Same family, different political views

In the last few years, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my political views are very different from those of some of my closest family members. It’s a realization that slowly crept up on me around the time I became legal voting age. Now, five years later, it’s still a source of contention at the odd family dinner.

My mom’s side of the family comes from a long line of rural Ontarians who bleed blue, while I, on the other hand, have gone out of my way to meet Justin Trudeau on two occasions. I own a t-shirt with a photo of him and the word “Tru-Daddy” on it, just to give you an idea of where my allegiance lies.

This realization of the differences between myself and my relatives has been challenging not only for the obvious reason; we all want the rest of the world to agree with our political ideologies. But also because of the fact that it has actually driven a wedge between some of those relationships.

I have relatives who I once loved spending time with, but I now actively avoid them whenever possible. Our conversations always seem to shift into political mode, and I feel like I might not love them as much anymore if I hear them say “Liberal taxes” one more time.

You grow up thinking that the people – the adults – who are part of the village raising you are good, smart, and kind people. Then all of a sudden your aunts and uncles won’t stop sharing posts by Ontario Strong on Facebook, and your oldest cousins keep complaining about the rise in immigration. The worst part is, when you’re old enough to know and understand the implications of that, and thanks to the DNA you share with them, you’re too stubborn to keep your mouth shut about it.

In all seriousness, it isn’t my family’s conservatism that I take issue with. It’s the lack of empathy demonstrated by their ballot choices. During the 2018 Ontario provincial election campaign, Doug Ford promised cuts if elected (spoiler: he was), to the services that I knew would greatly affect vulnerable people in Ontario; myself and some relatives included.

These promises entailed cuts to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and to the Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP). The OHIP had previously covered almost all prescriptions for people aged 24 and under, and the OSAP gave students a six-month grace period after their graduation before charging interest on their student loans.

In the lead up to that election, I implored many members of my family, who I knew weren’t fond of the provincial Liberals at the time, to consider any option other than Doug Ford. I explained how I thought it would negatively impact the people who need provincial services the most – to no avail.

Those family members would complain about things like their hydro bills and their property taxes under the Liberals. They would say that they wanted to elect Ford because he promised to repeal the sex-ed curriculum which the Liberals updated in 2015 for the first time since 1998 (it included concepts such as LGBTQ rights, online bullying and consent). They thought that it taught things that were too complex for kids to think about, let alone understand. As someone who was taught the 1998 version, I can assure you I would have appreciated the modern information that it lacked.

All of these concerns of theirs are valid issues to consider when electing a new Premier. But to me, they are not nearly as important as things like low-income families getting free prescriptions when their kids get sick, post-graduates getting a moment to catch up before paying back tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and kids growing up in a province they feel accepted by.

My family and I may never agree on which party to vote for, and that’s hard for me to reconcile. All I can do is vote for what I believe in and hope that they begin to see things from a more outwardly compassionate perspective.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Fighting for student newspapers on campus

We all know the importance of newspapers in a democratic society—but we should also acknowledge the importance of student newspapers on campuses. Not only are they an outlet for student creativity, they are a way to convey stories that are important to those who attend these institutions. It seems like this integral part of universities is being challenged in Ontario.

In January 2019, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced changes to post-secondary funding and costs. The Ontario government wants to lower student tuition by 10 per cent, which, at first glance, seems great. According to a News Release by the government, the tuition rate reduction is a step to “keep more money in the pockets of Ontario students and families.” But one of the changes brought forth in this plan is the Student Choice Initiative. Through this initiative, the government wants to give every student the choice of which student fees will be paid and how that money will be allocated, according to the same source.

Some campus-wide services such as athletics and walksafe programs will remain mandatory. These ancillary fees range from $500 to $2,000 annually, according to The Globe and Mail, and contribute to services like campus newspapers, LGBTQ+ centres, and student government. The Student Choice Initiative gives students the choice to opt-out of paying for fees that are deemed non-essential. While it may seem great, in theory, to give students a choice like this, it isn’t beneficial for important services on campuses that rely heavily on these fees to exist and function.

According to a recent survey by OneClass, a Toronto-based education technology company, 57.4 per cent of students would opt out of fees used to fund student newspapers, if given the choice. The survey, taken by almost 600 Ontario college students, highlighted how damaging this initiative will be for campus newspapers in Ontario, and elsewhere too.

