Peter Bjornson, the newly appointed minister of education and advanced learning, has formally begun to take on the responsibilities of his new position. Bjornson landed in his new position following a difficult month for the Manitoba NDP, which saw the resignation of five former cabinet ministers who questioned Premier Greg Selinger’s leadership.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to help implement our plan to improve the quality of education in Manitoba, help young people get good jobs, and keep education affordable for parents and students,” Bjornson told the Manitoban.
Although he has only held the position of minister of education and advanced learning for a few weeks, Bjornson faces a number of issues, including looming budget cuts at the University of Manitoba.
The elimination of interest rates on student loans was announced during last Wednesday’s throne speech.
Along with the elimination of interest on student loans, the NDP vowed to create new educational opportunities for the emerging workforce and economy by combining academic and technical skills; endorsing more distance education and online courses; and launching a new Credit Transfer Portal to ease the credit transfer process across programs and institutions.
Manitoba’s government also stated an intent to introduce more industry representatives in the classroom and to collaborate with Aboriginal Peoples and promote indigenous educational opportunities, such as a proposal to work with the U of M for a master of social work in indigenous knowledge.
The province’s emphasis on training and education is aimed at helping young people build their lives here in Manitoba by ensuring good jobs through learning opportunities. The province’s outlook on education for the new economy involves investment in education as its cornerstone, with an emphasis on accessible, affordable post-secondary education.
Bjornson told the Manitoban that the NDP’s approach to ensuring student success is far different than that of the leader of the opposition, the Progressive Conservatives’ Brian Pallister.
According to Bjornson, the NDP government will continue to work with students to build a post-secondary system defined by “quality, affordability, and accessibility.”
As for tuition levels, Bjornson stated that the province should expect the government’s policy to remain consistent in terms of freezing university tuition fees at the rate of inflation.
Bjornson also told the Manitoban that the government would continue to work alongside universities in order to come up with some possible solutions to the problem of underfunding and the university-wide budget cuts at the U of M.
“Our focus has been to continue investing in our colleges and universities and to bring in measures to ensure that university remains affordable and accessible,” said Bjornson.
Christian Pierce, UMSU vice-president external, said that the union had not yet had an opportunity to meet with the new minister and promised to continue to lobby for increased funding for post-secondary education and greater access for everyone.