Premier Kathleen Wynne talks with students in interactive session

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne continued her tour of Ontario universities at an interactive session in E5 Jan. 13. Students from both Wilfrid Laurier University and UW were in attendance along with Cambridge MPP Kathryn McGarry, Kitchener-Centre MPP Daienne Vernille, and Minister of Research and Education Reza Moridi.

The event began with comments from Danielle Burt, Feds president, who introduced Moridi. Moridi spoke about UW’s innovative streak and the liberal government’s commitment to students, after which he introduced Wynne.

The event’s stated purpose was to engage students and give the premier an opportunity to better understand what matters to students.

“I really want us to have a discussion,” Wynne said. “It seems to me the most natural thing in the world … to find out what [students] are going through and look at [student] experiences while we’re developing policy.”

Her introductory remarks also included an affirmation of her belief that university students are not only the hope of the future, but also the present. “You are the reason and the way that [Ontario] can punch above our weight,” she said.

The remainder of the event was a question-and-answer session between students and the premier. The questions covered a range of topics, beginning with transit. She opened with a rundown of her government&rsquo;s monetary commitments to infrastructure and transit, a line that was repeated frequently throughout the most recent provincial election. She also repeated her call for better transportation b<strong>e</strong>tween the Waterloo Region and the Greater Toronto Area in order to increase productivity, and mentioned a need for a national infrastructure strategy.

International students were also a clear point of interest. Questions were raised concerning how international students are treated, including a lack of availability of startup visas. Wynne turned most of these questions over to Moridi, who has been very vocal about the benefits of international students in the past year.

In a later interview with <em>Imprint</em>, both Moridi and Wynne further discussed the issue of international students and the massive increases in tuition they face: &ldquo;I think we have to, more and more, see ourselves as citizens of the world. I think there&rsquo;s a tendency in Canada &hellip; to think globally &hellip; I think that that relationship between international students coming here and our education system is a really important aspect of that,&rdquo; Wynne said.

There is currently no cap on how much universities are able to increase the tuition for international students. Only a few years ago, McMaster University raised international tuition by 30 per cent in one year.

When asked if her government was looking to enact a tuition cap for international students, Wynne said, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not at this point considering that.&rdquo;

Mental health was brought up on several occasions, and Wynne expressed confidence that the first steps toward improving the way that mental health is dealt with and eliminating the stigma with which it is associated have been taken. However, she added that there is still a lot that remains to be done.

After the event, Wynne, Moridi, McGarry, and Vernille sat down with <em>Imprint </em>and discussed the flaws of OSAP.

&ldquo;We expanded our approach to the kind of student support &hellip; we moved away from just having loans. We put in place grants, and more recently we put in place the 30 per cent tuition grant,&rdquo; Wynne said. &ldquo;230,000 more students have access because of [the 30 per cent tuition grant].&rdquo; She did not mention any current plans to modify the system.

Wynne&rsquo;s 10-day university tour, which began with McMaster University and the University of Ottawa will contine over the next week.


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