Fake tuition freeze flops after Redford’s $147 million budget cut.

University of Alberta students penned messages to the provincial government at yesterday's #Graffiti4Govt graffiti wall.

University of Alberta students penned messages to the provincial government at yesterday’s #Graffiti4Govt graffiti wall.

“We’ve been very clear that we will not be balancing the budget on the backs of students,” Premier Alison Redford told the media at a press conference yesterday.

This statement is only partially true. The provincial government is not balancing the budget this year.

Gathered to re-announced what Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk casually announced off-the-cuff last week, Premier Alison Redford and her loyal Deputy declared yesterday that the provincial government provide an extra $16.5 to post-secondary institutions to cover next year’s expected 2.5% tuition increase for students. The government has framed the move as a tuition “freeze,” but it is really a one-time subsidy to hide a fee increase, as the institutions will be implementing tuition increases regardless.

So, the good news is that students will not be paying more out of their pockets in tuition next year. The bad news is due to provincial budget cuts, class sizes will be larger and there will be fewer instructors. This is, of course, if your program has not been cancelled.

Deep cuts to the provincial government’s post-secondary education budget has led Alberta’s universities and colleges to announce staff layoffs, program cutbacks and, in some cases, complete program eliminations. Mount Royal University, Grant MacEwan, NAIT, Lakeland College, and Athabasca University have announced cuts to programs and staff that will affect the quality of education Alberta students will receive in the coming years.

University of Alberta students penned messages to the provincial government at yesterday’s #Graffiti4Govt graffiti wall.

University of Alberta students penned messages to the provincial government at yesterday’s #Graffiti4Govt graffiti wall.

Yesterday’s announcement, like the Deputy Premier’s focus on Campus Alberta logos and mandate letters, is meant to distract the public from the affects the deep budget cuts. The  fake tuition freeze and orders from Deputy Premier Lukaszuk that all institutions implement a three-year wage freeze in all future staff contracts, could drive a wedge between students and post-secondary staff, who have remained unusually unified in speaking against the budget cuts.

Unlike the broad-sweeping budget cuts implemented during Premier Ralph Klein‘s time in office, post-secondary education is a main target in Premier Redford’s cuts. These cuts may be an indication as to why the soft-spoken former Advanced Education Minister Stephen Khan was shuffled out of cabinet earlier this year in favour of the more aggressive and heavy-handed Deputy Premier Lukaszuk.

Alberta’s two big city mayors are united in displeasure over the cuts.

Speaking to an audience of 2,000 people earlier this month, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel shamed the Redford government at his annual State of the City Address:

“When I see Edmonton’s key growth sector — our post-secondary institutions — placed in a position of fundamental uncertainty, I worry that a new era of ‘good-enough’ thinking is poised to undermine our long-term sustainable prosperity” – Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel (April 2, 2013)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, an associate professor at Mount Royal University, penned an open letter to the institution’s board of governors urging them to stand up to the provincial government.

I have been on record as saying that the provincial government has made a terrible error in its post-secondary education policy – great cities need great universities and great universities need government support. No doubt these actions have made your life very difficult. However, I would encourage the leadership of MRU to stand up to the provincial government on behalf of its students, faculty, and community, rather than capitulate to the government’s bad policy. – Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (April 17, 2013)

7 thoughts on “Fake tuition freeze flops after Redford’s $147 million budget cut.

  1. Banana Phone

    Dave, every unrest right now, fighting with the health professions, fighting with the teachers and universities, these are ALL manufactured crisis, a huge distraction created, with the sole intent of keeping people distracted from the budget problem and an artifically created problem like labour unrest with all these groups, can be artifically fixed in the last year, just before election, to buy off any labour unrest before election.

    Problem-reaction, solution. Predictable tory cycle. They are counting on the stupidity and short span of Albertans to forget everything.

    You know this is all true Dave.

    Secondly, the real story, Dave to chase is the old guard vs new guard. Is the preem going to nail the unethical commissioner and call a financial audit or the old health authority, or is the unethical commisioner going to nail the preem over tobacco gate?

