Bill 40 sounded like a good idea at first.
By taking the tuition debate out of legislature and into Tory-dictated regulation, students will see a new tuition policy for the fall more flexible than anything created in legislation. It can also be continually improved upon, at least according to Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard. Herard claims Bill 40, which was introduced to legislature May 8 and is expected to pass this week, is not only a good idea, but a necessity to pass policy while legislature is still in session.
The move to regulation will have a favourable outcome for students this year, but the new policy comes at the cost of democracy. It will allow the Tories to forgo democratic processes presently necessary in dictating new policy simply because it's more convenient for them. It may look good now, but ten years down the road when the government decides post-secondary education is no longer a priority, a regulated policy will mean students' needs can be quickly de-prioritized without legislative debate.
Herard says students and opposition shouldn't be concerned because the new policy comes with his personal guarantee that students will be satisfied. With a politician's satisfaction guarantee as the only check on government power, it's obvious why students should be concerned.
Herard's insistence that regulation is required to get a policy in place for fall 2006 shows a lack of foresight and commitment to students.
When the Tories launched their post-secondary education review in June 2005-almost an entire year ago-it was no secret that accessibility was on the agenda. The government then formally committed to a new tuition policy in their 2006 budget, released in March. The resignation of Advanced Education Minister David Hancock undoubtedly threw a wrench into the process, but if education is a priority, this timeline should have been ample to create a policy in legislature.
But now, after a couple months of procrastination, the Tories are exploring extreme measures to keep their initial promise. It's like a student promising to get a paper in on time, but with the stipulation that the paper may or may not be on material discussed in class. Since the professor may be reasonably concerned, this paper also comes with a personal guarantee that the professor will really like it, even if it differs from the original assignment.
Bill 40 will be good for students next year, and even in the next five years. But down the road when priorities change, or when the oil sands prove a little less profitable for the Alberta government, this tuition policy will hurt students.