New Premier, same anti-education sentiment

Nov 1, 2021 | Uncategorized

New Premier, same anti-education sentiment

Stefanson can stop the strike by walking away from interference

Despite promising a fresh start, Premier Heather Stefanson appears committed Brian Pallister’s assault on our public education system. The new PC government is, like the old PC government, choosing to interfere in the negotiations between the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) and university administration. That interference has now caused the strike at the University of Manitoba. MOFA fully supports UMFA members in their fight for a fair deal and calls on the new Premier Heather Stefanson to pull the mandate and end this strike.

“The demolition of Manitoba’s public sector will be the chief legacy of the Pallister government. A health care system in disarray and dysfunctional, and a public education system that is defunded, demoralized and decaying. Our students now pay more to get less. Our faculty, paid well below market value, are voting with their feet. Heather Stefanson could have changed course but chooses not to. Perhaps this is no surprise and she was one of the key architects of the Pallister policies” said Scott Forbes, MOFA President. “The PC policy for our universities is to transform into little more than community colleges. This harms not only present and future students, but all those who hold a degree from the University of Manitoba.” 

The PC government has steadily cut funding for our universities and passed Bill 33, the sibling of Bill 64, that centralizes control out of the Minister’s office, and undermines university autonomy. They advocate the failed Tennessee model of performance-based funding and push to ensure that faculty in Manitoba are the worst paid in Canada. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, this government is doing its level best to destroy public education in Manitoba.

“Manitoba is facing major challenges as a province. This government has been disastrous for health care, education and the environment,” said Allison McCulloch, a Brandon University professor. “We need this new premier to chart a new course and to focus on governing the province, not on interfering in higher education.”

In her leadership campaign, Premier Heather Stefanson spoke about a disconnect between universities and the job market and also spoke about the skills shortage facing Manitoba. Statistics show that university graduates are for all intents and purposes fully employed, and collecting higher salaries than any other segment of society. 

If there is a shortage of skilled labour, it is a capacity problem. Yet her government has done its very best to reduce, not increase capacity, by continually chopping funding to our universities even as enrolment is rising. Universities improve income, health and social outcomes, and provide a ladder for social mobility. Manitobans overwhelmingly rejected Premier Pallister’s policies – the new Premier should not make the same mistake. Instead of attacking our public universities, making them smaller and more expensive, she should work instead to enhance quality and increase accessibility.  

“We’ve seen during the pandemic that it has been our members and certainly graduates of our universities leading the way, and speaking in favour of a science based approach to COVID-19,” said Mireille St-Vincent, an associate professor at the Université de Saint-Boniface. “We need the new Premier to run, not walk away from this interference and to let us do our jobs, without additional interference by this government.”

The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations supports UMFA fully in its efforts to protect the quality of our university system for our students and all Manitobans. We encourage other faculty associations from across Canada to join us in standing in solidarity with UMFA.