    Old vs New Tory Horns are locked. Swords are drawn. Sadly, media, is now where to be found.

    Dare you to chase this story. It is one that MUST be told.

    Reply
  2. mike butler

    Dave your blog really is the leading edge in Alberta politics. I thank you for taking an unbiased view.

    This story is full of politics and positioning. Posturing on one side or the other. What has not been talked about is the billions of dollars the UofA has spent on new buildings that are either empty or understaffed.

    Why are jobs being cut and students loosing classes yet new buildings being built. Why are we not investing in people and research as a society instead of empty glass buildings.

    Why has the enrollment and acceptance for doctors trained per year gone from roughly 132 to 116?

    The real story here is unneeded infrastructure has been placed above people, the people of Alberta.

    Reply
  3. Banana Phone

    Mike, I agree, Dave is doing a great job. The sleeping giant, the white elephant that nobody is really talking about is the potential of future uncertainty of Oil Revenues dropping even further into the Alberta coffers.

    The U.S. is heavily engaged in Directional Drilling and fracking, offshore development and we have yet to get Gateway Pipeline Approval and XL pipeline approval. We export premium product at a heavily discounted price. Why is the Tory leadership so poor?

    Billions in revenue and missed opportunity. Any Corporate CEO would step back and easily agree that Alberta has been short changed massively. The question is, what kind of position will Alberta be in, if there is further price reduction by the U.S. in the product we sell? The pipelines are uncertain.

    Will the Tories mitigate the deficits by stealing from the mouths of the middle class?, or go into huge deficits, or both? Whatever the case maybe, there is a severe lack of strong and clear visionary leadership in the Tory party. There is a huge ICEBERG headed our way, we don’t know where it is or when it arrives. Real Change is needed.

    Reply
  4. Alex

    I’d rather they raise tuition than cut seats. It’s much better to be able to get the education – even if it costs more – than to not get it in the first place. By cutting seats then freezing tuition the government gets to pretend they’re looking after students, even though they’re actually cutting education funding.

    Reply
  5. Bora Laskin

    This blog got a whole more interesting since Banana Phone started calling in. Dave – perhaps you could let the big banana do some guest blogging? If you won’t tell the story, and Vassy won’t tell the story, maybe the Banana will.

    Reply
  6. Banana Phone

    Mr. Laskin, while most of us are too busy not paying attention to anything or too busy following the steady feast of political distractions, we must NEVER take our eyes off the market. With out market access we do not have a credible revenue stream. Big oil will claw back all the projects and investors will not want to bring capital here.

    I am all for business thriving and low taxes and jobs for everybody. But seriously, we are positioned in a very precarious position. There has been NO sledgehammer leadership to position Alberta from a position of strength and leverage.

    At this rate, the guys in office are going to make us into a has been province, at this rate. We need real leadership. Mr. Black the BC magnate had a wise and excellent idea of co-operation with the BC govt to make a refinery there.

    For some reason, short sighted greedy interests are not realizing the bigger stash we stand to make, if we co-operate with BC. Like I said, poor leadership and short sighted greed is the reason why our product is not getting out to tidewater.

    If we snooze off, waste too much time on the political rat race and theatre, the energy market will show Alberta NO mercy. Mark my words. AB will become a joke as the U.S. capitalizes on our closed off product and lowers its remittance per barrel even more on our premium product.

    This is the result of poor vision and poor leadership and foot dragging. A lot of people are very asleep at the wheel. Regardless of what party is in power. Our economic sovereignty is in jeapardy.

    The nutless National Energy Strategy distraction will take too long to implement. We need superior leadership NOW get BC to agree to tidewater access.

    When you think about it, most other conversations really become useless fast.

    Reply
  7. Concerned Albertan

    Banana Phone seems to be a one-track thinker whose major concern is the all-mighty dollar and the “economy.”

    Other, perhaps deeper-thinking and wise, citizens take MANY factors into consideration, namely clean water and air, and a healthy environment and populace — without which we would have NO economy whatsoever.

    Reply

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