On Monday, October 15th, the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) held a barbecue, offering free burgers in exchange for signatures on a petition renouncing Ontario PC (Progressive Conservative) premier Doug Ford’s decision to freeze the minimum wage hike passed by the previous administration.
The university student union budget is funded through student tuition. This brings to question the ethical implications of having students pay for a blatantly partisan political event, reproving the conservative premier.
A UTM student, Mdu Mhlanga, who attended the barbecue, described being instructed to sign a petition against Doug Ford’s minimum wage policy in exchange for a ticket he could redeem for a burger. Aside from signing his name in dissent, there was no way to get the advertised free food.
The Daily Wire reached out to the student union president, Felipe Nagata, who confirmed the event’s details, but insisted that if a student refused to sign the petition, they were not supposed to be denied food. Moreover, Nagata told the Daily Wire that the barbecue was "in solidarity with student workers."
The student union president has previously expressed strong support for the liberal government’s wage hike, writing on Twitter:
The UTM student union is no stranger to controversy. Back in January of 2016, they were sued by the university’s pro-life organization, UTM Students for Life (UTMSFL). The legal dispute was over the student union’s adamant refusal to recognize the pro-life student group as a legitimate school club because of their political stance on abortion.
University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Conservatives president, Harris Watkins, commented on the politicized student event with the following statement:
Speaking first on the Ford government’s decision to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour, we are of course, as proponents of basic economics, for this policy. As per the Bank of Canada, the scheduled increases in minimum wage for the future [as per 2017] are to account for the following misfortunes to the Canadian economy: an employment decline to the tune of 60,000 jobs, a decrease in consumer consumption vis-à-vis the increased interest rates – which would cancel out the wage gains that many proponents of the $15 minimum wage argue will occur, and possible acceleration of automation in the long-run. The outcome of the increased minimum wage is proven to be one that actually hinders workers — and these affected workers largely tend to be young people who lack work experience to qualify for larger hourly wages. With the plethora of information available to us as university students, we find it disappointing that useless rhetoric of the Ford government being 'anti-worker' seems to find useful ears at UTM. To those on our campus who are firm supporters of the $15 minimum wage, we ask a question: Why not a $20 an hour minimum wage? The argued choice of the imposed price floor seems to be arbitrary.
Secondly, with regards to the actions of the UTMSU, one must wonder how 'opposition' to the Ford government’s plan, which is apparently supposed to be universally opposed by young people, must be demonstrated through a petition in which the UTMSU must bribe UTM students to sign it. The moral implications are obvious – the UTMSU is taking advantage of those on campus who want free food in exchange for doing their political bidding. We wish we could say that these actions are disappointing to us, but actions like these are precisely the standard of behavior which UTM students have come to expect from their supposed 'representatives.' The UTM Campus Conservatives wholeheartedly oppose acts of political bribery and deception on our campus.
The Daily Wire has invited the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union to submit an official statement on their behalf. This article will be updated with their statement upon receiving it.