The man commissioned to balance Ontario’s budget recommends increasing tuition costs and cutting the 30 per cent off tuition grant.
Former TD bank economist Don Drummond released a 668-page document with 362 recommendations on Feb. 15. He was commissioned by Premier Dalton McGuinty last year.
Drummond, an adjunct professor at Queen’s, spoke to a 150-strong crowd at Robert Sutherland Hall yesterday about his report.
A small group of protesters stood outside the talk holding signs, voicing their concerns with the report. Suggested cuts include reductions in corporate tax rebates, the streamlining of health care and the removal of electricity subsidies.
Drummond, MA ’ 77, argues these sacrifices are necessary to combat Ontario’s current deficit of $16 billion, which the Liberal government has planned to eliminate by 2018.
In the report, Drummond, instructs the province on how to implement these changes to scale down the deficit.
“The [Public Service]Commission has said that, if we don’t do anything differently than what we’re doing now, the deficit’s going to go to $30.2 billion. How are we going to live with that?” Drummond told the Journal.
He argues the government’s current approach promotes a culture of wastefulness.
“The moment they get back to a balanced budget and the revenue’s coming through the front door, they blow it out the back door,” he said.
The recommendation to cut the 30 per cent tuition rebate for full-time, undergraduate students comes only a month after it was implemented.
“It’s $462 million -– that’s not a good way to spend money. For a much smaller amount, you could’ve targeted some assistance at [students] who are more financially pressed,” Drummond said.
Under Ontario’s current tuition framework, there is a five per cent cap on a tuition increase every year. This is something student groups, including the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, have been lobbying to reduce.
Drummond said it’s important to understand the context of his suggestions.
“[Some] don’t want tuition to go up five per cent a year –- I wouldn’t want that myself as a student. But, if you don’t have some increase in revenues of your institutions, the quality of your education will be terrible,” Drummond said.
With more part-time professors teaching larger classes, Drummond argued the quality of Ontario’s post-secondary system is in decline.
He said the current fiscal dynamic must be acknowledged and the only way to fix the situation is to cut unnecessary spending and create more efficient programs.
Drummond said he was shaped by his experience in the field. While he’s best known for his former role as TD’s chief economist, he said his 23 years of experience in government within the Federal Department of Finance were more formative.
“I drew more heavily on my experience in the federal government … it does requires some institutional knowledge of how governments work,” Drummond said.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told the National Post that the report would be taken into consideration during the spring budget. The budget will be announced later this month.
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