As legislators in Queen's Park look to finalize their budgets by March, the USC and Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) have prepared their budget submissions advocating for student interests to the provincial government.
A budget submission was prepared by OUSA for the provincial government that emphasizes work-integrated learning, sexual violence prevention and mental health. The USC has also curated its own budget submission for the government, specifically highlighting the needs of Western and its students.
“What we do is that we outline some of the priorities that OUSA has taken that are very important to us, but we add some things that are important to the city of London, such as the BRT,” explained Jamie Cleary, USC vice-president and OUSA president.
In the USC’s budget submission, rapid transit was included alongside work-integrated learning. They proposed that a sufficient transit system must be put into place to support work-integrated learning opportunities in London.
Included in the submission is the proposal to create an Ontario post-secondary database, complete with admission requirements, student experience and graduate employment. The aim of this is to allow students to have the necessary information to select the most suitable university for themselves.
Implementing sexual violence prevention training into the Smart Serve training program will also help students to gain the necessary knowledge in the workplace. OUSA is also asking for a grant to fund work-integrated learning opportunities for post-secondary students.
The OUSA submission also involves making mental health a focused priority, recommending that the money from the un-renewed Mental Health Innovation Fund to be put towards initiatives to better service standards in mental health care.
According to Cleary, the OUSA has kept the provincial government’s financial constraints in mind when they worked on the budget submission, making sure to include true costs. The organization made an effort to keep costs neutral by requesting for the reallocation of funds instead of new funds for resources. They will be working in collaboration mainly with the ministry of advanced education.
As OUSA president, Cleary has presented the issues outlined in the budget submission to the provincial standing committee of finance and economics affairs, while USC president Eddy Avila presented to the committee on behalf of the USC. According to Cleary, their ongoing efforts received a positive response from the committee.
The OUSA and the USC are continuing to work with members of the provincial parliament and different ministries within the government in the hopes of seeing their proposals included in the upcoming budget release in March. All of these goals in the submission are categorized as long-term.
“The hope is that these are announced in March with the budget,” said Cleary. “But if it’s not necessarily announced, it will still be a continued effort.”