Opposition Does Not Equate to Marxism: in Response to the PC Government

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Lisa Umholtz
Communications & Media Relations Specialist
Tue, 02/12/2019 - 10:15

Yesterday, the PC government sent out an official PC party fundraising email where they described the actions of student unions in Ontario as “crazy Marxist nonsense.”

“Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions,” Premier Doug Ford said in the email. “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”

These statements are upsetting, needlessly sensational, and more importantly, wrong.

We sincerely hope that this is not the Premier’s actual perception of student unions in this province. His statements not only grotesquely devalue the important work that student unions enable students to do, but also unnecessarily and incorrectly attribute a singular ideological association to imply that student unions function in a partisan manner. Again, this is quite simply wrong.  

Student unions do real work. Student unions do important work. Crucially, we draft policy based on evidence, not ideology: our initiatives are driven by student needs and our direction is determined by consulting students, something the PC government failed to do before bringing the Students’ Choice Initiative forward.

The Premier’s statements devalue the work that student unions do on our campuses, in our communities, and across our province as “nonsense.” As an example of some of the “nonsense” we get up to, Federation of Students has:

  • Successfully lobbied the provincial government to fund experiential education programs which prepare students to have the skills to participate in the Ontario economy, including co-operative education programs with private sector employers.
  • Provided students with the option to purchase affordable health insurance from Studentcare, a private insurer.
  • Adopted a policy endorsing the Chicago Principles of Freedom of Expression years before the Ontario government mandated universities to adopt these principles.  

In addition, the Premier implies that student unions in Ontario are all ideologically identical, and all biased to the far left. This is a further falsehood. Student unions across this province are neither partisan, nor homogenous - we are as diverse as the students we represent, because students hold oversight on the actions of their union through general meetings, referendums, and other forms of governance. Feds proudly stands as non-partisan, as identified in Feds Policy 41.

As one of the largest student unions in Ontario, we stand for ideological diversity on our campus, which includes conservative representation:

  • The current president of the Ontario PC Campus Association sits on Feds’ Students’ Council.
  • The Chair of Feds’ Board of Directors for the last three out of four years was a PC party member.
  • We have over 200 clubs that offer something for everyone no matter where they align along the political spectrum.
  •  As an organization, we have official non-partisan status, and we pride ourselves on the relationships built on mutual respect that we have with all parties in provincial politics.  

Opposition to some PC government policies does not equate to Marxism, and to imply as such is intensely demeaning to the thousands of centrist and conservative-minded students across this province who are proud to be members of and participate in their student unions.

Our motives are not to pursue any ideology. Our mandate and our goal remains now as it has ever been and will ever be: to serve and advocate for students, regardless of their beliefs or political identity. We will continue to cooperate with and advise the government where we see common ground, and to respectfully voice our opposition when we feel that their policies do not benefit students.

Together with over 75 other student unions across Canada - not just Ontario - we signed a letter to the Premier in January outlining our opposition to the Students’ Choice Initiative. This is much larger than a provincial issue, and student unions across the country are concerned for what this means for our ability to advocate for students moving forward."

Regardless of whether this policy is based on an incorrect, misguided, and disappointing partisan view, we call on the PC government again to meet with student leaders, listen to our concerns, and reverse the Students’ Choice Initiative. We call upon the government to affirm that we are not enemies, but a critical part of the post-secondary environment. We call upon the Premier to recant what was communicated in his fundraising email.

Signed,

Federation of Students Executive

Richard Wu, President
Matthew Gerrits, Vice President Education
Savannah Richardson, Vice President Student Life
Kurt MacMillan, Vice President Operations and Finance