What the 2023 provincial election results mean for students

Alberta’s provincial election on May 29, 2023, ultimately resulted in the United Conservative Party (UCP) being re-elected with a reduced majority. If you’re curious about the implications for post-secondary students as a result of this election, then keep reading! 

The UCP won 49 seats in the Legislative Assembly, while the New Democratic Party (NDP) increased their seat count from 24 to 38. Across Alberta, the popular vote favoured the UCP, who won 52.6% of the vote to the NDP’s 44%. In Calgary, the NDP led slightly, garnering 49.3% of the popular vote compared to the UCP’s 48.2%. The riding where MRU is located, Calgary Elbow, flipped from the UCP to the NDP. 

Fun fact! The Wyckham House Student Centre hosted an advance polling station and 841 people used it to cast their vote early. For full results, visit this link

In the last four years, Alberta undergraduate students have been faced with major challenges. Since 2019, tuition fees at MRU have increased by 26.5% (7% annually in 2020, 2021, and 2022, and 5.5% in 2023) — which amounts to a 29% increase when compounded. Mount Royal’s mandatory fees have also seen significant increases. For instance, the recreation fee for full-time students has risen by 46% (from $96 in 2019 to $140 in 2023), and the student services fee for full-time students has seen a substantial increase of 228% ($121 in 2019 to $397 in 2023).

In addition, the elimination of education tax credits in 2019 has made it more difficult to repay student loans, and despite its notable attributes, Alberta continues to be recognized as one of the provinces in Canada that provides fewer non-repayable financial aid options such as grants and bursaries. In 2019, the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) — a government program that helped students gain work experience such as internships over the summer months — was also cancelled.

At the same time, inflation continues to keep the price of food, gas, and other essentials high, while rental choice in Calgary is limited and rental rates are increasing steeply — all of which heavily impacts students.

It is clear that student representatives across the province have a lot of work ahead of them to make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible for students. 

With the provincial election results decided, an important consideration for student advocates relates to where the UCP (who will be the party to form government) won their seats. The UCP’s caucus will be the most rural-based government that Alberta has seen in decades; only 12 of 46 seats in Calgary and Edmonton were won by the UCP. As such, almost all of Alberta’s major universities are located in ridings not controlled by the UCP. This may represent a challenge to student advocates, who need to relate student issues to the appropriate MLAs to show how important post-secondary education is for the future of the province.

With all this said, how could the 2023 election results impact you as an MRU student?

It’s impossible to predict the future, but from what we’ve heard so far, the UCP has made the following promises related to post-secondary education:

  • A 2% cap on tuition increases year-over-year at the legislative level beginning in 2024.
  • Reduced provincial interest rates on student loans.
  • Doubling the interest-free grace period for student loans from 6 to 12 months.
  • Investing $500 million over the next four years for programs with high-demand careers like doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, scientists, IT professionals, and more, while providing more financial assistance directly to students so they can attend the programs they need.

Your SAMRU Representation Executive Council will continue to be active this year, working with municipal, provincial, and national student groups to advocate for positive changes to make your life easier while attending MRU. If you have a concern you’d like to bring to your student representatives, we want to hear it! You can email us anytime at representation@samru.ca.