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David Baxter

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Students slam McGuinty for breaking tuition freeze promise
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

University students in Ottawa have joined the chorus of critics decrying Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty's broken 2003 election promises.

At a rally outside McGuinty's campaign headquarters in Ottawa Tuesday, dozens of students from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa chanted: "We won't forget!" ? a reminder to students that before McGuinty was elected premier four years ago, he promised to freeze tuition fees.

Students rallied outside Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty's Ottawa campaign office, criticizing him for breaking his 2003 promise to keep tuition frozen.
(CBC) McGuinty kept the freeze in place for two years.

"Dalton McGuinty is hoping that students won't remember that he shattered the tuition fee freeze, and has allowed tuition to increase by 24 to 36 per cent," shouted Isaac Cockburn, vice-president for student issues at the Carleton University Students' Association. As he spoke, a crowd of students waved red and yellow signs that read "Reduce tuition fees" outside an office building window lined a with red and white "Dalton McGuinty campaign signs."

Cockburn also criticized McGuinty for allowing colleges and universities to charge illegal fees in addition to tuition. Those fees are the subject of a class action lawsuit launched by two Ontario students in June.

McGuinty has also been attacked for breaking other election promises. His two main political opponents, Conservative Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton, have criticized him for imposing a $2.6-billion health premium despite a promise not to raise taxes.

As well, parents of autistic children say that McGuinty promised them in 2003 that he would extend funding to treat autistic children over six. Since July 2005, Ontario has funded autism treatment for some children over six. However, at the same time, the Ontario government has spent millions defending itself from parents who sued to gain access to government-funded treatment for older children.

McGuinty's law degree cost only $6,000: student leader
Seamus Wolfe, vice-president of university affairs for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, told the demonstrators that McGuinty's entire law degree at their university cost him only $6,000 in today's dollars.

"I want to ask you, Mr. McGuinty, what was it like to start your professional life debt-free?" Wolfe demanded in front of demonstrators who carried large black balls similar to those once shackled to prisoners, marked with the words "student debt."

Wolfe questioned whether McGuinty would have accomplished what he has in his professional life had he graduated with a debt worth tens of thousands of dollars.

According to Statistics Canada, a student who graduated in 2000 had an average debt of $19,500, and student groups say debt has been climbing with tuition fees since then.

Cockburn said that before the students left McGuinty's office, they read out and delivered a pledge for the Liberal leader to sign.

The pledge would commit McGuinty to reducing tuition fees, forcing colleges and universities to stop charging illegal ancillary fees and implementing a comprehensive needs-based grant system.

Staff at the campaign office promised the students that they would pass the pledge along to McGuinty, Cockburn said.

The NDP have promised to freeze college and university tuition fees at 2003 levels for four years and the Green Party has promised to cap annual tuition fees at $3,000 for universities and $700 for colleges. However, the Liberals and Conservatives have not yet made any tuition-related commitments leading up to the Oct. 10 election.
 

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