By: Tyler Costello
Students, over the age of 19, are upset because they will no longer be considered students by the city and as a result will pay an extra $20 on their bus passes. What should be of more concern however is how the Student Association chose to deal with that change.
To voice their objection SA President David Corson, wrote a letter to the City of Ottawa informing them that the SA may file a human rights complaint with the province if the age cap wasn’t removed.
Corson’s threat, if executed, is right to appeal to a higher office since he believes the needs of his constituents are being ignored at the municipal level. However, it would be wrong to do so with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal.
The city’s move to no longer offer a discounted rate to students over the age of 19 isn’t a human rights violation. It’s a calculated move by city politicians who believe the benefits received by increased profits outweigh the negatives that will result from upset students.
The city currently faces the financial burden of a new casino, a CFL stadium, roads that are literally collapsing, a PRESTO pass that needs attention and now a multi-billion dollar light rail system that is set to begin construction early next year. It hasn’t violated the human rights of students; it’s just trying to pay for the high costs it currently faces.
Is handing over an extra $20 every month really that much of a problem? No, it’s just an added cost to something that already costs too much that is needed to get to something that costs a lot.
The problem isn’t that our human rights have been violated, it’s that the cost for students to ride the OC Transpo is too high. The cost associated with attending a post-secondary institution in Ontario is a provincial issue, which is why it was right for the SA to threaten to reach out to the province on this matter. Too bad it wasn’t threatening to do so with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities or the Ministry of Transportation.
The province could offer help in the way of planning expertise, ideas and most importantly money. If the province were able to help students out with the cost of their bus passes this would benefit everybody.
Lowering the cost of attending post secondary education benefits the province as a whole. If students graduate with lower debts they can contribute more quickly to the economy.
However, the threat to pursue a human rights violation speaks to a greater problem. In our society it is easier to complain than to generate positive ideas, more common to claim that your rights have been violated than to go another route. It is wrong to throw out the serious accusation of having one’s human rights violated when the real problem is that you have gotten the short end of the stick in the city’s budget.
On top of this, if it were true that our human rights have been violated by the city of Ottawa, what would be gained by filing a complaint with the province? Filing and pursuing a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal is a process that could take years. The SA and the students at Algonquin don’t have time; they likely won’t be here if and when a decision is reached.
And if a decision were to be reached that the city was out of line when it lowered the age cap on student bus passes, students over 19 would go back to paying $76.75 instead of $96.25 a month. But the problem of high transportation costs would still be present and OC Transpo riders would probably soon face another rate hike. If the SA does follow through with its threat then it stands to gain little.
That said, it would be a good idea for the SA to bring up its grievances with Ottawa’s disregard for its student population with the province. The City of Ottawa clearly isn’t concerned with the high prices students face commuting to school. The high costs students face in attending post-secondary school, however, is something that could be addressed by the province.
It may be far-fetched to believe that reaching out to the province for help with our city’s transportation problems would yield results but at least it would be a forthright attempt to deal with the issue.