Premier Dalton McGuinty wanted to hear what issues concerned young people and he got an earful.
When he asked the close to 150 participants in this year’s Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) program for advice on how to make the province and the world better, the unanimous response was “make post-secondary tuition cheaper”.
McGuinty told the youth who were visiting Queen’s Park last week that “tuition is always an issue for (the government) and we want to make sure we get the right balance”.
The high school students from some of the city’s challenged neighbourhoods were told that the government is committed to making post-secondary education more affordable.
Last January, McGuinty unveiled the new 30 per cent off Ontario tuition grant that enables eligible university or college degree students to receive $800. College and diploma certificate students received $265 last semester.
Beginning next month, the permanent 30 per cent off tuition grant will apply to the full school year. Students in a university or college degree program will save $1,600 while students in college, diploma and certificate programs will save $730.
Increased community programs and more jobs were also high on the students’ list of priorities.
“If somebody asks me what is the single most important thing that I could do to guarantee you a bright future, I would say I have to make sure you have everything you need to go to college, university or into an apprenticeship program,” said McGuinty. “You, however, have to make sure that you get through high school first.”
The students represented the seventh batch of youth between the ages of 14 and 17 to participate in the YIPI program, which caters to young people facing significant challenges, including finding summer employment.
When asked by the Premier how much their perspective of the police and policing in the city has changed as a result of their participation in the program, many said they appreciate the challenges police face and they now see them in a “different light”. Some students said they would consider policing as a career choice.
McGuinty told the students that they have much to offer to their communities, to Ontario, Canada and the world.
“One out of four Ontarians in this province of nearly 13 million will be touched by cancer. We have been talking about finding a cure for cancer before I was born. We are not there yet and we are going to need your help.
“We have been saying we are going to put war and violence behind us. We are not there yet and we are going to need your help with that. You need to understand how much you bring to the table when it comes to tackling those things,” said McGuinty.
Ontario’s Minister of Children & Youth Services, Dr. Eric Hoskins, also interacted with the students.
“You are ambassadors from your neighbourhood communities. The police you are interacting with and the mentors you are working with, no doubt, are learning a great deal from you in terms of the experience and knowledge that you bring from your communities.
“You will take the experience you gain this summer through your whole life. Regardless of what you end up doing, this will provide you with important experience that will guide you in your future endeavours,” said Dr. Hoskins.
Pickering-Scarborough East MPP, Tracy MacCharles, who is the parliamentary assistant to Hoskins, also greeted the students, who later toured Queen’s Park.
By RON FANFAIR