Cornwall group pickets over Ontario tuition changes

Three protestors a supporter stand on the sidewalk outside MPP Jim McDonell's office on Second Street West in Cornwall, Ont. on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. The demonstrators object to the Progressive Conservative's changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A trio of demonstrators were outside local MPP Jim McDonell’s office today (Monday) to protest changes to funding for post-secondary education, namely the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

The Progressive Conservative government announced a 10 per cent reduction in tuition but also cut free tuition for low income students. Also, qualifying and repayment of government loans has been ratcheted up – no more six-month grace period after completing college or university.

Tyler Locey, 23, has been going to the University of Toronto for three years, taking a double-major in political science, Spanish and German.

While he’s been off for a year and working a night job, he tells Cornwall Newswatch he may not be able to finish his education.

“Right now, I’m off for a year and my plan was to go back in September. But due to the changes, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to go back for financial reasons. Education has been very important for me. The opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of through the university and the job prospects that it gave me have been key to my life so far,” Locey said.

He says the changes are “in general, negative” for students getting OSAP and low-income family grants.

While the tuition has been free, Locey said there was still a living expenses loan with an upset limit of $7,300, that he was nearly maxing out every year.

Locey accuses the government of “going through this almost deliberate dismantling of education” in Ontario.

When asked about the Ontario government’s attempt to pay down a $12-14.5 billion deficit, Locey concedes the programs do cost money. “There is definitely the issue of, it costs money.” But he likes the idea of more taxes instead of cuts to education.

“I studied political science. I have my own person political philosophy. I love taxes. I lived in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. I see what regions with lower or no taxes, how different it is, and I appreciate what we have in Canada. I appreciate it and want to strengthen it.”

While the protest was small today, Locey says many students either couldn’t be there because it’s a school day and they are in a “vulnerable” situation with their schooling, the weather is bad or they decided to join the protest in Ottawa. He estimates 30 people from Cornwall went to Ottawa.

Locey is also worried that a lot of students don’t know about the changes to OSAP and student loans.

The demonstration was part of a province-wide protest.

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