March Is A Time For Celebrations And The Arrival Of Spring

By Goldie Ghamari, MPP for Carleton

I would like to thank everyone who joined us on March 8 for my annual International Women’s Day Breakfast. It was a great way to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of women in all walks of life in the Carleton riding. I also want to give a special thanks to Debbie and her amazing staff at Danby’s Roadhouse in Richmond for hosting the event.

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Each year, this day serves as a powerful reminder of the progress made toward gender equality. It also serves to remind us of the work that still needs to be done.

Happy Nowruz

Sometimes I like to share a bit of my Persian culture with everyone, and the next couple of weeks are special as there will be celebrations around the world for Nowruz. March is Persian Heritage Month in Ontario, so I thought it would be good to share this with you.

The spelling of Nowruz has always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine, as the holiday is pronounced “no-rooz”. I don’t know why they put a W in the spelling.

Nowruz, which means “new day”, falls on the spring equinox each year. It is based on the Iranian solar Hijri calendar, and it marks the Persian New Year. Its origins are in the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. It has been celebrated for 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest festivals still celebrated in human history.

On Nowruz, millions of Iranians from around the world and all walks of life, irrespective of religion, age, language, gender, race, ethnicity, or social status, gather together with family, friends and loved ones to celebrate the new year. The celebration marks the rebirth of nature, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. Nowruz represents much of what Iranian character, history and culture is all about.

We eat traditional food, including a fish and rice dish called “sabzi polo ba mahi.” We give gifts—or “eydis,” as we call them—to children.

More than 300 million people around the world celebrate Nowruz. And it is no small celebration. Imagine Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Canada Day rolled into one month-long holiday, and then add delicious food, street dances, fire shows, and a lot of loud banging on pots.

To everyone celebrating Nowruz in Carleton, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Governments Helping Boost Production of Ontario Maple Syrup

The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing more than $1 million through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP) to support the productivity and growth of businesses in the province’s maple syrup sector.

The Maple Production Improvement Initiative is supporting 77 maple syrup producers with cost-shared funding to support a range of activities to enhance their operations. The initiative supports the purchase and installation of upgraded equipment for eligible syrup producers, that will increase productivity, efficiency, and growth, such as reverse osmosis or remote monitoring systems. It also provides funding to cover a portion of woodlot management activities, including tree marking and the development of a forest plan, to assist the operation of eligible businesses.

This initiative was developed following discussions with sector businesses. It builds on other actions the government has taken to support the overall growth of the agriculture and food industry, such as recent investments of up to $12 million through the Grow Ontario Market Initiative, up to $25 million through the Agri-tech Innovation Initiative and more than $68 million through the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Initiative.

Sustainable CAP is a $3.5-billion investment by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to strengthen competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency of the agriculture, agri‐food, and agri‐based products sector. This includes $1 billion in federal programs and activities and a $2.5 billion commitment cost-shared 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially/territorially for programs designed and delivered by the provinces and territories.

The Ontario government calculations suggest over 1,000 jobs and close to $42 million in gross domestic product (GDP) were attributed to the maple industry value chain (farm, processing, and retail), in 2022. Ontario is Canada’s third-largest maple syrup producing province, behind Quebec and New Brunswick. In 2022, it produced 4.5 per cent of Canada’s maple syrup or about 2.68 million litres of syrup.

Maple Weekend is April 6-7, in Ontario. Consider visiting a participating maple producer to check out the festivities.

Ontario Investing Nearly $1.3 Billion to Stabilize Colleges and Universities

The Ontario government introduced a suite of measures to stabilize the province’s colleges and universities, including nearly $1.3 billion in new funding, while maintaining the tuition fee freeze to keep costs down for Ontario students and parents. The province is also introducing legislation that would, if passed, support student mental health, safe and inclusive campuses and allow for increased transparency of fees. This suite of measures also includes initiatives that will help connect students to rewarding careers to help build Ontario’s skilled workforce.

To support students and their families, Ontario is extending the tuition fee freeze for publicly assisted colleges and universities for at least three more years. Institutions will be able to increase tuition by up to five per cent for out-of-province domestic students. At the time the freeze was first introduced and accompanied by a 10 per cent reduction in fees, Ontario had the highest university tuition rates in the country. Since then, students and parents have saved an estimated $1,600 per year on average for university and an estimated $350 per year on average for college, compared to what they would have paid under the previous policy that allowed three per cent increases each year.

To stabilize postsecondary institutions, the Ontario government is investing nearly $1.3 billion over three years, including $903 million over three years through the new Postsecondary Education Sustainability Fund starting in 2024-25. This amount includes $203 million in funding for top-ups for institutions with greater financial need. Also included is an additional $167.4 million over three years in additional funding for capital repairs and equipment.

The province is also introducing the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024 that would, if passed, authorize the Minister to issue directives requiring colleges and universities to provide information about ancillary fees and other students costs, including costs for textbooks or other learning materials. This could include ensuring that fees are published by institutions in a consistent manner – for instance, by publishing costs in a course syllabus.

In order to provide additional transparency as it relates to tuition, the province will also engage with colleges and universities to create tuition fee transparency to help students and their families better understand how tuition fees are used.

The Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024 would also, if passed, require colleges and universities to have policies in place relating to mental health and wellness supports and services and require colleges and universities to have policies in place to combat racism and hate, including but not limited to antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The province is also introducing measures to protect students and improve the integrity of career colleges. The province will better integrate enforcement efforts across ministries to strengthen oversight of career colleges and will ensure timely responses to concerns and complaints by improving data management, documentation processes and the efficacy of compliance investigations. As recommended by the blue-ribbon panel, the government will be working with colleges and universities to establish certain core competencies for board members, including financial literacy and risk management.

To help more students find jobs, the province intends to allow colleges to offer applied master’s degrees in areas of study that will help students graduate with in-demand skills, expertise, and credentials. This approach will also provide employers access to more industry-ready employees that meet labour market needs in specialized fields such as advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and animation.

The province will also launch a career portal to help students understand labour market needs and make informed decisions on postsecondary education. This will consolidate various sources of information to help students and newcomers access education and careers in Ontario.

With these investments and suite of measures, Ontario is taking a responsible approach to allow flexibility amid a challenging financial climate, while protecting students and parents from the additional costs.

Office Notice:

My office is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. If you require assistance on any matter, please contact me at any time. My staff and I will be happy to assist. Even if it’s not a provincial issue, I’ll make sure to connect you with the proper office.


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