MOFA: Manitoba Budget hollows out Manitoba universities
Years of cuts continue to undermine post-secondary education in Manitoba
Winnipeg – The new PC budget does nothing to invest in the future of Manitoba, with more cuts to university operating grants for Manitoba’s universities. Freezes are cuts in real dollars. This year’s budget amounts to a 4% cut, added to last year’s cut of 2.3%. This leaves Manitoba’s students and faculty out in the cold with a dark storm on the horizon for our universities. Manitoba’s participation rate in higher education ranks near the bottom of the country. And today’s budget does nothing to fix that.
“What we see through cuts, year after year is the deliberate downsizing and hollowing out of our universities,” said Scott Forbes, President of the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA). “Our students pay more to get less. Premier Stefanson continues Brian Pallister’s policy of austerity in education. In doing so, she simply ignores the role of higher education in economic development. Our graduates are fully employed, collect higher salaries, pay more taxes; enjoy more rewarding careers and lives. But it seems Premier Stefanson doesn’t want our students to have those nice things.”
Earlier today, a Winnipeg Free Press editorial highlighted a major weakness of the economic policy of the PC government. Manitoba fails to attract and train highly paid professionals, scientists, technicians, and the industries they support and lags behind the country in economic growth.
This government continues to mislead Manitobans about the ‘affordability’ of university education in our province by comparing tuition fees to other provinces. But what they fail to mention is that wages here are lower than anywhere else. A student hoping to pay for university with part-time and summer jobs does so with the second-lowest minimum wage in the country.
“This budget will make it more difficult for students and faculty across our province, but especially in smaller communities and at smaller institutions, such as Brandon and St. Boniface which are already stretched thin in terms of budgetary constraints,” said Allison McCulloch, MOFA Vice President. “It is increasingly clear that this government’s vision for university education is simply to offer fewer opportunities for students through funding cuts and tuition increases.”
Since taking office this government has shown that they do not value our universities having used unlawful labour practices to attack University of Manitoba faculty, provoking two strikes and a lawsuit leaving the Manitoba taxpayers on the hook for millions in damages. The Pallister-Stefanson PCs declared their goal at the beginning of the pandemic of trimming provincial funding for post-secondary education by 30%. They are now 2/3 of the way there through years of freezes.
“We need universities to lead the post-pandemic economic recovery, to train and retain the scientists, engineers, technicians, health care workers and a myriad of other professionals and the economic activity they support,” said Forbes. “To do that, you need to build, not demolish our system of higher education. But the Stefanson government seems to want more demolition workers than engineers: they’ve gotten really good at tearing things down. But building? Not so much.”
MOFA represents over 1,500 faculty and academic staff at the University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, Brandon University and Université de Saint-Boniface.