On Jan 17, the provincial government announced plans to change the Ontario Student Assistance Program and cut tuition by 10 per cent.
The OSAP changes include requiring students to take out a loan when receiving an Ontario Student Grant, lowering the threshold to receive financial assistance, and eliminating the six-month interest-free period after graduation.
On Jan. 31, more than 75 student associations across Canada released an open letter demanding the government reverse the changes to OSAP.
Students at McMaster are also being affected by the changes, with more than 17,000 full-time students having applied for OSAP.
Many students are concerned about the shift in financial assistance towards loans instead of non-repayable grants.
First-year social sciences student Bryce Lawrence does not get money from her parents for tuition and says she would not be able to go to school without receiving grants and loans through OSAP.
This past year, Lawrence qualified to receive a higher proportion of grants compared to loans. Going forward, she will receive more money in loans and less in grants.
“The 10 per cent tuition decrease is nothing compared to the amount that we are not going to be getting anymore and it is going to be harder for a lot of students,” Lawrence said.
During the school year, Lawrence works three days a week, with the money going directly to basic expenses like groceries, gas and her phone bill.
“I worked hard in high school to get here and I need that money to get myself through it so that in the future I can get myself a good career that will help support a family,” Lawrence said.
Looking forward to next year, Lawrence says the money she gets from OSAP probably will not be enough to cover additional costs on top of tuition.
“It’s just frustrating,” She added. “It is going be weird not having the amount of money I need. Literally nothing is free in school. It is so expensive, and once the money goes into my tuition, I will not have enough to pay for my textbooks and stuff.”
Second-year political science student Zack Anderson said the elimination of the six-month interest-free period is especially harmful.
“It is already stressful enough once I do graduate to try and find a stable income, but I always kind of knew that that six-month cushion was going to be there for me and now that rug’s been pulled out from under me,” he said.
Anderson has relied heavily on OSAP. However, even with OSAP, Anderson still struggles to cover school and living costs beyond just tuition.
This year, he was forced to take a reduced course load and work three jobs to pay for tuition and living costs.
Over the summer, Anderson was working 70-hour weeks to save up for school.
“I have had to take out loans off the bank, I have maxed out credit cards before, done all these kinds of things to try to survive and you take it day by day, week by week,” Anderson said.
While there have yet to be any announcements since Jan. 17, the Ford government’s plans are expected to be in place for the 2019-2020 academic year.
In November of last year, a small act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code was introduced to the Senate. The purpose of this was to help protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources.
There are two, main situations this would apply in. The first is allowing a journalist testifying in court to refuse to disclose information, except if the information cannot be obtained otherwise and if public interest in justice outweighs public interest in the source’s confidentiality. The second is that search warrants and court orders may only be issued for that information if there is no other way to obtain it or if the tradeoff for public interest in the first case applies.
There are a few other protections and contingencies, but those are the big ones. It is a decent start that has been long overdue. Gord Johns, an MP for the NDP, noted, “We need to follow the examples of countries such as Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom in developing a shield law.”
While student newspapers across the country have largely been exempt from major controversy, there is a problem with this bill. How do you define what a journalist is?
This has changed over the months from being too broad to being too narrow. As of June 20, the definition of those protected with this bill is limited to only those whose main occupation is journalism. Freelancers and student journalists are not covered as a result.
While it is unlikely we would need to use anonymous sources in any circumstance in the near future, the inability to do so and the knowledge this is the case continues to put a barrier on what we can cover. If we cannot legally protect a source, why would a source ever come to us with a big story?
It is a rough situation caught up in semantics. My main fear is that we will be unable to be the check and balance McMaster deserves when the students most need it.
The only saving grace is that I, as Editor-in-Chief, should be allowed to take these stories on if these definitions persist. No one else on the Silhouette’s staff could be involved as this definition loophole may require them to reveal your identity.
Until these definitions change, please talk directly to me in-person or through firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story that warrants anonymity.
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By: Huphy Ghayer
Drivers will have to add patience to their new year’s resolutions. A new law requires drivers to wait until a pedestrian has crossed to the other side of a road before proceeding. This law applies to crosswalks identified with specific signs, road markings and lights, as well as crosswalks at stop signs or traffic signals with a school crossing guard present. Drivers will be fined between $150 and $500 for breaking the law.
A $5.60 cut has been put in place for students paying their own hydro bills. This tax used to go towards paying for old nuclear power plants. However, it has now been scrapped to put a little change back in students’ pockets.
With the arrival of winter, it is important to remember to stay safe while driving. A new law brought by the provincial government requires insurance companies to offer incentives for Ontario drivers to purchase winter tires. This provides an opportunity for students to replace worn out tires and ensure a safe winter commute.
58 grocery stores in Ontario are now licensed to sell beer. Smaller brands are legally guaranteed to occupy 20 percent of shelf space, but the brands are on offer will vary from store to store. In Hamilton you can spot the new item at the Queenston Starskys, Mall Road Fortinos, Rymal Food Basics and Queenston Fresh Co.