Archive | June, 2012

The era of the publicly assisted entity

30 Jun

For months, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray, has been promising a revolutionary, new, innovative, amazing, spectacular, life-altering, history-creating, groundbreaking *policy* change that would bring higher education into some fictional reality most of us aren’t privy to.

Well, its discussion paper (whatever that means) has been released. It’s here. It’s SO revolutionary that you’ve probably never heard of it before. It’s the hipster version of policy delivery.

*Spoiler alert* it’s written as if the conclusions are foregone.

I could waste a lot of time telling you why I think this entire thing is a charade, but I respect (most of) you too much to waste your time. So, I’ll stick to the most obvious signal, for me, that this will be an exercise in the generation of vacant buzz words rather than progressive, positive policy development.

At the FIRST mention of universities, the discussion paper (whatever that means) refers to universities as “publicly assisted” rather than public.

This is important.

This year, nearly all Ontario universities will collect more revenue from private sources than from public sources to fund operations. This effectively means that they’ve been privatized by stealth. It’s worth noting that, before Glen blocked me and others on Twitter, he called us liars when we pointed this out. Look it up yourself. Make sure it’s comparing operating grants to tuition fees, otherwise, it’s lumping in a bunch of other funding envelopes that will skew this number. But, anyway, we’re past the era of public universities and the government is obviously aware of this.

So, what’s wrong with such a line in such a discussion paper (whatever that means)?

It’s a foregone conclusion. It readily admits that the government is uninterested in increasing its funding to universities. And, if they don’t, students do.

Saying that the system isn’t sustainable and there’s a problem, but then admitting in your own definitions that you’re uninterested in any solution that includes increased government funding is simple cognitive dissonance. Underfunding *is* the problem. How can you have an open consultation process when you’ve already settled on the idea that government is not going to pony up the dough?

I’m living in Québec now, I should stop caring about Ontario. But, it’s really hard. The Liberals there are a making worse decisions about higher education than Mike Harris. Re-read that 10 times aloud, please. It can’t be said enough. Dalton hasn’t once reversed any of the garbage tuition fee decisions that were made by Mike Harris. In fact, he layered a 71% fee increase on top of Harris’ fees.

This “crisis” that Glen is hoping to solve through twitter conversations (seriously, he’s asked for twitter comments on this, unless he’s blocked you, like all vocal student critics in Toronto at least once have been), was created by him, previous Ministers and his government. Actually, Nick Falvo talks about this in the broader Canadian sense, here.

Sorry if I’m pessimistic about this exercise, but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s like bringing the thief who broke into your house and stole your Gibson back as a consultant to give advice on thief-proofing your guitars.

I’m likely to write more about this later, and folks at the Ontario Office of the Canadian Federation of Students will likely have something along the lines of what I’ve written (but footnoted!), but there’s something in my stomach that dies a little when I see phrases like “publicly assisted.”

Or, we should at least insist on consistency: publicly assisted hospitals. Publicly assisted dairy farmers. Publicly assisted Rogers Inc. Publicly assisted Inco. Publicly assisted Caterpillar….sorry, scratch that one.

G20 effects linger

28 Jun

It just started to pour.

I now have a porch that’s enclosed where I can sit and look at the Internet. I’m drinking wine. I’m dry.

Two years ago, it was pouring like this but hundreds were stuck in the rain. I was in an alcove. We watched journalists led out of the Queen/Spadina intersection. We saw buses line up. We saw people, soaked, loaded onto those buses and taken away.

While in that alcove, I was with Kim Elliot. We spent the afternoon together. Two sets of parents had come up to us desperate. They asked if we knew how to get into the intersection where people were kettled. We didn’t. Their 16-year-old boys had been rounded up. Trapped by the police. Arrested. The parents tried to give their sons’ passports so that they could eventually be processed. It was their only IDs. The police told the parents to go home and wait for a phone call.

Then, we saw what I can only describe as a post-apocalyptic scene: Queen street misty and empty. Across the street, an old woman lashed out at a police officer; the four of us civilians on the street wandered into each other by accident…there was no one else around. Cell phones had been knocked out that day. One of the guys asked me if my phone was working. It was all we could talk about. Queen street was otherwise deserted. Those parents walked up to us again. Drenched, they never found their sons. They didn’t go home either.

Those images are burned into the back of my eyes. What we endured in the city that weekend was the height of injustice I had experienced. No one has been brought to account for what happened that weekend.

I applaud all attempts to call our governments and police/military forces out for what they inflicted upon us that week. From the Ontario Ombudsman who released an excellent report to the individuals who have been deeply, personally afflicted for their activism, all who speak out must be thanked.

