MPP Stephanie Bowman advocates for student relief in face of OSAP challenges

Bowman is the finance critic for the Ontario Liberals

Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, speaking to Thorncliffe residents during a public campaign on Sep. 29, 2023. (Photo by Muhammad Adrees/Toronto Observer)
Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, speaking to Thorncliffe residents during a public campaign on Sep. 29, 2023. (Photo by Muhammad Adrees/Toronto Observer) 

In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Observer, MPP Stephanie Bowman, a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, voiced strong criticism of the Ontario government’s budget for 2024. Bowman condemned the budget’s record spending, arguing that it has failed to deliver meaningful results for the province. 

Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, is advocating for student relief amidst challenges with OSAP. (Adrees Malik/Toronto Observer)

Bowman’s advocacy for students comes amidst growing concerns over the affordability of post-secondary education. She emphasized the need for greater support for students, especially in light of the high interest rates on Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP) loans.

“Students are facing hardships from a rent perspective, as rents are much higher,” she said. “And the cost of food is also higher.” 

One of Bowman’s key initiatives is to push for relief measures for students burdened by student loans. She proposes measures to reduce the provincial portion of interest on student loans, aiming to alleviate the financial strain on students. Despite these efforts, Bowman expressed disappointment that her recommendations were not included in the latest budget. 

Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, clapping with children at the Canada Day celebration ceremony on July 1, 2023, at Valley Park Middle School. (Muhammad Adrees/Toronto Observer)

“This is a majority Conservative government. So my job in opposition is to raise the issues, and in this recent budget debate, I’ve been talking about the impact of interest for students,” she said.

“Students are facing hardships from a rent perspective because, of course, rents are much higher. We know the cost of food is higher. And we had proposed measures to reduce the portion of interest that the provincial government charges students. They didn’t take that recommendation.”

Bowman’s focus on student issues extends beyond financial concerns. She has also been vocal about the need to protect tenants’ rights, recognizing the challenges many students face in securing affordable housing.

“Tenants need to better protect themselves,” she said, highlighting the importance of clear obligations for landlords. 

Stephanie Bowman, MPP Don Valley West, cheering for a lady at a public event on July 1, 2023, in the Thorncliffe Park area. (Muhammad Adrees/The Toronto Observer)

“The other thing that I’ve been doing, is talking about the new transit-oriented community in Thorncliffe Park,” she said. “So the proposal came out, we had not seen it. There are over 800 pages of documents on their website. So the planning seems fairly far along. And yet they cannot answer the question, how many of these units will be affordable?

“So I’ve been asking those questions, and we’ll continue to ask those questions. Because, we want that project to benefit the people of this community.”

The Ontario undergraduate school alliance (OUSA), which advocates on behalf of its 140,000 members at its eight member schools across the province, responded to the budget and issued a statement, with OUSA president Vivian Chiem expressing concerns. 

“While we welcome the continued tuition freeze and investment in the post-secondary sector, greater long-term investment strategies are needed to restore the financial sustainability of post-secondary education in Ontario,” Chiem said. “Students deserve accessible, affordable, and sustainable options for post-secondary education, and it is the Ontario government’s job to ensure that it is available to students now and in the future.” 

Bowman is a strong proponent of diversity on corporate boards, believing that diverse voices lead to better decisions. She calls for increased representation of marginalized groups in decision-making processes, advocating for a more inclusive and equitable society. 

Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, Bonnie Crombie, Liberal Leader of Ontario, and Adil Shamji, MPP for Don Valley East, speaking at a public event on Sep. 29, 2023, during the Liberal Leader of Ontario race at Thorncliffe Park. (Muhammad Adrees/Toronto Observer)

The MPP also raised concerns about the government’s focus on privatization, particularly in health care. “Bill 124 drove a record number of nurses out of the nursing profession,” she said, “resulting in hospitals having to hire agency nurses at three times the rate they would pay regular staff.” 

The Toronto Observer reached out to Jill Dunlop, Ontario Minister for Colleges and Universities, who tabled Bill 26 in 2022, and Bill 166 in 2024, which became an act before budget, to strengthening accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024. We will update the story if she has comments regarding the issues faced by students with OSAP approvals, loan interest, and grants being converted to loans.

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Posted: Apr 3 2024 11:55 pm
Filed under: Affordable East York Education Government Homes and Real Estate News Politics