It’s a strange world where a tuition fee freeze is announced and almost no one cheers. But that’s the reality the Ford government faced earlier this month. And it happened because students and university workers alike know the freeze is only one side of the story.

“In theory, a tuition fee freeze should be something to celebrate. It should mean that less of the burden is being borne by students and more by the province. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, it’s a happy smokescreen for ongoing funding cuts that are starving the province’s universities,” said David Simao, chair of the committee responsible for university workers at CUPE.

CUPE is the largest union representing university workers in Ontario.

The announcement masks a reality that Ontario has the lowest per-student university funding of any province, and by a huge margin – about half what is provided in most provinces.

At the same time the government announced the freeze, it announced a new advisory panel on university sustainability – a panel that included several members with connections to private and for-profit education.

“We don’t need another report or advisory panel. Ontarians already know the solution to university sustainability: adequate public funding for our public universities,” said Yolanda McLean, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer. “An injection of funding is desperately needed to recruit and retain our vital university trades and support workers and the best instructors and researchers. Well-funded universities are high-quality universities.”

CUPE university workers will be looking for the 2023 Ontario Budget to bring per-student funding up to the levels that exist in other provinces.

CUPE is the largest union in Canada, representing more than 715,000 workers across the country in universities, municipalities, health care, schools, social services, and federally regulated sectors.