The Inside Agenda Blog

Inside Ontario: Asian Post-Secondary Students, and More

by Mark Brosens Sunday November 14, 2010


Welcome back to the Inside Ontario blog, where every Monday we recap some important stories from around Ontario.

This week: Maclean’s magazine examines if some Ontario universities are “too Asian;” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty unveils a new international scholarship program; a labour dispute at U.S. Steel in Hamilton (formerly Stelco); a new program teaches Northern Ontarian aboriginal youth about careers in mining; and GO Transit introduces a passenger’s bill of rights.


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Maclean’s has caused controversy by publishing an article questioning if prospective white university students are not applying to certain universities due to large Asian student bodies. The article argues that Asian students and white students have different conceptions of university life. According to the article, research shows that Asian students are more often single-mindedly focused on educational success at university. Whereas, white university students more often seek, “social interaction, athletics and self-actualization—and, yes, alcohol.” The article suggests that these two cultures are colliding on university campuses.

The Maclean’s article singled out several Ontario universities. It claimed that the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo are perceived as heavily Asian schools. Queen’s University and the University of Western Ontario are perceived as white schools, according to the Maclean’s article.

However, National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin wrote that other ethnicities should emulate the Asian culture’s emphasis on education and parental involvement, because it produces academic success. She also questioned the validity of a Toronto Star article that suggested Asian students are forced into particular fields of study, causing them anxiety and a lack of social skills.  


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Last week, while in Hong Kong, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the government of Ontario will fund 75 scholarships worth $40,000 per year for four years for international PhD candidates. McGuinty said the $30-million scholarship program, known as the Ontario Trillium Scholarships, will attract the best students to Ontario, raise the international profile of Ontario universities, and grow the economy. Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy said this scholarship program will be on par with prestigious awards such as the Rhodes and Commonwealth Scholarships.

The McGuinty government has committed to increasing the number of foreign students in Ontario universities by 50 per cent in the next five years

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak attacked the international scholarships saying the government should be helping cash-strapped Ontario students. Hudak said, "The money should be going to Ontario students first.

Adam Radwanski of the Globe and Mail said the reaction to the scholarship plan highlights a culture war that is developing in Ontario.  Jim Coyle, columnist with the Toronto Star, saw Hudak’s scholarship position as another example of his willingness to exploit wedge issues

Also last week, 15 university presidents announced a $3.5-million plan to lure Indian students to Canadian universities


On this week’s Your Agenda Thursday program we will examine the Ontario Trillium Scholarships. Will be the scholarships raise the international profile of Ontario universities? Should the government be focused on reducing tuition fees for Ontario students? Send us your thoughts on Twitter using #YourAgenda, on the Agenda’s Facebook page, or leave your comments below.


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In Hamilton, 900 employees of U.S. Steel were locked out by their employer last week. Central to the labour dispute is U.S. Steel’s proposal to close the Hamilton plant’s defined benefit pension plan to new employees and offer them a defined contribution pension plan instead (the plant’s defined benefit plan is in a $1.2-billion shortfall).

The Hamilton plant, formerly known as Stelco, was sold to U.S. Steel in 2007. At the time, the federal government approved the deal saying it was in Canada’s interest. However, in the summer, the federal government launched a lawsuit against U.S. Steel arguing that the Hamilton plant did not meet promised production, research and development, and capital spending targets


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Last week, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) and Vale announced a new program that will encourage aboriginal youth to consider mining careers. Roberta Jamieson, the president the NAAF, said the aboriginal population is growing quickly, but aboriginal youth have low high school graduation rates. Jamieson said some aboriginal youth don’t think they have employment choices, but she hopes this program will change that perception.  


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After some negative attention for perceived poor customer relations, GO Transit has unveiled a passenger’s charter. The charter promises that GO will do its best to: be on time; ensure customer safety; be more communicative about delays; be comfortable; and be helpful. Recently, GO fell below its own targets for comfort and handling customer complaints in its first ever self-completed report card

In 2008, GO Transit rider Patricia Eales’ online petition collected almost 11,000 signatures. It called on GO to provide a 50 per cent rebate every time a train was more than 20 minutes late. Eales said commuters who used the service were at risk of losing their jobs due to GO’s tardiness

Go Transit is Ontario’s only interregional public transportation system. It is subsidized by the government of Ontario

The McGuinty Government has invested more than $2.5 billion in GO Transit since coming to office in 2003. This additional funding has been used to buy new trains, expand service, and build new stations. 


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To learn more about Ontario provincial politics visit TVO’s Civics 101 microsite.