On June 7, Ontarians will be casting their vote to elect their Legislative Assembly. For those voting in the West Hamilton-Ancaster-Dundas riding, the riding in which McMaster resides, voters have four choices: the incumbent Ted McMeekin from the Liberal Party, Ben Levitt of the Progressive Conservative Party, the National Democratic Party’s Sandy Shaw and Peter Ormond, representing the Green Party.
Each of these parties have a unique approach to three major issues the McMaster Students Union has highlighted in the past couple of years: tuition, transportation and affordable housing.
Of the parties covered, two have released official platforms: the NDP and the Green Party. The Liberal Party released the Ontario budget back in March 2018, which makes up of what the Liberals plan on implementing. The PC Party has not released an official platform since the party leadership shifted from Patrick Brown to Doug Ford, and thus all points listed are taken from press releases or other media outlets and their coverage.
In the past few years, the McMaster Students Union has committed itself to advocating for lower tuition, typically through their membership in the Ontario University Student Alliance. OUSA has released documents and blog posts advocating for the lowering and control of international students’ tuitions,tuition freezesand other like-minded initiatives. Previous MSU board members have also advocated for tuition freezes, such as former MSU president Ehima Osazuwa and his Tuition Task Force.
The Liberal Party has committed itself to creating more Ontario Student Assistant Program tuition grants for low-income students to pay the average cost of one year’s tuition.
The NDP, on the other hand, promises to offer tuition grants to all students who are eligible for OSAP. The NDP also plans on wiping any student loan interest either owed or paid to the government by any student who currently holds a provincial loan.
The Green Party plans on offering interest-free loans, meanwhile the PC Party has not made a discernible statement on post-secondary tuition.
The MSU has advocated for better transportation multiple times, most notably with their delegations to City Hall in support of a light rail transit. Former MSU vice president (Education) Blake Oliver held multiple meetings with relevant city hall officials during her term to advocate in favour of bringing LRT to Hamilton.
In addition, improving transportation has been a major topic for MSU presidential candidates. Ikram Farah, the current MSU president, plans on working with Metrolinx to improve GO bus transit by extending key bus lines to run later into the evening.
The Liberal Party promises to invest $79 billion into different transportation projects all over the province and match a federal infrastructure grant of $5 billion, of which roughly $4 billion will go to improving public transit.
The NDP promises to invest over $800 million in transit all over the province, but most notably promises to immediately start construction on Hamilton’s LRT project, in addition to a number of other projects all over the province.
Since the Ford campaign has not put out a clear platform, it is still unclear what the PC Party plans to do with respect to public transit. The PC Party does, however, plan on taking a different approach to the LRT project by putting it to a vote, noting that the city will still receive funding for other infrastructure projects if it is voted down.
When it comes to public transit, the Green Party is squarely focused on making it more environmentally friendly and sustainable by phasing out combustion engines, as an example.
In the past year, the MSU’s main advocacy team worked extensively on projects aimed to improve the living standards of students. Both former MSU vice president (Education) Ryan Deshpande and current MSU vice president (Education) Stephanie Bertolo worked on projects such as the Landlord Wiki project, aimed to improve the experiences of student tenants. Such problems are a part of the larger affordable housing crisis going on in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The Liberal Party promises to invest over $1 billion in affordable housing, with the aim of eliminating chronic homelessness in Ontario by 2025. The Liberal Party also promises $547 million over five years to improve social housing to make the buildings more sustainable.
The NDP’s approach to affordable housing is interwoven into their approaches to other issues such as mental health and the opioid crisis, but overall they plan on building more than 30,000 housing units for those marginalized.
To address the affordable housing crisis, the PC Party plans to allow some development in the Green Belt, the world’s largest protected green space.
If elected, the Green Party would institute a rule requiring all new developments include a minimum of 20 per cent affordable homes, in addition to other approaches such as laneway housing.
Each party offers its own approach to addressing the major issues highlighted by the MSU in the past years. If you wish to learn more about each candidate, you may check each party’s website for more information.
Recently, the Sil took to the streets to find out what McMaster thinks about Ontario elections. You can watch the full video here.