive about that.”

While there is no certain indication that an election will take place, it is a possibility.

In the event of an election, getting students engaged in the matter may be a challenge, as student voter turnout, especially in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, is continually at a low level.

In the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, since May of 2011, voters have faced one federal election, going to the polls twice provincially.

“I think that what we really need to be saying to students is that post-secondary is a provincial issue and if students are not voting, we don’t have as much of an ability to influence what comes out at the end of the day,” Kinnon said.

“I think if students voted and parties realized this actually is going to make a huge difference, appealing to students is going to be the difference between winning ridings and not, then we would have even more of a voice than we do currently.”

OUSA is not alone in this argument. Chris Walker, vice president of university affairs of the students’ union at Wilfrid Laurier University, also spoke about the importance for students to vote and get involved in politics. Walker emphasized that McGuinty’s resignation should inspire students to engage with politicians.

“People say that politicians don’t engage students because students don’t engage with politics and you can make the chicken and the egg argument all you want, but the fact is that somebody’s got to be the bigger man and step up to the plate and actually put their money where their mouth is, and I think the students have got to lead that,” Walker explained.

“Politicians are always going to respond to what the electorate is asking for. And we can’t always guarantee that post-secondary education is going to be a top priority unless we actually prove to them that we care and that we’re invested in it.”

With the Kitchener-Waterloo area being composed of a large number of university and college students, Walker believes that students will be able to have an impact should an election take place.

“The students in and of themselves could elect a candidate, even if no other person voted for that candidate. So the impact we can have is absolutely massive,” Walker said.

“We can’t always guarantee that post-secondary education is going to be a top priority unless we actually prove to them that we care and that we’re invested in it. “


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