CUPE Ontario today called an abrupt funding announcement late last week by Provincial Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano a real-time example of just how ill-equipped the Ford Conservatives are to respond to the challenges facing Ontario’s post-secondary education sector.

“Minister Romano’s announcement Friday was textbook Ford Government,” said David Simao, Chair of the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), which works on behalf of more than 30,000 university workers represented by CUPE in Ontario.

“Take one unexpected announcement outlining a completely arbitrary number of dollars thrown at a poorly-defined issue, with absolutely no attention paid to massive structural problems that predate the issue, add one out-of-touch minister and what you’ve actually got is yet another example of why Doug Ford and his government are just not up to the task. To be clear—the funds are badly needed and welcome, but nowhere near what’s needed, with no clear plan how to move forward,” he added.

Simao was responding to Minister Romano’s announcement last Friday of $106.4 million in funding to 23 colleges and universities across the province to, according to a Government of Ontario media release, “provide immediate relief for institutions most affected by pandemic-related costs.”

A total of 11 universities shared $44 million of the funding, with the remaining $62.4 million distributed among 12 Ontario community colleges.

Simao noted that the funds announced Friday ‘are woefully inadequate’. The $3 million in emergency funding for Nipissing University in North Bay won’t even cover their projected shortfall of $3.7 million this year alone. Laurentian University, which slipped into bankruptcy while the government stood by and did nothing, gets more of the same in this announcement—nothing. We have long argued the funding model for universities is unsustainable; COVID-19 simply demonstrated how vulnerable the system is.”

Recently, Laurentian University filed for protection from its creditors after the Ford Conservatives stood by and did nothing to save the Sudbury institution from falling into bankruptcy.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn dismissed the announcement as “window-dressing, at best, that does nothing to address the profound structural problems confronting universities in Ontario and behaving as if the only issue the sector faces is a global pandemic. Nothing could be farther from the reality of years of chronic underfunding by government, a failed economic model that relied far too heavily on charging astronomically high tuition fees to international students and the complete absence of anything resembling a compelling vision from this government or its predecessors over the past three decades.”

Simao said Minister Romano’s assertion that Ontario’s post-secondary sector ‘remains vibrant and in sound financial health’, “demonstrates just how out of touch this government is from the reality on the ground.”