MOFA Condemns Bill 33, continued interference and overreach by the Pallister Government
The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) is pleased to stand in solidarity with students across Manitoba in their opposition to Bill 33, The Advanced Education Administration Amendment Act. Bill 33 represents a continuing pattern of the Pallister government demonstrating their lack of both understanding and respect for the role of universities in Manitoba. The proposed legislation is nearly identical to the failed Student Choice Initiative presented in Ontario, which was recently struck down by the provincial court.
Across Canada, student associations unite student interests in a fair and democratic manner, providing representation to thousands of members while also providing vital services. These services include but are not limited to, health and dental plans, childcare, food banks, and transit passes. These services are funded through student fees, which are implemented through a fair, open, and democratic process. Through participation in recognized student government, students are able to design and adapt these processes to meet the needs of their memberships.
The proposed legislation would allow the Minister responsible to dictate how students would pay for these services. It represents, as the Ontario courts have already ruled, an overreach of power. These services provide necessary support for students in areas where the government has neglected to do so. Furthermore, interpretation of this legislation also suggests that the Minister would be given the ability to strip funding away from student media and newspapers, which could jeopardize the future of media organizations that chose to hold power to account. The fees, paid by students to support these services and organizations, are private money and the Minister’s attempts to interfere and silence critical voices is unacceptable.
Furthermore, MOFA is concerned that Bill 33 continues to provide another avenue for Ministers to interfere with university autonomy. Universities also use tuition and associated fees to provide specific initiatives and budgetary functions on campus, such as athletic and health and wellness fees. Though universities are funded in part by government, they are not part of government: their founding legislation provides substantial autonomy and provisions for internal self-governance. Universities to perform their key role in society must be free of political interference. Therefore MOFA believes that this legislation that allows the Minister of the Crown to set fees by program represents an unacceptable intrusion into university self-governance and autonomy.
MOFA believes that this legislation is contrary to fundamental tenets of university autonomy and freedom from political interference. Given that Bill 33 is unlikely to withstand a court challenge, we call on Minister Wayne Ewasko to withdraw this bill now, and to begin a proper consultation with the core elements of our university system: students and faculty.