On Friday October 9, I raised concerns about the government's interference in collective bargaining between the University of Manitoba administration and the faculty. During the course of the last several weeks, I have had discussions with many faculty members at the University of Manitoba about the situation at the university. Salaries are low compared to other major universities in Canada, and due as well to the uncertainties created by the style of the Conservative government of the last few years in Manitoba, there have been difficulties in recruiting and retaining professors. The result has been low morale, and the remaining faculty having to fill in for the empty places which are not filled and for those who have left. The situation has resulted in critical shortages in some faculties. In addition faculty who are currently bargaining with the administration at the University of Manitoba, have been told that the provincial Conservative government has been giving directions with respect to the bargaining. Such interference in University-Faculty bargaining has, I am told, not happened in this way until after the present Conservative government was elected in 2016. Since a government spokesperson, responding to concerns about the province interfering in university-faculty bargaining, said this was the normal practice, I asked the Premier to provide an example of such practice in the past. Premier Goertzen was unable to provide such an example. Indeed, he denied that the government was interfering, in spite of statements from other sources that it was happening. I am afraid, in this instance, the other sources are more credible than the Premier.
U of M Faculty Association Labour Dispute - Bargaining Interference Concerns
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, the government has directly interfered in bargaining between the University of Manitoba administration and faculty. The actions of government are contrary to the principle that universities are independent.
The Premier, who has expressed pride in his actions, has created a major problem for the University of Manitoba when it comes to faculty recruitment and retention, the capacity to have enough faculty to teach the courses being delivered and the ability of the university to carry out high-quality research.
The government has also said this has been the normal practice for years.
Can the government give specific earlier examples of when it was normal practice in the case of university faculty bargaining?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Premier): The member is wrong in much of his assertion. He is right, though, that we do have pride in our universities. I spent eight years at the University of Manitoba. I know there are many members on this side of the House who spent many years in post-secondary education in Manitoba. I'm sure there are many on the other side, as well, Madam Speaker.
We know that it can be transformative for individuals when they have the opportunity to go to post-secondary education. We want that to be a good experience. We want it to be a positive experience. We want it to be a rewarding experience for them throughout their life.
That is the reason why we're reaching out to the universities, hearing about how the pandemic has affected their ability to deliver programs. I look forward to a productive meeting with the presidents of the post-secondary institutions this afternoon, together with our very capable and engaged Minister of Advanced Education.