TORONTO – The Federal Government’s announcement this week of further supports for the post-secondary education sector across Canada is a step in the right direction.

The Government’s inclusion of new financial benefits for university students is a welcome, albeit overdue recognition that students and workers in the post-secondary education sector have not been immune from the effects of COVID-19. However, OUWCC believes that university students should be entitled to the same level of benefits as other Canadians.

We urge the Federal government to reconsider its decision to cap the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) at $1,250 monthly or $1,750 for students caring for dependents. University students should not be expected to make ends meet on a fraction of the support offered to other Canadians.

This week’s announcement by the Federal Government wouldn’t have happened without the strong efforts by groups like the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), their Provincial counterparts, the Canadian Labour Congress and Provincial Federations of Labour, who demonstrated to the Federal Government the importance of supporting post-secondary education and students during this crisis. Their efforts were crucial in making this week’s announcement a reality.

While the Federal Government’s announcement is a positive step forward, many other steps need to be taken. Universities have a vital role to play in helping our communities emerge from this crisis, and the recovery that needs to happen afterwards.

The events of the past few weeks have exposed profound shortcomings in a wide range of vital services our communities depend on. Post-secondary education is no exception. Universities across Canada will face unprecedented financial strain in the post COVID-19 era, in large part due to decades of being oriented towards private sector, market-based dogma. The ‘solutions’ of the past four decades were inadequate in the time before Coronavirus; their shortcomings are even greater now.

While this week’s Federal announcements are commendable, more needs to be done, both at the National and Provincial level. In particular, OUWCC calls on the Provincial Government to take tangible steps to support universities, university workers and students. Presently, international students attending Ontario universities are often unable to access health care through OHIP. This needs to be reversed, immediately. We strongly urge the Ford Conservatives to take the steps necessary to provide international students with access to OHIP, as soon as possible.

We have an opportunity to emerge from this crisis with a stronger, healthier and more equitable society, if we have the courage to embrace of a vision that invests in people and public services, including Universities.

David Simao, Chair, OUWCC