Manitoba government launches review of province's colleges

The Manitoba government has launched a review of provincial colleges sparking concern from the union that represents post-secondary instructors.

Probe sparks concern from union representing instructors

The Pallister government has launched a review into Manitoba colleges — the latest in a series launched by the Pallister government, is bad news for college staffers. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

The Manitoba government has launched a review of provincial colleges, sparking concern among a union that represents post-secondary instructors.

The college review is the first in Manitoba since 2007 and will probe financial management, efficiency and effectiveness along with student outcomes and market demand for programs.

Manitoba Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart said the report will hopefully improve co-ordination in schools, but the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union said the review, the latest in a series launched by the province, is bad news for college staffers.

"Every review that they're looking at right now has led to cuts in services for Manitobans and that's scary," said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky.

She said the recent cancellation of dental assistant programs at Red River College in Winkler and the University College of the North in The Pas has created job disruptions and bumping among college instructors. She wonders if cuts could be next with the review.

"Our members up there are very scared that they're not going to have a job. They're worried about the programs that are going to be out there for Manitobans," she said.

Gawronsky said the union only found out about the suspension of the programs last week, and some instructors in The Pas who were preparing to present the program at a job fair were blindsided.

'A tough decision'

"The manager came in and said, 'Oh take that one down,' and then told them, 'No, your program has been suspended,'" Gawronsky said.

Representatives at both Red River and the University College of the North said they decided to pull the plug on their programs due to low enrolment.

Six students graduated from the program this year in The Pas, said University College of the North spokesperson Jim Scott.

"It's a tough decision. I mean you feel bad about it. You really do feel bad about it, but you gotta do what's right in the long run," Scott said, adding one dental instructor retired and another is moving into a new role at the college.

Red River College said one employee in Winkler has been bumped as a result of the cancellation of the dental program there, but the college said the decision to temporarily end the program wasn't due to any cut in funding.

A spokesperson for Wishart said student recruitment efforts have been difficult because, in some circumstances, individuals are permitted to work as dental assistants without formal training.

The province has hired higher education strategy associates to conduct the review, and a report is expected to be delivered to the government in late 2017.

Gawronsky said she wants a meeting with Wishart to discuss the changes that are now afoot at colleges.

Red River College said the school is starting its own review of its dental assisting program and the decline in enrolment over the past few years.


  • A previous version of this story quoted a Red River College spokesperson saying no employees were undergoing a bumping process. In fact, the spokesperson later clarified that one employee had been impacted by the cut to the dental program.
    Jun 20, 2017 8:51 PM CT


​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: