Doug Ford Wants to Crack Down on 'Marxists' Running Amok on Campuses
Many people appreciate and support Doug Ford as a politician because they feel he is blunt and speaks his mind. Sometimes that can be a detriment but other times it works to his benefit on a political level.
So it depends on how his latest comments about his reforms to university funding has affected his political standing.
The Ford government made some announcements recently on post secondary education, specifically a 10 per cent tuition cut, changes to OSAP funding as well as making it voluntary for students to opt in paying student fees for various campus organizations, such as student unions.
A story about how Ryerson University’s student union went on an extremely lavish spending spree gave fuel to Ford’s call for more ‘choice’ for students on campus whether they want to financially support organizations on campus, but recently there is another more clearly defined reason why Ford put in the ‘opt in’ provision.
In a fundraising email to Ontario PC Party members, Ford asks for help in order to continue the government’s ‘good work’ and to fight against ‘radical’ student unions. The email read: “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”
The email was signed “Doug” and requested a donation to the PC Party, and the quotation on “Marxists” has been widely reported and repeated in this response from the Ontario NDP, who weren’t that happy with this “unfounded attack on students.”
“Doug Ford is attacking student unions because he doesn’t want students to be able to organize to fight against not only this round of cuts, but the next round as well,” said Chris Glover, the NDP Colleges and Universities Critic. “He is downloading billions of dollars of debt onto students who already face the highest tuition and student debt levels in the country,” referring to the OSAP funding changes.
Others point out that student fees cover more than alleged ‘Marxist nonsense’, such as student associations using the money provided for health insurance, food banks, subsidized transit passes, orientation events, safe walk programs, on-campus press, and student job opportunities.
There was also another point made that one of Ford’s own MPPs, Stephen Lecce from King-Vaughan, was in a prominent position in a student union on Western University at one time.
"I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to," Premier Doug Ford says in a fundraising email today.— Mike Crawley (@CBCQueensPark) February 11, 2019
Ford's parliamentary assistant Stephen Lecce was president of the student union at Western. He surely didn't get up to any "Marxist nonsense." pic.twitter.com/gP6PJI58Ic
Lecce subsequently went on to work for one of the “most Marxist” prime ministers of this century, the Right Honourable Stephen J. Harper, former Conservative leader from 2004 to 2015. In case you can’t tell, that was sarcasm.
This development brings me back to memories when I was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University. We had a student union president election where one of the candidates said he wanted to be “more militant” when it comes to fighting for student services and rights on campus while wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt when he made his pitch.
Aside from that brief interaction with ‘Marxism’ on campus, most university clubs I saw were rather benign entities, ranging from mental health services to the ‘history club’ who took a trip to Ottawa on a weekend to visit the Canadian War Museum.
But I also think what is being lost in this discussion is the definition of Marxism; Doug Ford seems to have just thrown that term out there as red meat to rile up his base for fundraising for the PC party, but what does it actually mean?
Marxism, in its purest definition, is the system of socialism of which the dominant feature is public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. The more modern interpretation is equity for all people (those who are better off can afford to contribute more to society to lift up those at a lower rung of the social ladder).
Over the course of history, Marxist ideas were co opted by political movements in Russia, China and Cuba that resulted in the Communist regimes we know of today. Although the old USSR is long gone, Russian authoritarian has made its presence felt in the world in recent years, and the Cuban and Chinese ‘Communist’ regimes are still going strong but nowadays adopt a more authoritarian bent to them.
So railing against the ‘Red Menace’ of Marxism always plays well to a conservative leaning crowd, so it’s no surprise Ford invoked it for his party’s fundraising efforts, but perhaps it’s not as accurate or that potent a ‘threat’ as he claims. And in 2019, it seems socialism or ‘democratic socialism’ is making a comeback, especially amongst the millennial crowd.
Do you think there’s too much ‘Marxism’ on university and college campuses or is it just a bit of too much hype?
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