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United Conservative Party to debate post-secondary policy at founding convention

By Jason Herring, May 2 2018 —

Resolutions involving post-secondaries are among those considered for debate the United Conservative Party founding annual general meeting.

A list of almost 800 drafted resolutions for this weekend’s meeting obtained by the Gauntlet contains proposals regarding topics like student associations, relationships with the private sector and freedom of speech on campus. The UCP will release a reduced list of 250 policies up for debate on May 4.

A number of proposals in the document address how funding is allocated to post-secondary institutions. One says the province should “align the funding of university degree, post-secondary and trade programs according to anticipated skills demand.”

Relationships between public post-secondary institutions and private-sector corporations are mentioned in another resolution, which says the province should “expand research funding by encouraging private-sector partnerships, while respecting academic freedom.” In October 2017, a watchdog group found University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon’s relationship with energy company Enbridge compromised academic freedom.

Another proposed policy wants the province to “require publicly funded post-secondary institutions to implement a policy guaranteeing the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly of all students and staff on campus.”

Multiple drafted resolutions discuss students’ associations at public post-secondary institutions. One says that Alberta should “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.” A resolution added by the UCP riding in Drumheller-Stettler aims to “ensure students’ union fees at post-secondary institutions are voluntary,” recommending tiered membership fees aligning with different levels of students’ union services. When asked about the proposed policy in February 2018, then-U of C SU president Branden Cave said that voluntary student fees would be damaging, especially to smaller unions across the province.

“The concern for us has a lot to do with the financial impact this would have particularly on our peer institutions,” Cave said. “Most of our revenues are generated through our businesses, but I think the financial impact on peer institutions across the province would be quite severe.”

A policy proposed by the UCP riding of Calgary-Hays reflects the idea of the “Alberta advantage” seen throughout the list of draft resolutions. It wants the province to “ensure Alberta residents always have first choice for post-secondary programs before any international students are accepted.”

The UCP’s founding annual general meeting takes place from May 4–6 in Red Deer.


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