UManitoba board votes 'yes' to controversial budget cuts

The board of governors at the University of Manitoba has voted through a set of budget cuts students have been protesting for months.

Student-led mock 'funeral' event meant to highlight impact of proposed 4% cut at U of M

The University of Manitoba approved approximate budget cuts of 4 per cent to many departments May 19. (Aldos Rios)

The board of governors at the University of Manitoba has voted through a set of budget cuts students have been protesting for months.

The university's board voted around 5 p.m. Tuesday on a draft budget that will see an approximate cut of four per cent to many departments at the university. The Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, the Faculty of Engineering and the Asper School of Business will only face cuts of around two per cent.

A university spokesperson said the cut is needed because the university has a $14M shortfall after this year's provincial grant.

'Death' of education

Students staged a mock funeral on the University of Manitoba campus Tuesday afternoon to mark what they call the "death" of education due to proposed budget cuts. (Kiran Dhillon/CBC)
Student groups staged a mock funeral on the University of Manitoba campus Tuesday afternoon to mark what they called the "death" of education, after proposed budget cuts.

Michael Barkman, chair for Canadian Federation of Students in Manitoba, said he didn't expect the funeral event to reverse the proposed cuts.

The process for these budget cuts has been largely undemocratic- Michael Barkman, chair, Canadian Federation of Students in Manitoba

"The event today is meant to inspire people to think about what it actually means for the university," Barkman said. "It's going to be a fun event and definitely a symbol for what we think the budget cuts mean at the U of M."

It is unknown what the cuts will mean for students and staff at the university. A spokesperson said the cuts will be determined later by each department.

"Especially what we find problematic, is the process for these budget cuts has been largely undemocratic and hasn't consulted students and faculty," Barkman said.

The Canadian Federation of Students in Manitoba suggested one alternative would be to limit capital spending on construction, and put that money into the operating budget.

"We see it problematic when the essential part of a university is classes and education and it's being cut over buildings," Barkman said.

Grants not a way to address problem

David Barnard, president of the U of M, said the university is caught between a rock and a hard place. 

"Costs at universities are increasing faster than revenues are increasing," he said. "And the costs are driven by salaries and buying energy and buying materials for libraries and so on. So these are things that are going up in price and they are going up in price faster than the grant increases are going up."

While student groups called on the administration to reign in spending on infrastructure, Barnard said cutting capital projects won't solve the school's budget crisis.

"It's not a way to address the problem in an ongoing way," he said. "What we need is a way to address the problem that can be repeated from year to year and not leave the university in difficult circumstances."

Minister defends funding level

But Minister of Education and Advanced Learning James Allum said the province has funded universities to an appropriate level.

He said the U of M got an increase this year.

"Let's remember our government is an outlier among governments across Canada in terms of increasing funding to post-secondary institutions. This year alone it almost reaches three per cent. I defy you to find another government in Canada who's doing the same," he said. 

Opposition attacks government over cuts

The Manitoba Liberals said the cuts are the fault of the provincial government.

"Let's be clear, these cuts are the result of the Selinger NDP's mismanagement, and Manitoba's Liberal team believes it is time for a new approach," wrote Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari in a statement.

The Liberals said they would remove a tax tied to payroll from colleges and universities.

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris spent half a decade as a political reporter for CBC Winnipeg, but now that he's returned to his hometown of Toronto, he's excitedly sinking his teeth in all sorts of stories. Discovering new neighbourhoods isn't a 9 to 5 job and after years away, he has a lot to catch up on. When he's not running around the city with a camera, you can find him on the island soaking up the sun or riding the trails along the Don River.