Ontario budget 2016 boosts students and economy

There’s a saying: to govern is to choose. Yesterday, the provincial government in Ontario made some really good choices. I want to highlight two in particular for the UWaterloo community.

The first is that, in partnership with our friends at Mac and Western, the University of Waterloo is co-establishing the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium with $35 million in government funding announced yesterday.

Researcher inspecting bone replacement

Mihaela Vlasea and Farid Behzadian work to create bone replacements that function like the real thing.

These universities — being some of the top research-intensive and industrially collaborative universities in Ontario — are going to combine strengths to help southern Ontario not just preserve our region’s legacy of manufacturing excellence, but extend that competitive advantage deeply into the future. That means making the pivot from traditional techniques to exciting new opportunities in next-gen additive manufacturing and in making digital components and devices.

Second, budget 2016 makes some really progressive changes to the student aid system in Ontario in two ways: simplification and enhancement.

The revised student aid system — already one of the most generous in Canada — consolidates a range of pre-existing tax credits and other financial aid into a more rational system. For example, the new platform will eventually move Ontario from a model of tuition-repayment for eligible students to up-front subsidised tuition payment by government. That’s a massive process improvement that will save thousands of families enormous stress.

And at the same time, the budget indicates that the total amount of grant support is going up significantly. Going forward, according to the Minister of Finance, about 50% of students from families earning $83,000 or less will receive grants worth more than the average cost of tuition.  (If you want to do a deeper dive into the tuition enhancements announced today, read the Council of Ontario Universities’ news release.)

All in all, these announcements signal that Ontario is putting talent development, research, and innovation at the heart of economic and social policy.

That, too, is a very good choice.

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