On July 24, 2014, the Liberal government passed their 2014 Budget. The new fiscal plan is identical to the budget that sparked the election. As reported in OR, this budget means declining per-student funding for Ontario’s universities. But it is not the only born-again legislation with implications for faculty.
When the election was called in May, all Bills on the order paper effectively died. However, two of these moribund documents have returned, both carrying provisions that will affect professors and academic librarians. The first, Bill 8 (formerly Bill 179) Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, seeks to extend the power of the Ontario Ombudsman over universities. OCUFA is concerned that these new powers might allow the Ombudsman to interfere in core areas of academic freedom, such as grading and course design. We have met with government officials to outline these issues, and will be meeting with the Ombudsman in the coming weeks. We will also be proposing amendments to Bill 8, with the goal of protecting academic freedom while building better accountability arrangements.
Bill 10 (formerly Bill 151) Child Care Modernization Act expands the government’s power to collect personal information for certain policy purposes. This also includes the personal information of professors and academic librarians. The provisions are intended to support the introduction of the Ontario Education Number (OEN), an identifier that will allow the government to track students from primary to secondary to postsecondary education. However, it also increases government access to the personal data of faculty members, which could be used to track their activities and performance. This power could potentially represent a serious violation of academic freedom. OCUFA has made its concerns known to government, and have been assured that the collection of faculty data is not the goal of the Bill. We will continue working with government to ensure that the proposed Act respects the rights of faculty.
It is unclear when these Bills will pass and become legislation. OCUFA Report will publish the latest updates as they become available.