Last week, Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives won a second majority government, taking 83 seats of a total 124 seats at Queen's Park, up 17% from last election in 2018.
(Source: CBC News)
But the bigger question is: what does this PC Election win mean for Ontario's post-secondary students?
First, let's look at what the PC's promised in their 2022 Ontario Budget, which doubled as their election platform.
**An important note is that post-secondary students are not prominently featured in the 2022 Ontario Budget.**
Click on the following key student issues to see highlights from the Ontario Budget:
Decrease post-secondary funding by $683 million
Extend tuition freeze for domestic student residents in Ontario
Expand three-year applied degree programs
Invest $114 million over 3 years in a Skilled Trades Strategy
Launch grant to enrol 2,500 students in priority programs, especially nursing
Invest $9 million over 3 years to Indigenous institutions
Create Intellectual Property Ontario with $58 million over 3 years
Increase PRESTO discount for students by 40%
Cut funding to Indigenous Affairs to $129 million
Invest $9 million over 3 years to support nine Indigenous institutes
Work with Indigenous program administrators to grow Community Housing System
It must be said that the Ontario Budget does not focus on post-secondary education, nor have a specific policy platform for post-secondary students.
The Budget does make mention of a focus on two topics:
Enhancing PSE and Training for Indigenous Leaders
Firstly, the budget focuses on the reputation of Ontario's PSE system, and emphasis on its innovation and businesses practices, calling for the creation of the Intellectual Property Ontario, supported by an investment of $58 million over three years.
More importantly, the budget calls for more flexible learning options, featuring three-year applied degree programs.
Additionally, the Budget allocates $9 million over three years to support the 9 Indigenous Institutes.
Extending the Tuition Freeze for Post-secondary students.
Secondly, the Budget continues the extension of a tuition freeze for resident domestic students in Ontario. This policy has been in place since 2019.
What is perhaps more important to note are the absences in the 2022 Ontario Budget, most notably any post-secondary mental health or student housing resources.
Ultimately, the Provincial Budget highlights the key priorities the Progressive Conservatives will be focusing on for the coming years.
Keep in mind that this budget was only tabled, but not actually passed. Meaning that the PC government may not choose to move forward with certain items they "promised" in this campaign Budget.
Second, let's look at what the future projections look like for the Ontario budget. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) provides non-partisan analysis of provincial spending & revenue.
In their Economic & Budget Outlook recent publication, FAO projected that post-secondary education sector spending is projected to increase at a slower rate, averaging 2.5 percent annual increase, compared with the historical average of 3.3 per cent.
Lower enrolment growth and slower tuition revenue increases from international students are cited as the primary causes for the decline in investment.
Additionally, the FAO forecasts that student financial aid will be below historical rates, mirroring program changes announced in 2019.
In summary, the provincial government established for the next four years does not prioritize post-secondary education, particularly key issues such as student mental health or student housing crisis. Full-time equivalent expenditures and student financial aid remain the lowest in the country, and investment in post-secondary education is projected to show less growth than historical rates.
It will be essential for CSA and other provincial advocacy organizations to concentrate our efforts on advocating for these crucial post-secondary education issues, and ensuring the Province once again prioritizes the future of Ontario: its post-secondary students.