Wynne delivers lesson on Liberals’ strategy
Algonquin College is getting a $2.9-million present from the Ontario government to mark the 50th anniversary of the province creating the Ottawa community college.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and all the local Liberal MPPs delivered the gift Tuesday as she began a two-day swing through Ottawa.
“When the colleges were created 50 years ago, there became this network of institutions that were better connected to the labour force, that were preparing young people to go out into the workforce, and that is what has happened over the last 50 years. And we want that tradition to continue,” Wynne said.
A college tour is right in a political sweet spot for Wynne: Ontario’s colleges are a nexus of education, training for jobs of the future and government intervention. The argument that we need the third to produce the first and the second is central to the Liberals’ quest for re-election. So later Tuesday, Wynne hit two high-tech companies for private tours and the new “innovation centre” run by Invest Ottawa at Bayview, which was supported by $15 million in provincial money.
But at Algonquin, Wynne took praise from Algonquin’s president, Cheryl Jensen, and Egor Evseev, the student association president.
They thanked Wynne repeatedly for the money and for honouring Algonquin’s students with her time. Jensen joked that sometimes they call Bob Chiarelli, the MPP and infrastructure minister, the “Minister for Algonquin College,” he’s been so good at getting money for the school.
The $2.9 million would have helped no matter what, but collectively this is not a group immediately concerned about rural hydro prices or the realestate bubble in Toronto detonating household finances, let alone iffy decisions a previous premier made to cancel a couple of gas plants when most of them were in grade school. They’re worried about jobs and student loans.
One nursing student asked what incentives the government can offer to keep nurses in Ontario, given that many of them leave the province to find stable work.
“We recognize that there’s a need to make investments,” Wynne said, and repeated something Finance Minister Charles Sousa said last week about boosting health spending in the provincial budget that’s due next Thursday.
A student asked Wynne’s views on work placements. Use them to build your network, the premier advised. Another asked about mental-health supports. We need more, the premier agreed. We’re working on it.
A man asked about indigenous people.
“Our history is very complicated,” Wynne began. “It’s a long history and we can’t undo it in a short period of time.” She meditated on the teaching of history, on the shame of boil-water orders on reserves, on education.
“There isn’t a single policy we could pass and make this right. It’s a slow partnering activity that has to make this happen,” she said. We need to do a lot of different things. Including, for instance, building a new indigenous cultural centre on this very campus.
Wynne and her Liberals are cripplingly unpopular. But Tuesday, you could see the gears of their re-election campaign clicking into place. Next week’s budget will include high-profile spending on things people care about, particularly health care. Wynne will tour the province dispensing the cash, touting the latest burst of economic growth, warning it’s all at risk if we vote for Patrick Brown and his Tories.
Ronald Reagan said the nine most terrifying words in English are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” For the Ontario Liberals, they’re a slogan. And why not? It’s worked before.