Ontario premier tours campus, talks tuition and diversity

Wynne at library talking to three female students
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 11:59am
Nicolle Wahl

Premier Kathleen Wynne visited the U of T Mississauga campus Tuesday morning, meeting with students and talking about removing financial barriers to higher education.

“I’m touring campuses because it’s important to me to hear about the challenges that you’re facing,” said Wynne. “I’m in provincial politics because I think education is the most important thing that we do…you [students] are also important to the current and future economy.”

Wynne was welcomed to campus by UTM Interim Vice-President and Principal Ulrich Krull; Nour Alideeb, president of the UTM Students’ Union; and Alex Paquette, co-president of the UTM Association of Graduate Students. She began her visit in the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre, stopping to chat with students in the RBC Learning Commons.

Giordana De Leo, Kimberly Jagdeo and Emma Russell were studying French together, and were shocked to suddenly find the premier standing next to them. “She asked us what we were doing, and talked about the importance of knowing French in your career,” said Russell.

After strolling along the CCT link, Wynne headed towards the rotunda of the Innovation Complex, where she met with members of the UTM Muslim Students Association. The discussion, broadcast live on Facebook, touched on several topics, but focused primarily on these economy, the Ontario Student Assistance Program and Islamophobia. The meeting took on extra significance in the wake of the deadly Quebec mosque shooting on Jan. 29.

“We have to remember that we are not immune to racism in our community. You know that, you have all dealt with that,” said Wynne. “If we want to be a more inclusive society, we have to understand our own biases.”

The Hon. Michael Coteau, minister of children and youth services, was travelling with Wynne, and is head of the government’s Anti-Racism Directorate. “People have to acknowledge that racism exists,” said Coteau. “We need to do a better job of capturing statistics on hate crimes; there’s a saying: ‘No data, no problem, no solution.’” Also accompanying Wynne was the Hon. Dipika Damerla, minister of senior affairs, MPP (Mississauga East-Cooksville).

On the topic of tuition, Wynne outlined the changes to OSAP that will make higher education tuition free for students from families with a household income of $50,000 or less. “We want you to graduate without debt,” she told students.

Wynne also met briefly with members of the Ontario Young Liberals party, before sitting down for an interview with the Medium student newspaper.

Her visit was part of a week-long tour of colleges and universities around the province, where she is meeting with students, faculty and staff on other issues such as mental health and the post-graduation job market.