We at The Concordian are not the only ones concerned about the proposed changes. Many student groups have protested this change, stressing how this initiative can hurt student unions that fund services important to many students, according to The Globe and Mail. We are worried that by deeming student newspapers “unessential,” the Ford government is encouraging the narrative that media and journalism are not a key component of our democratic society.

Student newspapers give students a chance to make their stories heard. Not only do they promote the idea of free speech, they give us an opportunity to put it into practice. Student newspapers improve communication between different groups and highlight distinct voices. They hold universities accountable and call problematic figures into question—like how The Concordian has been following the sexual misconduct allegations at Concordia since they arose. More than a year later, we still use the space in our newspaper to shed light on the allegations, their aftermath, the authority figures involved, and how all of this affects students. Students dedicate their time and effort to investigating these important stories, and break news that affects us all in one way or another. These bundles of papers also provide a space for those who want to participate in reasonable debates.

They’re not non-essential. Frankly, they matter a lot. They’re an integral part of what makes university life so unique. Student newspapers, student groups, centres for minorities—all of these services combined allow different people to come together and function in a space where they can learn and flourish together. They all advocate for students’ interests—isn’t that enough of a reason to consider them important?

If it weren’t for student newspapers, you wouldn’t be able to read this editorial. You wouldn’t be able to read the various stories and events covered by students at our university. You wouldn’t have the opportunity to have your own voice heard. You wouldn’t have the space to call authority figures into question—be it in our own school or in the country. Student newspapers matter. We at The Concordian believe that by giving students the illusion of choice, the Ford government is actually forcing campus newspapers to give up and vanish. Where’s the choice in that?

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Affordable tuition should be nationwide

Education in Quebec feels like a right; in the rest of Canada it seems like a privilege

The average Canadian undergraduate student pays up to twice as much in tuition as Quebec students do, and I believe that needs to change. A post-secondary education in this province costs full-time students less than $4,000 over the course of two semesters to complete 30 credits. Ontario, on the other hand, is the most expensive province, with students paying over $8,000 in tuition per year, according to The Globe and Mail.

To students who live outside of this province, it is hard to comprehend why Quebec students have protested against their tuition rates so often in the last decade. Quebecers complain about many things, but tuition fees are not worth it in my opinion. In fact, it can feel like a bit of an insult to other students across the country who are forced to balance a substantial work week and their studies in order to afford university.

I am an Ontario resident, and during my last year of high school, I worked three jobs to be able to afford my $8,698 annual tuition in Quebec. Even when out-of-province students choose to study at a Quebec university, they still can’t get as good of a deal as Quebec students. Montreal Gazette columnist and editor of Policy magazine L. Ian MacDonald described the attitude of Quebec university students best when he wrote: “They don’t know how good they have it.”

MacDonald’s sentiment certainly rings true when you look at the fact that Quebec undergraduate students are less likely to complete their degree than Ontario students. According to The Globe and Mail, the probability of Quebec students obtaining an undergraduate degree in 2005 was 30.2 per cent compared to 38 per cent for students in Ontario. I am surprised that, despite lower tuition rates, Quebec students are so much less likely to complete their undergrad. I would have assumed lower tuition fees would result in higher participation and graduation rates.

Whether Quebecers are taking advantage of their tuition rates or not, it’s clear why low tuition fees are advantageous in the first place: accessibility. Lower university tuition rates make higher education more affordable and, therefore, more accessible to people of varying socio-economic status. This is why I believe low tuition rates should be adopted nationwide, not just in Quebec.

Quebec has “one of the most successful systems of post-secondary education we have in the country,” according to Roxanne Dubois, a chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students organization. “We are lucky enough to have a model that we can point to as something that recognizes that education should be something that should be available to everyone, regardless your social status,” she told CBC News Montreal.

Despite Nova Scotia having the lowest minimum wage out of all Canadian provinces, at $10.85 an hour, according to the non-profit organization Retail Council of Canada, their university fees are still nearly twice as expensive as in Quebec.

When a student must pay so much to attend university, failure is not an option. I believe shouldering a constant financial fear about your educational success is unfair. And yet, because our society places such value on obtaining a university degree, students across the country are making whatever sacrifices they can to pay these steep costs.

The many years of protesting tuition fees in Quebec should be an eye-opener for other provinces that a change needs to be made. Affordable tuition rates should be implemented across the country so that everyone can learn without the fear of going broke.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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