A pair of organizations representing post-secondary students and faculty in Manitoba are questioning the government’s intentions, as it moves to give itself more control over student and tuition fees.
In a joint press conference Friday, the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba (CFSMB) and Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) demanded the province scrap Bill 33, and consult with them before putting forward any similar legislation.
Bill 33 would enable the province to issue guidelines concerning tuition and student fees, require a fee be decreased, or prohibit compulsory fees.
“As the bill is currently written, there’s far too much vagueness and this sets a dangerous precedent that will leave student unions and associations at risk of interference,” said Brenden Gali, CFSMB chairperson.
“This bill disrupts the vital delivery of services on campuses as those would be the first to go if this government were to place financial restraints on administrations.”
Gali says he’s concerned the bill would cut into mental health services, food bank levies, and various other types of programming.
However, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Wayne Ewasko responded that the bill was never meant to target fees set by student unions and associations, which he noted are approved by student vote.
“The purpose of this bill is will (sic) give the Ministry oversight for the protection of students from significant increases to student fees (Registration fees, library fees) and course related fees (equipment) by post-secondary institutions,” Minister Ewasko wrote in an email.
“Student association fees are excluded from the Bill.”
If that is truly the government’s intention, Gali contends, then it needs to be spelled out in the legislation.
He added that even though the minister reaffirmed the government’s position when the two had a meeting, he remains apprehensive.
“That isn’t our only concern. We are here to protect students and not just student unions,” Gali said.
“Students need access to multiple services on campus that student unions and student associations don’t necessarily provide.”
MOFA president Scott Forbes called the move an attempt by the province to meddle in post-secondary programming.
“(Post-secondary institutions) cannot have the minister looking over their shoulder, telling them which programs are politically acceptable and which are not,” Forbes said.
“Bill 33 allows for this through the imposition of differential tuition fees by program.”
Minister Ewasko says they are considering amendments to clarify which fees could and could not be impacted by the legislation.