Half of why I’m writing this is because of the anniversary. The other half is because of Alex Hundert.

Alex went to jail yesterday for more than a year. He was arrested before the G20. He joins Leah Henderson (the only other person jailed as a result of the G20 who I’ve worked with), Mandy Hiscocks (who must be commended for this: and others. His arrest is proof that our system is not broken: it’s intended to break us, to intimidate us out of fighting for what’s right and just.

Alex and the others are political prisoners. But, rather than focusing on them, let’s reflect on the criminal system as a whole: one where racialized people, First Nations people and people with disabilities dominate the ranks. One where justice is rarely administered. One where politics, politicians and ideologies dominate the public discussion rendering a truly rehabilitating, service agency entirely impossible.

It’s hard to think of these things without complete rage. The trouble with rage is that it isn’t always productive.

But, sometimes it’s entirely productive.

Alex wrote this: before he was sentenced. Read it and do what you can to be involved in resistance.

26 Jun


I anticipate this will become less contrived as I contribute to it. My goal is to only write after hours, while drunk.

I moved here last week, on Wednesday I think. I’m not entirely sure. Without employment, focusing on the days has become less important. I booked my flight today to Saskatoon and nearly had an aneurism over ensuring the date was correct. But anyway.

While I’m sure you all are interested in the minutia of my life here, I’ll stick to writing something quick about my first protest in Québec.

I was lucky to be relatively unpacked when June 22 rolled around because I could justify leaving for a few hours. As close to 100,000 people rallied in Montreal, we in Québec had a more modest showing. And, by modest, I mean one of the largest rallies I’ve been in, probably since the G20 march on that fateful Saturday in 2010 (the anniversary of which we’re approaching).

I walked out my door and literally bumped into a soon-to-be CEGEP student on his way to the march. Despite our terrible French, he stuck with us the entire time. He starts in the Fall and hopes to make it to Laval for Engineering post-CEGEP.

We walked down Réne-Lévesque to the rally, ran into some people I know from the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa back in the day, waited around. We all heard that the route had been leaked in advance of the march and it would be about five kilometres. I imagined our rallies in Toronto where we struggled to keep people for such a long trek. I’d find out that people here were enthusiastic enough to make the whole march. I noticed the following:

  1. passers-by, including people standing at windows and balconies are overwhelmingly supportive. I can’t over state this. After years and years of rallies in Toronto and other cities, the support I witnessed for the protest is only rivaled by the support I saw from passers-by in Gatineau during other tuition fee protests. Québecers’ support was so obvious that, when we walked up to the old city, you could tell that everyone watching suddenly became tourists, who were a mix of people supportive, not supportive and plain curious.
  2. when the rally tried to change directions, the police formed a veritable barrier making it nearly impossible to pass. While a few hundred did initially, Québeccers tried to re-route the crowd before protesters came face to face with a loud police speaker.
  3. the speakers, with the exception of the speaker from the Parti Québecois, all appeared to be under 30.
  4. the speakers, with maybe one exception, were extremely talented. Their speeches were steady, powerful and all spoke to the need for a solidarity to fight for the social well-being of all Québecers. All were short enough for me to not once think, maaan when will this end??
  5. every time I looked forward or back on one of the massive hills we took on, there were thousands of people ahead and behind. I was shocked at how many people were there.
  6. 6. after the rally, we reconvened on the lawn between the foot of the Assembly Nationale and the wall. Music blared and protesters had a chance to sit. Speeches followed once we were all sitting on the lawn. This was really, really awesome. Ontario: take note.
  7. the crowd was massive and diverse. It was not just students. There were lots of people wearing great costumes and the juggler had red squares on his juggling pins.
  8. that night, we happened upon a rally marching around the fountain on the colline parliamentaire. We sat for about 20 minutes and watched their numbers pick up from a few dozen to a few hundred. A driver in a BMW tried to plow through the crowd (unlike the dozens of cars who put up with the delay and, rather than hitting anyone, simply waited the five minute wait), and a protester broke the car’s window with a casserole. LIKE VULTURES the press ran toward the scuffle faster than the police. Eventually, the car drove away and the protesters went back to their march. This is how radio-canada saw the event. I maintain that it was about as much news as a school-yard yelling match where someone’s ball gets roofed.

I hit my word limit. So, I’ll finish with this:

I live across the street from where I can purchase beer.

I’m spending most my days on a front porch and my laptop.

I’ve already had two requests for people to stay here. Feel free to keep these coming.

I don’t miss Toronto, yet. I’ll keep you posted.