By Natalie Sit
The new Post-Secondary Learning Bill could change how students’ unions operate. The current wording leads some to believe the Alberta government and boards of governors will have too much power over students’ unions.
"It centralizes the government’s control over students’ unions if the bill is enacted," said Alberta Liberal Learning Critic Don Massey. "It’s really a stressful point for students. The [provincial] government could order the audit of [students’ unions’] books and dissolve it. It seems to be very undemocratic."
However, Alberta Learning Minister Lyle Oberg thinks an audit of the books could help students.
"There have been students’ union executives who have absconded with money," said Oberg. "It has happened across Canada. An audit would show if something is going on."
If, after an audit, the board of governors determines the affairs of the student organization are managed in an irregular manner, they can order further investigation. University of Calgary Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist finds this is a little disturbing.
"Irregular manner is not defined," said Gilchrist. "What if tuition protest is defined as irregular manner? Maybe the board thought it was not a good use of students’ money and remove us even though students thought it was good."
Also of concern for both Massey and Gilchrist is the tuition cap now under regulation. Gilchrist believes the government could allow tuition to fund more than 30 per cent of the operating budget. But Oberg said the cap caught a couple universities because they had cut expenses and if they raised tuition, it would surpass the 30 per cent cap.
To combat the Post-Secondary Learning Bill, the Council of Alberta University Students is lobbying MLAs around the province. SU Vice-President External Lauren Batiuk is talking to Calgary area MLAs throughout the summer. CAUS is focusing on four areas: students’ unions are the official representation of students, audit and investigation, the power of student associations and borrowing powers.
"We’ve got some positive feedback," said Batiuk. "We’re building good relationships. As for alterations it’s too early to forecast. But we’re seeing some positive stuff."