Where do Tim Hudak’s PCs really stand on OSAP loans?

Student loans should be tied to grades, said Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative caucus in a white paper, about a year prior to this spring’s provincial election call.

“Paths to Prosperity: Higher Learning for Better Jobs,” stated: “To maintain aid students must demonstrate minimum level of academic success. Too often, our loans and grants programs reward mediocrity. Universities and colleges should be able to make student financial aid decisions on the basis of rewarding success and good behavior. More funds should flow to students who continue to demonstrate they need and deserve it.”

This, according to the white paper released in February 2013, would “inject the student financial aid system with more market discipline.”

Recently, when asked to comment both local Liberal and NDP MPP candidates denounced Tim Hudak’s PCs idea of a merit-based student financial aid system.

“It’s a non-starter,” Catherine Fife, incumbent NDP candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo said. “That comment by Hudak clearly demonstrates that he does not understand the reality of students in the province of Ontario. You can’t punish students for actually having to take two part-time jobs to make it through their course work.”

“I can’t imagine what value that would have,” Jamie Burton, Liberal Kitchener-Waterloo candidate said. “It is an indication that he is not invested in students at all. I think it largely shows his disregard  for the importance of education … To be detrimental against somebody for not scoring well … I would totally be opposed to it.”

Fast forward to May 8, 2014, Tim Hudak hosted a town hall at Kitchener’s Conestoga Place with about 100 of his supporters, where he was joined by MPP PC candidates Tracey Weiler (Kitchener-Waterloo) and Rob Leone (Cambridge).

Hudak refused to address the media. Leone, however, did answer some questions, where he denied ever saying that OSAP should be tied to marks.

“We never actually said that,” Leone said. “One of the things we are interested and focused on is to make sure that our students are getting a great education that leads to a job, and that they have that great education in the shortest amount of time possible.”

Leone was the PC’s caucus critic for training, colleges and universities. He was responsible for this particular white paper as he received input and feedback from stakeholders; university and college administrators, faculty, and students.

When <em>Imprint</em> asked the question again for clarification, he said, &ldquo;That&rsquo;s correct, we never said what you said. Our focus is getting students a job here in Ontario.&rdquo;

He then added, &ldquo;Our idea of student finance is this; that if you are a qualified student, that if you have the merit to be in university or college, but you don&rsquo;t have the capacity to pay, we have to find a way to get you there. That is the commitment we would offer students&hellip; [We will] Find a way to get you there at the lowest cost possible and that is what we&rsquo;re committed to.&rdquo;

<em>Imprint</em> then spoke to Weiler, who said, &ldquo;What Rob did at the time being in charge of post-secondary, was consult with experts and students from across the province to put some ideas down on paper. Some of those ideas were controversial and sparked some interest, but the goal of the discussion paper was to hear reaction and feedback from the people of Ontario.&rdquo;

Weiler also said, &ldquo;I think again we need to realize that those are discussion papers, and certainly the focus for our platform is going to be jobs and the economy and balancing the budget,&rdquo; Weiler reaffirmed. &ldquo;Some of the ideas in there, although they may have merit, they&rsquo;re not going to be a focus to get Ontario back on track.&rdquo;

Weiler then added, &ldquo;I think those discussion papers have really guided us to the platform that you&rsquo;re seeing based on the Million Jobs Plan.&rdquo;

Ben Balfour, Feds vice-president of operations and finance commented based on the PC&#39;s responses and said,&ldquo;Personally, as a student who has received financial aid in the past, as a student who is really involved on campus and values my involvement on campus almost as much as I do my academic standing, I find that making it purely dollars and cents and grade-based is very inhuman, and I think education is a very human issue&hellip; It&rsquo;s not very comforting that they kind of do one thing and say the other.&rdquo;

According to the&nbsp;<em>Ottawa Citizen,</em>&nbsp;the PCs released their platform earlier in the week, where they already commit to eliminating the 30 per cent tuition rebate, as recommended by the Don Drummond Report, back when McGuinty was premier.


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