The Alberta Federation of Labour statement on the Ontario court ruling against the “Student Choice Initiative”
EDMONTON - In 2019, the Ford government instituted its “Student Choice Initiative” that interfered with students’ unions’ internal processes by allowing students to ‘opt out’ of paying for services the government deemed “non-essential.”
Today, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against the Ford government. Justice Grant Huscoft wrote, “Mandatory fees for student associations - collected by universities and remitted to the student associations - have been in place in universities since the 1960s.” He went on to write, that the Student Choice Initiative “is a profound interference in university autonomy…”.
This Ontario court ruling has implications for Alberta as the Kenney government has sought similar interference in unions, and the dues they collect through Bill 32 passed in 2020.
Unions are private organizations that have their own robust system of democratic control by members. Unions are, and should be, free of government interference. Through our own system of democratic decision making, union members themselves determine the direction and priorities of their union, not the government.
Through Bill 32, Jason Kenney and the UCP want to defund and defang unions in the political arena by tying them up in reams of red tape. Bill 32 gives the Kenney Cabinet the unprecedented power to set the “time and frequency” when unions can make changes to their dues, and suggests that the government can also set the amount. It divides union spending between collective bargaining and grievance handling, and then everything else, which includes organizing, education, support for charities and political advocacy. Bill 32 requires unions to get individual worker consent on what it deems as “non-essential” activities, or unions are disallowed by the Kenney government to spend that worker’s dues.
The goal of Kenney’s Bill 32 is the same as Ford’s Student Choice Initiative. It’s to get a perceived political opponent off the field of play using by using the government to interfere in private organizations’ internal affairs. In Ontario, it’s students’ unions. In Alberta, it’s unions.
We’re ready to fight to keep government out of unions. We will win.
Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, “Students and Workers Celebrate Win Against the SCI Legal Appeal,” August 4, 2021 https://cfsontario.ca/2021/08/04/students-and-workers-celebrate-win-against-the-sci-legal-appeal/
CBC News, “Ford government's Student Choice Initiative quashed in court — again,” August 4, 2021
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