Press Release: Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students (MAPSS) Reacts to Speech From the Throne

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October 9, 2020 

WINNIPEG, MB – Yesterday the Honourable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Manitoba, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the Third Session of the 42nd Manitoba Legislature. While the speech contains a number of crucial commitments, the Government of Manitoba’s plans in some ways fall short of its stated duty to protect Manitobans – which should include the province’s post-secondary institutions, and our students.

The Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students (MAPSS) is pleased that the Government of Manitoba remains committed to helping Manitobans “transition to work, get training, and achieve financial independence,” as part of an “ongoing goal of government assistance programs.” ACCESS programs in Manitoba are an effective means to do just that by helping eligible northern, Indigenous and low-income students overcome systemic barriers post-secondary education. It is our hope that increased funding and support for ACCESS programs will be part of the Government’s plans to develop Manitoba’s labour force. These programs also have the dual benefit of providing an organic investment back into Manitoba communities. Consider the discipline of social work alone: since 1985, over 700 inner-city social work graduates of ACCESS programs have gone on to work for either the provincial government or community-based organizations.

We also agree with the Government of Manitoba that greater measures are needed to ensure “our workers get the education and labour market training they need to be job ready.” MAPSS continues work begun by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union in advocating for the implementation of a post-secondary online credit transfer database. A publicly available, centralized and verified listing of course transferability between the province’s post-secondary institutions will aid students looking to re-start or finish their degrees at a different institution from the one they started at. A credit transfer database would also help to address education gaps and skills development in rural areas by increasing the ease through which rural students can complete entire degrees via online learning. For Manitoba’s economy, this means more highly skilled workers will be able to enter the labour market sooner and aid in the province’s post-pandemic economic recovery rather than struggling with administrative hurdles to find the right courses to finish their studies or certification. We also continue to stress the importance of lowering textbook costs by adopting open educational resources (OER), and improving rural broadband capacity province-wide. 

However, under the agenda laid out by the Government in its Throne Speech – where citizens were presented with five guaranteed commitments, including a commitment to protect education – post-secondary education was seemingly omitted, with the Province choosing to address only K-12 students. Let us be clear: protecting Manitobans requires that we protect their post-secondary institutions as well. And yet, for four successive years, Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions have seen decreases in operating grant funding from our provincial government. Such cuts manifest as tuition increases, shrinking of student services, and constraints on institutions’ strategic decision-making.

The government also expressed their intention to pass legislation to better align post-secondary institutions with labour market needs. Making institutional funding dependent on performance-based metrics is a controversial issue among post-secondary students. Although, one thing is certain: institutions should be given a robust level of funding if institutions meet those metrics. A decision to impose a performance-based funding (PBF) model for operating grants that remain stagnant or are reduced every year as a percentage of government spending will be harmful and counterproductive. Given the Government’s stated commitment to PBF, MAPSS will remain vigilant in highlighting and addressing any unintended consequences such a model may present, and will engage the Government by recommending responsible implementation measures that students desire.

Finally: international students, given their language proficiency, ambition, cultural affinity for Canada, and high levels of education, represent some of the best candidates for immigration to the province of Manitoba. We appreciate the Government’s recognition of these facts. And yet, the Government continues to exploit our best and brightest when it comes to their health: international students in Manitoba pay the highest health care coverage prices in Canada due to being forced to purchase private coverage plans based on a 200% non-resident surcharge. MAPSS remains firm in our recommendation for the Government of Manitoba to allow all international students the ability to buy into Manitoba’s public health care system at a cost-neutral rate to the government.

The Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students is a young, informal coalition of three post-secondary student organizations in Manitoba: The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU), The University of Manitoba Graduate Students Association (UMGSA) and the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA). Together, we represent over 61,000 students. 

For media comment and inquiries: 

Kristin Smith,

VP Advocacy, UMSU

vpa@umsu.ca

 

Jelynn Dela Cruz,

President, UMSU

pres@umsu.ca

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