U of A lobbying for exemptions from Bill 18

"The only tool in Bill 18 is to send money back to Ottawa. My message to Smith was Bill 18 is not the right tool," President and Vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan says.

On April 10, the first reading of Bill 18: Provincial Priorities Act passed in the Alberta legislature. If fully passed, provincial entities including post-secondary institutions (PSI) will need prior approval from the provincial government to change existing agreements with the federal government and make new ones. Under the bill, PSIs would need provincial government approval to receive federal research grants.

In a statement published May 2, U of A President and Vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan said the bill “poses considerable risks.” He wrote that provincial intervention in research funding would disadvantage universities, researcher recruitment, and retention efforts. Flanagan called on the removal of PSIs from the bill, or an exemption of federal research funding to PSIs.

On April 29, the U of A General Faculties Council (GFC) passed a motion to oppose the proposed bill and call for a withdrawal of the bill unless PSIs are fully exempted.

University consulting with provincial government about Bill 18

At the June 14 Board of Governors meeting, Flanagan said that Premier Danielle Smith and Minister of Advanced Education Rajan Sawhney hosted a roundtable on May 24. Alberta PSI presidents and board chairs attended the meeting. Flanagan said the conversation continued when Smith visited North Campus on May 29 to learn about U of A’s energy research.

“We used this as an opportunity to have further conversations about Bill 18, deconsolidation, enrolment growth,” Flanagan said.

For Bill 18, Flanagan said he’s advocating for the government to help the U of A raise more federal research funding that has “direct relevance to Alberta’s economy. Particularly the energy sector.”

“The only tool in Bill 18 is to send money back to Ottawa. My message to Smith was Bill 18 is not the right tool,” Flanagan said. “We will continue to press for exemptions for federal research funding.”

Board Chair Kate Chisolm added that Flanagan is “vociferous in his lobbying” on Bill 18. They are also asking the provincial government to fund perceived gaps in the university’s research, Chisolm said.

U of A GSA signs joint letter with University of Calgary GSA

On April 30, the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and University of Calgary GSA co-signed a letter to Smith that detailed the associations’ concerns over Bill 18.

The joint letter called for a withdrawal of the bill and a thorough consultation with graduate students. According to the letter, the GSAs have not yet met with a member of the current cabinet, despite having sent multiple invitations this past year.

In an interview with The Gateway, U of A GSA President Haseeb Arshad said graduate students are concerned about Bill 18’s possible impact on academic freedom and talent retention.

“We really want to have proper consultation so that we can convey our concerns,” Arshad said. He added that the GSA is reaching out to faculty, students, and faculty associations for support.

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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