This email is G-rated, so I can’t use the full range of sexual/scatological imagery needed to describe my true feelings about the Ontario government’s Tuition Rebate announcement last week. I’ll keep it to: I told you so.
To recap, the Ontario Liberals made a not-particularly sensible election promise to give a 30% rebate tuition to full-time dependent students. But at least it involved giving some new money to low-income students, even if it came at the cost of providing a lot of money to families who clearly didn’t need it. And at least their proposal wasn’t as dumb as the CFS critique of it, which demanded (with the usual self-righteousness) that the government give less money to low-income students so that students from families making over $160,000/year not be excluded.
(Seriously: CFS’s definition of “progressive” policies includes ones with redistributive outcomes like the Bush tax cuts. Obviously, student views need to be heard, but let’s not pretend the CFS’s possess intellectual coherence).
Anyways, the Liberals got post-election religion on the deficit and someone, somewhere – the Premier’s office, maybe? – subsequently decided that the new grant had to be revenue-neutral. That meant the rebate went from being a good-news new money story to a money-shuffling what-the-hell? story.
The source of the $400 million needed to fund the rebates is still unclear. We know that some will come from the elimination of the Textbook Grant – hilarity alert: this was the Liberals’ signature PSE promise in the 2007 election – the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship and the Ontario Student Trust Fund. We also know that some will come from displacement; students with relatively high need who get the new grant up front will get less OSOG at the end of the day (something the Liberals who spun this three months ago swore blind was never going to happen).
Now, those two sources don’t add up to nearly $400 million, so there’s some more cuts coming that we don’t know about. But based on what we do know:
- Students from high-income families who get this grant will be $800-$1,600 richer. Students from low-income families who are needy enough to receive OSOG will be no better off because of displacement.
- The Textbook Grant and the QEII were more narrowly targeted on income than the rebate – killing one to fund the other means, on aggregate, shifting money from poorer families to better-off ones.
Bottom line: cannibalizing existing programs to fund the Tuition Rebate means more money for upper-income families and less money for low-income ones. Oddly, the CFS is still unhappy, despite this being exactly what they asked for. Not just bad policy, then: bad policy presented so poorly your main critics don’t realize they got their wish.
Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.