TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford dumped on student unions in a fundraising pitch to supporters of his Progressive Conservative party Monday.
"I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to," the email, signed "Doug," said.
His government announced Jan. 17 that it would end mandatory university student fees that fund unions, student newspapers and clubs. The government also lowered tuition by about 10 per cent across the board, while axing grants that let low-income students study for free.
In the email, Ford defended those changes.
"We cut tuition by 10% across the board. What are the Liberals saying about it now? That we're gutting the system. These guys are nuts."
More from HuffPost Canada:
Under the previous Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP), families earning up to $175,000 could qualify for funding. The PCs lowered that mark to $140,000. Low-income students could qualify for grants large enough to cover the full cost of tuition under the Liberal plan, but now some of the funding they receive will be a loan.
Merrilee Fullerton, the minister for training, colleges and universities, argued that the previous model was unsustainable, and said it makes sense to give most of the government's funding to students whose families earn less than $50,000.
The changes will saddle students with more debt, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario Nour Alideeb told HuffPost Canada.
She didn't take the "crazy Marxist nonsense" email seriously at first.
I think painting students with one brush, that they're all Marxists, is really a stretch.Nour Alideeb
"I thought it was a joke because the email was very poorly written. Then I realized that it wasn't a joke," Alideeb said.
"This isn't a way to save students money," she said, calling the announcement an "attack" on student advocacy organizations."I think painting students with one brush, that they're all Marxists, is really a stretch."
She noted that leaders of student unions are democratically elected and students have the right to join any group or union they please.
Alideeb said the end of mandatory fees will make it difficult for student unions to operate, because they won't know how much funding they have to work with from year to year.
"To me it's really a veiled attack on student unions, who are really the ones who hold their administrations and the government accountable when it comes to student issues," she told HuffPost when it was first announced.
NDP calls changes a 'politically motivated revenge plot'
Ford's email shows the changes to student fees are "a politically motivated revenge plot," the Opposition NDP said.
"Doug Ford is attacking student unions because he doesn't want students to be able to organize to fight against not only this round of cuts, but the next round as well," the party's colleges and universities critic Chris Glover said in a release.
"Student unions provide transit discounts, grad photos, student events, clubs, copy centres, and food banks because so many students can't afford both the tuition fees and food," Glover said. "Who will provide these services?"
The premier's office declined to provide any examples of the "crazy Marxist nonsense" student unions in Ontario get up to. Ford's spokesman asked HuffPost to direct questions to the PC party spokesman, who did not respond.
With files from The Canadian Press
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