The Hart House Debates and Dialogues Committee hosted Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne on March 1st, who addressed issues like the #MeToo campaign, the tuition fees of post-secondary education, and the electoral system.
The committee’s chair Aceel Hawa moderated the discussion with the premier. Asking how to balance between believing the victims of any form of harassment, like the #MeToo campaign, while ensuring fairness toward the cases, Wynne stated that they first have to believe the people coming forward, then start a process to validate the claims.
“It’s a very hard thing to do. It’s a very hard thing to do to come forward and to talk about something that you’ve been carrying for a very long time,” the premier said. “And so, I think that we have to default to believing people when they come forward and they share experience. But then we have to have a way to verify, to validate that experience.”
The premier also cited some challenges facing the sensitive stories of victims, including when and when not to become public, asking who knows what exactly, and then how to deal with the issue once it’s public.
“And I think that’s where, as a society, we’ve gotten—there’s been some confusion,” she explained. “But I honestly believe the principle has to be that we believe people who come forward, and then immediately have a process followed in order to validate and respect the survivor and figure out what the mediation is.”
Another issue pointed out by Hawa was the university administrators claiming to raise fees because they’re not getting enough funding. The government responded to them initially by saying the issue is in the bureaucratic growth and inflammation. Wynne stated that the government’s goal is to have as many students as possible enrolling in a post-secondary education.
According to Wynne, there will be constant debate about what the government is capable of providing in terms of support and funding, as well as how funding formulas should flow.
“But the contract we have in Ontario is that we want as many people to go to college and university as possible. We want as many young people to have access to post-secondary education. And that includes training as well, that includes skill trades, and includes college and university […],” she said. “So, what that means is that there will continue to be tuition fees. There will continue to be an increase in tuition from time-to-time because of increasing costs, because of inflation.”
As of last September, free tuition was to be provided for students from families who earn $50,000 or less. Four out of five students were to be eligible for free tuition if their families earn between $50,000 and $80,000. Families with an income of $80,000 or higher were to receive 30 per cent off of their tuition. Regarding the possibility of free tuition for all students, the premier repeated what she’d told The Medium back in February 2017; that free tuition for all students is not possible.
“If we said no, we’re going to provide free tuition for everyone, that would limit the percentage of the students who could go because there would be a limited resource and it would mean that you wouldn’t have the participation rates that we [currently] have,” she said.
The premier mentioned last year that the tuition changes of September 2017 would help around 210,000 students in Ontario.
With the provincial elections approaching, one of the audience members asked about electoral reform, which had been one of the Liberal campaign points back in 2015.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau announced last year that reform was not possible, because there was not a clear choice among the people toward another electoral system.
According to the premier, after serving as a member of the selective committee that was part of the electoral reform discussion, she understood that “there’s no one system that’s going to guarantee citizen engagement. And there’s no one system that would necessarily be free from partisan bias.”
“So, I think that the deeper and more problematic question is why the people think that government doesn’t matter. Why do they think that their vote doesn’t matter […],” she said. “If everybody voted, it will make a huge difference. If young people voted, it will make a huge difference. Young people vote in very small numbers, so I think that’s the question you’ve got to answer.”
Almost 400 people attended the event at Hart House’s Great Hall, which comes just three months before the provincial elections which are set to take place on June 7th of this year.