When it comes to student union politics and political parties, the McMaster Students Union and the New Democratic Party often share insights, with both throwing their full support behind ideas like better public transportation and making tuition accessible.
And yet the NDP remain a quiet voice on the McMaster political landscape.
On Sept. 8, provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath came to McMaster to talk about potential recommendations with student leaders. She met with many groups on campus, most notably the MSU board of directors, who talked to Horwath about what the NDP can do to represent students.
Hamilton has a long history with the NDP. There are currently three NDP members of provincial parliament in Hamilton. The city has often voted orange in the past and many of the student union recommendations mirror NDP policies concerning higher education, such as lowering tuition.
“. . . if we don’t get elected government, then all we can do is push the government to do the right thing. We’ve had some success, especially with respect to the work-integrated learning.”
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The last time Horwath visited McMaster was in 2013. The then-current board of directors made a series of recommendations, mainly focused on making school affordable and creating experiential learning opportunities. In the years since, some of these recommendations have come to fruition. The introduction of a new Ontario grant for students and new work-integrated programs have been introduced under the Liberal government.
“As opposition, we can build things into our own platform during election time,” said Horwath. “We can engage with students in between elections and during campaigns and then if we don’t get elected government, then all we can do is push the government to do the right thing. We’ve had some success, especially with respect to the work-integrated learning.”
The NDP has also indirectly supported multiple campus initiatives, including April’s debate for light rail transit in Hamilton, which saw delegations from then vice president (Education), Blake Oliver. The NDP supported LRT and helped different communities access funding for it from the project’s early stages.
Despite the support for the NDP within the city and many shared policies between the party and the MSU, the NDP does not have a large presence on campus. McMaster NDP only has 278 likes on Facebook, while McMaster Young Liberals has 662 and the McMaster Conservatives has 580. Non-McMaster groups that still hold influence in the area, such as the Revolutionary Student Movement, also hold a much higher degree of support from the general population than any NDP group does at McMaster.Horwath credits this to the job opportunities that exist for those involved with the ruling party, the Liberals, which attracts the attention of many student leaders hoping to make impacts after graduation.
“I want to encourage students to get involved with the campus clubs and what comes from these connections. [My aide] was a student here for many years and works for me now. I know many people who work at Queen’s Park for me and the NDP party either on an election or with campus based clubs. I think sometimes people don’t see the connection getting involved with a club or an election and the job opportunities that come out of that,” said Horwath.
Nevertheless, Horwath continues to talk with student leaders and tries to work with them from the position she holds to implement their ideas. And as time marches forward, one can expect future student leaders to find success in fulfilling their visions whether they have the help of a political party or not.