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Queen's Park — The provincial government's changes to funding models has caused difficulties for faculties such as arts and humanities. 

Flashback to the 2015 federal election where student political engagement was relatively high: campus debates were frequent and both residences and social media saw the open support of political parties.

But with the 2018 provincial election coming up, student political engagement has been dismal in comparison. In fact, political sciences professor Robert Jonasson says that “most people, including students, tend to vote more on average across Canada for federal elections."

William Khoury, fourth-year physiology student, believes people don't care as much about provincial politics because most of the attention is geared towards what happens in federal politics. 

"There is an impression that the federal government has more influence on people than the provincial politics," says Khoury. However, the impression that provincial politics is less important is a fallacy. 

Taylor Lau, second-year FIMS student, isn't particularly interested in politics.

"Provincial politics doesn't seem to have a large effect on my day-to-day functioning. I feel a lot of the times politicians say we'll see change, it takes a long time for them to implement it and it doesn't really affect me in the moment," says Lau.

Lau also mentions that she finds politics boring.

However, many areas of provincial jurisdiction directly affect students and should be of particular interest to students. Khoury mentions that most of a student's daily interactions involve the provincial government.

“Provinces have jurisdiction over healthcare, education, social services, power generation and licensing as well as many provincial taxes,” explains Jonasson.

Jamie Cleary, vice-president of the University Student’s Council (USC), delves into the numerous responsibilities of the post-secondary education sector within the provincial government. 

Cleary mentions the “big focus on experiential work learning through internships, co-ops or out of classroom learning,” as one of the directions the government wants to head towards.

In addition to the direction of post-secondary education, the affordability of education also remains a primary responsibility of provincial government. Whether it’s tuition fees, OSAP or university funding, these are all issues that affect students and that should prompt concern, explains Cleary.

In addition to the financial burdens of post-secondary education, students struggle to find affordable housing. Students are also impacted by rising living costs. Cleary mentions that utility bills should be something to focus on for students. 

Recently, there has been a lot of public outrage in regards to Premier Kathleen Wynne privatizing hydro and rising energy costs over the years. Although Ontarians approve of the promised 25 per cent hydro rate cut, there is concern about the $25 billion extra in interest payments placed onto the next generation. 

Despite the importance of students engagement, Khoury believes that the disengagement also stems from the lack of effort on the part of politicians in regards to youth/student issues. 

There are many other issues that students should become informed about. 

Although "[students] might decide to hear from students on direct issues like tuition and student loans, other policies such as taxes, transportation and social programs have less input from students even though they are just as important to our lives," says Khoury.

Cleary hopes his successors will host 'get out to vote' events on campus. 

Cleary, Jonasson and Khoury believe it is critical for students to stay informed about provincial issues. Students can stay informed through media sources reporting on provincial change and following local MPPs, party leaders and local candidates.

Jonasson argues that provincial elections are the most vital. By making their voices heard, students can influence the direction of certain issues. 

Although not glamorous, provincial politics is an integral aspect of Canadian society. Khoury believes that the direct and frequent interactions with the provincial government should prompt students to pay very close attention to provincial politics.

"The issues of Ontario directly affect all of its citizens, including students, for their entire lives,” says Jonasson. 

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Vivian Cheng is a third year medical sciences student and Culture Editor for Volume 111. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her curating another playlist or thinking about puppies. You can contact her at vivian.cheng@westerngazette.ca.

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