Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Ontario Liberals Launch Another Website

Last week, Minister of Child and Youth Services Deb Matthews followed in the footsteps of former Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Chris Bentley when she announced a website as a key tool to confront a major social problem. Matthews is charged with combating the growing poverty in Ontario. Her outreach campaign, however, is invite-only. For those individuals and communities who are experiencing poverty first-hand and would rightly expect to participate in a dialog on the matter, their input will only be accepted through a website—assuming they have access to a computer.

While the reduced number of quality, unionized jobs is one of the main problems for the decline in Ontario’s workers’ purchasing power, many of Ontario’s youth and students are citing mounting tuition-fee related debt as the main financial problem they have to contend with. So far, the ruling Ontario Liberals have failed both groups. Workers looking to organize their workplace were dealt a blow when the Liberals teamed up with the Progressive Conservatives in a May Day vote that maintained Mike Harris’ legislation that made it more difficult to form a workplace union. And since the brief 2004-2006 tuition fee freeze, students have seen their fees jump at rates which haven’t been seen since Mike Harris was in power.

As mentioned, Chris Bentley’s answers to criticism around the elimination of the tuition fee freeze was to set up a website (an “access portal”) that reviewed how deep in debt Ontario students could get into through OSAP. I should mention, however, that the media stunt created to launch this new website, was successfully disrupted by students. They called the stunt a sham, and provided the reasonable criticism that a website would not, in any way, provide greater access to post-secondary education. Their arguments were good enough to have the high school students in attendance to come on side and challenge the government.

For his PR move, Bentley was promoted to Attorney General. One is left to wonder what Deb Matthews’ reward will be for helping her party side-step Ontario’s mounting poverty crisis. At any rate, the people of Ontario should brace themselves for more poverty and a greater divide between rich and poor.

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