Published April 3, 2024

Ford wants '100 per cent' Ontario students at unis, office says he meant med schools

By Liam Casey and Allison Jones

Updated April 3, 2024 @ 4:56pm

Premier Doug Ford says he wants all spots in Ontario medical schools to be reserved for students from the province.

Ford said Wednesday about 18 per cent of students are from foreign countries.

"In my opinion, and we will continue working with the ministry, get rid of the 18 per cent," he said at an announcement for a new medical school at York University.

"I'm not being mean, but I'm taking care of our students, our kids first."

Ford then lamented the fact that some kids and parents have said some Ontario students study abroad and then do not return home after they meet someone.

"I want 100 per cent of Ontario students going to these universities," he said.

His office said later Wednesday that "it's medical seats he wants filled with Ontario students."

NDP Leader Marit Stiles criticized Ford for his comments.

"The Premier's comments were wildly disrespectful to the thousands of students and internationally trained physicians with experience from across the world stuck waiting for a residency spot so they can finally practice in our province," she wrote in a statement.

"He is telling skilled physicians from around the world looking to build a life in Ontario that they're simply not welcome here."

A group representing migrant workers also took issue with Ford's comments.

"The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is outraged at Premier Ford distracting from his chronic underfunding of public education by blowing a racist dog-whistle that casts international students as outsiders, which will worsen the already pervasive anti-migrant climate," said Sarom Rho, a spokesperson for the organization.

"Migrants live here, we work here, we have families here, we are Ontarians, we deserve equal rights, not exclusion."

Ford's comments came as post-secondary institutions grapple with a growing reliance on international students, whose numbers have exploded in recent years.

Post-secondary institutions, especially colleges, in Ontario turned increasingly to international students after Ford's government cut tuition by 10 per cent in 2019 and froze it there.

A government-commissioned panel recommended last fall that the province unfreeze tuition, fund post-secondary institutions at an appropriate level and increase supports for students in need.

The province recently said it would keep tuition rates frozen but announced a $1.3-billion top-up to post-secondary institutions.

Many Ontario colleges and universities are now running deficits and say the recent top-up is about half of what they need to become healthy, viable institutions.

The federal government, meanwhile, announced earlier this year it would slash the number of international student permits it would hand out, with Ontario seeing its allotment cut in half.

Last week, the province said it would prioritize its newly reduced number of international undergraduate study permits to post-secondary institutions that offer in-demand programs, such as in the skilled trades.

Nearly all of the permits will go to publicly assisted colleges and universities, with private career colleges receiving none.

Ontario’s budget last week indicated that the lost international student revenue in the college sector, whose finances show up on the province’s books, will total about $3 billion over two years.

Toronto Metropolitan University's new School of Medicine in Brampton., Ont., on Friday, January 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.

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