By Dirk Meissner, Canadian Press, 12 February 2002
Post-secondary institutions got the green light Monday to raise tuition fees after a six-year freeze and the B.C. government prepared for a new session by getting an injunction against protesters camped on the building’s lawn.
British Columbia has the second lowest post-secondary tuition fees in Canada, but institutions complained the low fees compromised the quality of education, said Advanced Education Minister Shirley Bond.
The Liberal government will introduce legislation that gives post secondary institutions autonomy over tuition-fee decisions, she said.
“Six years of frozen fees, combined with lack of proper funding in previous years, have put enormous financial pressures on institutions,” Bond said.
“Institutions have firmly told us that they need this flexibility to protect and improve the quality of education they provide and meet students’ needs,” she said.
New Democrat MLA Jenny Kwan accused Premier Gordon Campbell of breaking his election promise of keeping education affordable and accessible to British Columbians.
The previous NDP government froze tuition fees.
A spokesman for the association representing university professors in British Columbia and the head of the university presidents’ council said a 15-per-cent tuition fee increase is needed to simply maintain the status quo, but the likelihood is that the increases will be higher.
The Canadian Federation of Students condemned the move.
Spokeswoman Summer McFadyen said few young people will be able to afford post-secondary education.
“They reality is this decision means many people are going to drop out of school,” she said.
She said the University of British Columbia has already told medical and law students to expect a $10,000 fee increase this fall, while college students could see their fees double.
The move follows a national day of protest last Wednesday by students over rising fees elsewhere in Canada. In Victoria, the protesters urged the government to maintain the freeze.
Afterward, a protest camp was erected on the front lawn of the legislature.
Community activists joined the students as the tent city, dubbed Camp Campbell, continued to grow during the week to about 60 people and 20 tents by Monday.
The camp included a makeshift kitchen and a 10-metre-high geodesic dome that was to serve as a “people’s embassy.”
“We did use the tuition protest as a launch pad, but it’s far from just about tuition,” said protester Ben Isitt, a history student. “We’re here to stop the Liberal government’s agenda of cutbacks and privatization.”
The Liberals plan to cut 11,770 government jobs – one third of the provincial public service – over three years and chop government spending by an average of 25 per cent.
Campbell said Monday he’d seen enough of the protest camp and it was time for it to leave the legislature grounds.
So the government went to court and got an injunction ordering the tent city to be removed. Some protesters left Monday evening, but most stayed and none of the tents were taken down.
It was not known when police would enforce the injunction.
“The lawns of the legislature are an appropriate place for people to lodge their concerns about government, to protest against government, but I don’t think it’s a good place to launch a housing project,” Campbell said.