The United Conservative Party (UCP) draft document for its May policy conference contains proposals that have some student groups concerned about a lack of funding under a Jason Kenney government.
In November, 2017, the UCP released a draft policy book containing policies carried over from the former PC and Wild Rose parties.
Seven of them addressed post-secondary education issues.
Policy D6, in particular, has students’ associations concerned as it proposes to “protect and guarantee the freedom of association of students by allowing individuals to choose, for themselves, whether to become a member of their students’ association.”
Under the Post-Secondary Learning Act, students associations have the right to collect mandatory fees from students to provide services that enhance life on and off campus.
This policy could be detrimental to the work and services student associations provide to students, according to the president of the Athabasca University Student’s Union, Shawna Wasylyshyn.
“This policy would cripple student unions and their members by reducing revenues and forcing an increase in fees, or huge drop in services,” Wasylyshyn commented in a Twitter post.
“Who writes the post-secondary policy without talking to students? Obviously, the UCP does,” she stated.
Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt discussed this policy with a SAITSA representative during a recent camp;us visit, stating “this goes to show that the UCP does not care about students.”
Schmidt also referred to the “voluntary student unionism” (VSU) policy that was implemented in Australia in 2006, which resulted in student organizations struggling to provide the services that the universities did not offer.
then Universities in Australia were left to decide whether to provide these services, and many chose not to do so.
Many schools did, however, provide additional funding to the student organizations by collecting non-instructional fees.
Critics of the policy claimed that the VSU accomplished little in reducing student fees, as money was funnelled to the student groups through the institutions.
“Who writes post-secondary policy without talking to students? Obviously the UCP does.” – Shawna Wasylyshyn
Supporters of the UCP draft policy, such as Peter McCaffrey, president of the lobbying group Alberta Institute, claims that students will choose to pay the fee if they believe the association provides value and have the right to do so.
“I do lots of work that benefits all Albertans at my non-profit,” McCaffrey tweeted. “Can I force all Albertans to join and pay me?”
Another policy proposal in the UCP document havs been criticized by Schmidt and others online.
Policy D1 would align university funding to anticipated skill demands, which would likely result in decreases of funding for arts, and social science fa
Policy D6 would also require institutuions to guarantee the right to freedom of speech on campus. Critics have pointed out that freedom of speech and assembly is already guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
These policies still need to be accepted as official party policy by the UCP convention May 4-6 in Red Deer. Members of the public can attend the convention as observers, by registering on the party website.