Ford wants ‘100 per cent’ Ontario students in province’s medical schools

Liam Casey and Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Published on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 1:35 pmEDT

Last updated Wednesday, April 3, 2024 4:35 pmEDT

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

Ford said Wednesday that about 18 percent of the students are from foreign countries.

“In my view, and we will continue to work with the ministry, we will remove the 18 per cent,” he said in an announcement about a new medical school at York University.

“I’m not being mean, but I’m taking care of our students, our children first.”

Ford then lamented the fact that some children and parents have said that some Ontario students study abroad and then don’t come home after meeting someone.

“I want 100 per cent of Ontario students to go to these universities,” he said.

His office said later Wednesday that “what he wants are medical positions filled with Ontario students.”

NDP Leader Marit Stiles criticized Ford for his comments.

“The Prime Minister’s comments were grossly disrespectful to the thousands of internationally trained and experienced students and doctors from around the world stuck waiting for a place to live so they can finally practice in our province,” he wrote in a statement.

“You are telling trained doctors from around the world looking to build a life in Ontario that they are simply not welcome here.”

A group representing immigrant workers also took issue with Ford’s comments.

“The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is outraged that Prime Minister Ford distracts from his chronic underfunding of public education by blowing a racist whistle that paints international students as outsiders, which will worsen the already pervasive anti-immigrant climate,” said Sarom Rho. a spokesperson for the organization.

“Immigrants 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 face a growing reliance on international students, whose numbers have skyrocketed in recent years.

Post-secondary institutions, especially universities, in Ontario increasingly turned to international students after the Ford 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 support for students in need.

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

Many Ontario colleges and universities now have deficits and say the recent supplement is about half of what they need to become healthy, viable institutions.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced earlier this year that it would reduce the number of international student permits it would grant, and Ontario saw its allocation cut in half.

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

Almost all of the permits will go to publicly assisted colleges and universities, and private trade schools will not receive any.

Last week’s Ontario budget indicated that lost income from international students in the university sector, whose finances appear on the province’s books, will amount to about $3 billion over two years.

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

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