2017 Christmas Letter from SAFA President
Once again another academic year at SAIT is almost at a close. For some of our faculty the fall came and went far too quickly, for others it seemed like it would never end. For many of us though the seasons are moving by quite steadily, and more often they pass quite un-noticed. However, the ultimate tradition, we can always rely on- is Christmas; that time of year for rejoicing and celebrating with family and friends. Sacrificing the December budget for that one last gift, or extending our limit on those easily accessible credit cards. Meanwhile psychologically readying ourselves for the over indulgences we are about to embark on. But then again, has the luster of the festive season lost some of that gleam? Has it now just become the same old, same old?
In these days of uncertainty, as we transition through the economic downturn, wage freezes and an unpredictable employment market, has stress and anxiety dampened our once joyful spirit? Those inconspicuous gag gifts and Christmas cards that we once exchanged with fellow partners and colleagues are they now becoming less frequent? Those weeks and days we spent cruising the malls for a good old sale, being pestered relentlessly by the kids to visit Santa’s grotto. Balancing the winter coats, scarves and toques on one arm, while cutting the circulation off your fingers on the other hand trying to carry several shopping bags. Good memories for most of us.
Moreover, has the lure of “Black Friday”, and the quick and efficient use of E-bay and on-line shopping made us into Grinch’s, or are we becoming exceedingly cautious about our shrinking wallets, and the realization that a salary increase is not in our immediate future? Even more alarming is the announcement by the NDP’s Finance Minister Joe Ceci that the Provincial Government would like to put a freeze on public sector unions to accept a wage freeze in current contract talks. Furthermore, Ceci said the government is extending the salary freeze for management and non-union employees to September 30, 2019. Yet the unemployment rate is still forecast at eight per cent, but the government acknowledges that two-thirds of the 62,000 jobs lost during the recession have come back?? Unless Ceci has been gifted with psychic powers, we as a career building institution don’t see a hiring trend from industry that support those numbers. I believe as tax payers we have come to the realization that oil prices will never top the seventy to eighty dollar mark. Alberta Party caucus leader Greg Clark made an interesting comment, “both the NDP and UCP are being unrealistic, they both rely on the price of oil going up to fix problems that face Alberta, which is what we have been doing in this province for 40 plus years”.
Then just as we thought the economic climate could not get any gloomier, Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt announced on November 30, 2017 the extension to the post-secondary tuition freeze for the 2018-19 school year. However, there was a glimmer of optimism from the Minister in that schools will be compensated for the revenue differences. Tuition freezes are always welcomed news for students. However, the freeze will not apply to International students, many who struggle with the high cost of tuition, becoming financially and emotionally disillusioned. Schmidt concluded that details about how the government will pay for the added freeze will be revealed in the spring. That is when the province will announce a new tuition and fees policy. Which will also include a long term funding strategy and an update on international student tuition.
As we wait for the uncertainties of the political world. Let us try and focus on the spirit of Christmas, engaging in whatever events and activities that bring us some measure of joy.
May the spirit of Christmas be with you all this year.
James McWilliams, SAFA President.