Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard introduced Bill 40 on Monday. This Bill removes the 30% cap on post-secondary tuition from legislation.
Yesterday, Herard announced that the Tory government would introduce a new tuition policy into regulation that would tie tuition to inflation.
This is dangerous and irresponsible for a number of reasons. Mainly, once de-legislated and placed in regulation, the tuition policy can be changed at whim behind closed door Cabinet meetings, rather than facing debate and public scrutiny by the Alberta Legislature, the media, and the public. With a new Tory Premier on the horizon, it is very possible that this if put into regulation, this policy could again be changed in the next several months.
From the Edmonton Journal:
Bill 40 gives the cabinet the power to make any future decisions on tuition rather than having these decisions made by all members of the legislature.
“This is a terrible development not only for students, but for families and all Albertans,” said Samantha Power, president of the University of Alberta Students’ Union.
“The government calls this ‘enabling legislation’ for a new tuition policy, but the reality is that it enables them to tinker with the tuition policy at the cabinet table without opposition scrutiny and without public debate.”
Herard defended the decision to allow cabinet to make future decisions on tuition. The policy will give the government the flexibility to adjust the tuition policy as needed. He also said students will be consulted on any tuition policy changes that the cabinet makes in coming years, starting with the policy he plans to announce later this month.
The opposition maintains Albertans can’t trust decisions made behind closed cabinet doors.
“The Tory government is asking students to trust the Conservative government by allowing the tuition fee policy to be put into regulations,” said Raj Pannu, the NDP advanced education critic.
“This odious bill gives the Tory cabinet a free hand.”
Liberal education critic Dave Taylor said Bill 40 opens the door to a wide range of abuses.
This fight is earily similar to the one that took place three years ago during the Bill 43 (Post-Secondary Learning Act) debate – a fight that forced the Tory government to back down in their attempt to de-legislate Alberta post-secondary tuition.