With the Ontario election campaigns well underway, Andrea Horwath, the leader of the provincial New Democratic Party, made an appearance at UTM on Tuesday morning without a platform on education. After pulling up to the entrance of the Student Centre in a bright orange car, Horwath stepped out to meet a few UTMSU executives and students involved in clubs and societies. She entered the congested Student Centre to greet the crowd waiting in line for the U-Pass, where Horwath took the opportunity to announce that the NDP platform includes a promise to freeze transit fare for four years.
“I know that fees are getting too high for students to be able to afford. I know that students are worried about transit costs. I know students are worried about jobs—not only while you’re in school, but once you’re finished school,” said Horwath. “Our platform is the kind of platform that puts students and everyday people first.”
Whereas the Liberals and Conservatives have released their platforms on education, the NDP has yet to include information regarding their intentions for post-secondary institutions. Horwath reassured students that the NDP’s platform would include an agenda for education and would be released in the coming days.
The Liberals, rather than freezing tuition as they have in the past, have promised to provide middle class families with a $1,600 grant to offset the cost. When asked for her response to the Liberal platform promise, Horwath maintained that the NDP recognizes that students and their families are struggling to afford the cost of post-secondary education in Ontario.
“When students and parents see the NDP platform on education, they’ll see that we’ve been listening to the concerns that students have been raising with us,” said Horwath. “Education is becoming far too unaffordable.”
The NDP leader appealled to the crowd to investigate their options and vote on October 6.
Gilbert Cassar, president of UTMSU, and Munib Sajjad, VP External, led Horwath into the Student Union office to continue the discussion on topics such as OSAP reform and accessible transit.
“We want to confront loans such as OSAP. There should be more grants instead of loans. Education should not have a price tag,” said Sajjad. “This was a great opportunity for students to have their voices heard. We’re delighted to have the NDP candidate here to speak to the students about the issues in post-secondary education.”
Before posing for a group picture, the UTMSU executives asked onlookers to perform the frosh cheer, asking, “UTM, what do we think of Andrea Horwath?” To which students responded, “We love Andrea Horwath!” And they blew her a kiss.
“I love you back!” Horwath said.
Attendees laughed as Walied Khogali, the Executive Director of UTMSU, interjected, “There are conditions to that: a better platform on post-secondary education.”
Michelle Bilek, the MPP candidate for Mississauga-Erindale, was also present to speak with students and pass around flyers. Bilek expressed her desire to inspire students to engage in politics and work toward the “change” for Ontario that the NDP would like to pursue.
“You can’t change anything sitting on your couch playing Wii,” said Bilek. “You need to get out there.”