TORONTO, Nov. 5 /CNW/ - Thousands of college and university students protesting against tuition fees and student debt were joined by community members across Ontario as part of a united campaign for a "poverty-free Ontario." Concerned that Ontario is not adequately investing in the social programmes that protect families from financial hardship and promote economic recovery, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and a host of community organisations called on Premier McGuinty to commit to the elimination of poverty through greater investment in Ontario's social infrastructure.
"Ontario's students are struggling to pay the highest fees in Canada while facing the worst youth unemployment on record," said Shelley Melanson, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. "With over 70 percent of new jobs requiring a diploma or a degree, for many people higher education is a necessary path out of poverty and unemployment."
This year, students declared November 5 a Day of Action for a Poverty-Free Ontario and called on labour and community groups to unite and call on the McGuinty government to invest in social assistance reform, a liveable minimum wage, affordable childcare and housing, good jobs for all and reduced tuition fees. Rallies and events involving thousands of people were held in thirteen cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Mississauga, Guelph, London, Sault Ste. Marie, Peterborough, Scarborough, St. Catharines, Kingston and Windsor.
"In a time of great economic crisis, with record unemployment in Ontario, there is a pressing need for new investment in social infrastructure programs such as education and skills development," said Sid Ryan, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario. "Access to post-secondary education should be one of the cornerstones of a poverty-reduction strategy for Ontario, but clearly isn't a priority for this government."
"By investing in affordable public childcare and other social services, the government could invest directly in people, help revitalise the province and create an equality of opportunity," said Andrea Calver from the Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare. "Now is the time to consider the long-term benefit of public investment in social programs, not to threaten to cut those supports that will help Ontarians get back on their feet."
"We hope that the McGuinty government will listen to the thousands who are rallying today and invest in a plan to eliminate poverty in Ontario," said Melanson.
Statistics and relevant facts are available at www.dropfees.ca. The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario is the province's largest student advocacy organisation, representing more than 300,000 college and university students in all regions of Ontario.
SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students
For further information: For further information: Shelley Melanson, Chairperson, (416) 882-9927 (cell); Joel Duff, Ontario Organiser, (416) 301-5747 (cell); Nadine Tkatchevskaia, Toronto French Media Contact, (416) 271-5759 (cell)