Bill 31 Passes

 BUSU members and other students march at the Student Day of Action against Bill 31. (Kai Neiman/The Quill)

BUSU members and other students march at the Student Day of Action against Bill 31. (Kai Neiman/The Quill)

The bill that has been a major subject around campuses in Manitoba was passed by the Manitoba Legislature on November 10th, 2017. This is not exactly a good thing, especially for post-secondary students in the coming years.

Before getting into opinions and feedback of Bill 31, it is important to understand exactly what it is. Truthfully, the majority of post-secondary students around Manitoba had only a faint idea of what the Bill represented, that being a potential (steep) increase in their tuition fees. Bill 31, or The Advancement Education Administration Amendment Act as it is formally known, officially passed in the Manitoba Legislature in the early morning hours of Friday, November 10th. The bill was introduced and sponsored by the Minister for Education and Training, Ian Wishart.

Bill 31 removes the standing cap on tuition hikes in the province, which has been in effect since 2012, as well as restrictions on certain course related fees. The previous cap on tuition allowed universities to only increase tuition costs at the rate of inflation. However, since Bill 31 has passed, universities across the province will have the ability to raise tuition starting in the Fall session of 2018 by 5% plus the annual rate of inflation.

There are some important restrictions worth noting that Bill 31 will bring to universities in regards to raising tuition: if a university in the province of Manitoba increases its tuition next year higher than 5% plus the rate of inflation, then they are subject to government grant reductions. The total grant reductions would depend on the amount of extra tuition the university collected from raising its fees beyond the allowed percentage. Furthermore, the government may also reduce grant funds to Manitoba universities if the average university tuition fees in the province exceed the lowest average tuition fees in western Canada.

Many student groups and organizations fought long and hard against Bill 31 from the get-go, including the Brandon University Students’ Union and other student representative groups from across the province.

BUSU President Nick Brown says it has been in discussion since last spring: “Last March, the provincial government proposed Bill 31. That came as a huge surprise to us,” explained Brown, who adds that lifting tuition caps was not in the Progressive Conservatives campaign promises.

Its a huge attack on students.

Brown states that the bill was both a disappointment and an insult. Over the summer, Bill 31 was in limbo while the Manitoba Legislature took its summer break, and when the Legislature returned to its fall session, it was only a matter of time until the bill was brought to a vote.

Nick Brown explained that although they started organizing opposition towards the bill in the summer, they couldn’t implement any strategy until the school year began.

“We couldn’t really begin to organize until fall,” Brown stated, who also said that all the work they did against Bill 31 really led up to one important day, the Day of Action held here at BU which took place on October 25th from 11:00AM. to 1:00PM.

“All the preparation led to this date. We had over 200 students come out” says Brown who states that the Brandon University Senate granted academic amnesty for students to participate in the Day of Action during the times of the rally.”

Brown told The Quill that he felt they sent a very united message to the provincial government that students were not in favor of Bill 31. With the bill being passed, Brown said there are numerous directions that BUSU can take: “There are a number of different directions we can go. Ultimately, we can push the Board of Governors not to increase the tuition rates.”

Brandon University students currently enjoy some of the lowest tuition rates in the country, and it is the hope of many students around campus that that fact will remain the same come Fall 2018.