Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made an early campaign whistle-stop at Lakeshore campus last week to launch an attack on her top rival.
The province chooses a new government June 7 and Wynne clearly set her sights on Doug Ford, who was elected leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party on March 10.
Wynne told the audience on March 16 that the Liberal government has made “positive changes” by raising the minimum wage, making prescription medication free for everyone under 25 years of age, and increasing funding from OSAP for hundreds of thousands of students.
“Doug Ford, in particular, has promised to reverse our plan to increase the minimum wage,” Wynne said. “He is not listening to workers, he is listening to big businesses and big businesses are saying not now to $15.”
Wynne said that translates to “not ever.”
The minimum wage is currently $14, and is set to rise to $15 in January.
The premier said her government is making a deliberate choice in investing in what matters most, such as mental health care, child care, senior care and fighting climate change. Wynne said that she and Ford see things “differently.”
“They don’t have a plan to build a green economy,” Wynne said in regards to the Tory’s stance on fighting climate change. “Because they don’t care about having one [a plan].”
Design and advertising student Deyja Eskro asked in the question period that followed Wynne’s speech why the government didn’t get involved in the five-week college strike last term.
“We really did lose the most out of everybody,” Eskro told the premier.
“I know you were caught in the middle, in terms of the strike and I really wish that hadn’t happened,” Wynne said. “Having said that, I believe in the collective bargaining process, it is a good process.
“What I don’t believe in is the extended nature of what happened, you know it went on for a long time and we’re looking at what changes could be made,” she said.
Wynne said they are looking into preventing lengthy bargaining processes from occurring in situations that jeopardize post-secondary education.
Once question period was over, two Humber Lakeshore students, including Eskro, waited to speak with Wynne to ask her more questions pertaining to the strike. They felt as though their questions were left unanswered and were not satisfied with Wynne’s response.
“I feel like she side-stepped it,” Eskro said. She said it was “weird” to ask the premier a question and then not get a direct answer.
“At Humber I know we were hit really hard by [the strike]…I lost five weeks of my education, why am I paying the same fees?” Eskro asked.
“Everything’s crammed in,” said Lindsay Pike, a Community and Justice Services student at Lakeshore. Both she and Eskro felt upset about having their reading week taken away as well.
Pike felt the disruption negatively affected the quality of her education. Due to the strike, the fall and winter semesters, which were originally 15 weeks, were condensed into 13-week semesters.
“This is not what I came to college for and I just feel like that was ignored,” Eskro said.