October marked another milestone for OUSA as we held our first-ever full-length, virtual General Assembly. Student delegates from our eight member schools came together to discuss four policies: A Comprehensive Access Strategy, Environmental Sustainability, Responding to COVID-19, and Housing, Transit, & Community Development. Despite the challenges of conducting a four-day conference virtually, our delegates were able to critique policies in breakout rooms, and even had a chance to socialize through a virtual scavenger hunt! The weekend concluded with a closing Plenary session, where delegates debated, amended, and voted on the policy papers—which all passed unanimously, thanks to their hard work. We’re looking forward to sharing these policies over the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, I represented OUSA at the 2020 provincial Pre-Budget Consultations held by Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, Stan Cho, and Minister Jeff Yurek. I took this opportunity to share OUSA’s recommendations to enhance OSAP, expand work-integrated learning opportunities, and increase mental health resources. Students are essential to Ontario’s long-term recovery, and they need support to complete their education, find good jobs, and contribute to rebuilding our economy. A copy of our submission is available here.
We were also invited to an announcement on post-secondary student mental health with the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, and the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Additions, Michael Tibollo. The Ontario government announced a $19.25M investment in mental health support for post-secondary students, including additional investments into Good2Talk, a mental health helpline service for students, and increased funding for community-based mental health support. This funding, which includes a $3.25M increase, is an incredible commitment to supporting student mental health.
As the Quality of Education campaign has now wrapped up, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all the students who shared feedback about how COVID-19 has impacted their learning, and who interacted with our posts online, shared our Bingo card, and watched our TikToks! This feedback and engagement helps us improve our advocacy efforts and ensures that OUSA can continue to center student voices as we navigate online and remote learning. Stay tuned for our upcoming report, which will highlight general themes and feedback we heard from students, as well as our recommendations to improve and support online learning.
Looking forward, we’re excited to take our newly approved policies to our Student Advocacy Conference, which will take place between November 16-19. So far, we have over 30 meetings booked with MPPs, staff, and stakeholders planned, and we’re looking forward to meeting with many more! We will use this opportunity to continue to advocate for accessible, affordable, accessible and high-quality post-secondary education.