Picture of Queen's Park
COU Statement: Response to Ontario Fall 2020 Budget
November 5, 2020

TORONTO, November 5, 2020 – “Ontario’s universities support the government’s critical investments to protect and support the public from COVID-19 while positioning the province for a strong recovery.

At every stage of the pandemic, our institutions stand ready to provide assistance and work together with our provincial government, local communities and frontline workers, supporting them in the fight against COVID-19.

Our students, researchers and educators continue to use resolve and ingenuity to demonstrate the Ontario Spirit. They are volunteering, manufacturing vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and exploring discoveries that lead to better testing, treatments and vaccine development.

With a shared commitment to ensuring Ontario has a workforce of life-long learners poised to drive innovation and navigate our changing economy, Ontario’s universities welcome the government’s new micro-credential strategy which includes a digital portal, virtual learning passports and an adjustment to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) that will include short-duration programs and micro-credentials. Our institutions look forward to partnering on a strategy to increase access to high-quality reskilling and upskilling opportunities for both traditional and non-traditional learners.

Our universities also recognize additional investments the government has made in the sector. Today’s announcement indicating support for university infrastructure through capital grants and facilities renewal funding for colleges and universities over three years will help drive growth in Ontario’s communities.

Additionally, the government’s investments in world-class university research and development through a series of collaborative research initiatives will help bolster innovation and made-in-Ontario solutions – key components needed in the fight against COVID-19 and to help stimulate Ontario’s recovery.

These initiatives include funding for the Ontario Health Data Platform, which will explore opportunities to integrate datasets and support research projects related to the COVID-19 response; support operations and maintenance related to Advanced Research Computing in Ontario; and provide needed funding to enhance collaboration across the province’s research sector.

Ontario’s universities have a vital role to play in continuing to help strengthen our province and address the urgent needs of Ontario. Universities create a highly skilled and adaptable workforce able to manage the challenges posed by the current disruption.

The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remains a top priority for our institutions. To ensure students continue to receive access to the high quality programs and services they need, universities have swiftly adapted during COVID-19, pivoting towards technology-enhanced course delivery models, virtual academic supports and much more.

Ontario’s universities are also partnering across sectors for the mental health and well-being of our students throughout this time. Each of our institutions is providing continued mental health services and finding innovative ways to virtually connect with students. The government’s support of student mental health helps ensure students have access to the supports they need.

As all sectors across the province feel the impacts of the pandemic, Ontario’s universities are no exception. The financial sustainability of universities has been challenged by COVID-19 and, without support, there will be long-term implications for the financial sustainability of our institutions in communities throughout Ontario.

As the province continues to face the complex challenges of COVID-19, ensuring that Ontario’s universities are in sustainable financial positions to help communities through this period and to spur regional economic growth through Ontario’s recovery, is more important than ever.

Our institutions supply employers with the skilled graduates they need, helping build thriving communities and strengthening public services, such as health care with high-quality professionals and ground-breaking research and innovation – essential to building a stronger Ontario.

Rebuilding Ontario will take partnership – across all sectors, regions and levels of government to help build a brighter future – not just for the students we teach, but for the communities we serve. Through a collaborative Five-Point Plan to Support Ontario’s Recovery, government and universities can partner to tackle the priorities that are critical to Ontario’s economic growth, both now and in the future; creating a more prosperous future for our students, communities and the province.”

– Steve Orsini, President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities