In 2013 the Board of Governors established a committee on revision of the UNB Act […]. As with acts of incorporation generally, revisions are made from time to time. The UNB Act has evolved over the past century and a half, with the 1968 revisions being among the most momentous as they placed the processes of collegial governance on a firm legal footing.

Revisions to the Act that weaken collegial processes would weaken collegial rights set out in the Collective Agreement. This concern is one of the important reasons AUNBT and its members must take seriously the proposed changes to the Act.

AUNBT Position Paper on the Proposed Changes to the UNB Act (August 2014)

Overview

Work by [UNB Board of Governors’] Act revision committee commenced in early 2013 and the committee published a complete draft early in the autumn 2014 semester, without ever having consulted with organizations whose members’ rights might be adversely affected, such as the two senates or AUNBT, each of which existed and operated under legislative frameworks. Moreover, the UNB Act is and has always been a public act, and any change is subject to the legislative amending process for such acts (there is a different process for private acts). For changes to public acts, the government may require that public consultations be part of the process.

The radical character of the 2014 draft revision is clear from a provision that, if enacted, would have given the board unilateral power to discontinue either or both senates, or to establish a new senate or senates with jurisdiction(s) determined unilaterally by the board. Restructuring the senates by such a device potentially could also weaken certain articles in AUNBT collective agreements outside of the collective bargaining process. These and other provisions in the draft, such as elimination of the legislative oversight sections of the existing Act were the cause of widespread concern.

When the board committee’s draft was published, an accompanying announcement included a deadline of six weeks hence for responses. The senates and AUNBT objected that this was unreasonable for such complex changes and demanded a longer response period. The initially announced period was then extended to six months.

Because AUNBT was able promptly to assemble resources, it took the lead in analyzing the draft revision and developing an appropriate response. It appointed an 11-member bi-campus task force composed of active and retired academic staff from a wide range of disciplines, including several members of its executive committee some of whom also were members of one or the other senate. Unlike the senates, the faculty union had a budget and ability to retain independent legal counsel to assist its task force. The task force met many times over a two-month period, analyzing the proposed revisions and studying university acts in other provinces. Ultimately, the task force concluded that the draft revision proposed by the Board was so radical it was not an appropriate basis for revision of the Act. The AUNBT task force then decided to develop an alternative draft Act revision that would not alter the powers of the board or senates, but would update the existing version to reflect current terminology and practice, to promote certain positive and seemingly uncontroversial changes, and to simplify several sections. This draft revision was publicly posted on the AUNBT website.

UNB is the Province’s largest university and its proper functioning is of public interest. In addition to the AUNBT task force, the AUNBT executive committee, members of the senates, many other members of the academic staff and a few board members, along with several retired faculty members, several retired senior administrators, several former board members, and several prominent alumni took an active interest both in the board committee’s draft and the AUNBT task force’s draft. Both drafts were discussed in separate series of well-attended information meetings. The AUNBT draft was well received, while in contrast the board committee’s draft was poorly received. Several faculty members and several AUNBT representatives had meetings with the deputy minister in the Department of Postsecondary Education, Training and Labour who confirmed that the UNB Act is a public act. The deputy minister also confirmed that Department officials had advised representatives of the UNB board that the UNB Act is a public act.

Following the two sets of information meetings, the board committee responded by publishing a new, much more circumscribed draft revision.

AUNBT publicly announced it would support this new set of proposed changes, except one item pertaining to property transactions. In this announcement AUNBT declared its willingness to work with the board and the senates in a transparent process to further develop appropriate amendments to the Act. AUNBT also sent a publicly posted letter to the relevant ministers and opposition leaders confirming this position. The same letter requested an opportunity for AUNBT and the public to make representations to the Legislative Assembly in connection with any proposed amendments to the Act. [For full documentation, including the AUNBT letter to Ministers Horsman and Landry, and the response from Minister Landry, see below: “AUNBT Response and Related Documents”]

Adopted from “Turning the Clock Back”, Jon Thompson
(Centre For Free Expression, Sept 30, 2016)


Board of Governors’ Proposed Revisions (2013-14)
AUNBT Response and Related Documents (2014-15)
Additional documents
Media coverage (2014-15)

Current Status

To date the UNB Board has not submitted any Act amendments to the government. However, it has approached AUNBT on a possible amendment pertaining to property transactions, and discussions are now ongoing that potentially could lead to an agreed draft amendment on this topic.

Soon after the decision of the Board of Governors to shelve the radical revision of the UNB Act in May of 2015, UNB approached AUNBT to enter into discussions about a proposal to make more limited changes to articles 13 and 14 of the Act, in particular, to increase the period for which Cabinet approval of the leasing of land is not required from 21 to 61 years. Since then, three representatives of the AUNBT UNB Act Task Force have been meeting with three representatives of UNB. AUNBT has responded to UNB’s concern about not having sufficient flexibility in developing and leasing its non-core lands. However, we have maintained that, in the public interest, some degree of government oversight should be retained with respect to these matters similar to the framework for universities in Alberta. Current discussions center on a proposed framework which would move oversight from the Lieutenant-Governor in Council (Cabinet) to the Minister, and from approval of individual leases to confirmation of a long-term land use and development plan. This would provide UNB with flexibility so long as they follow a well-articulated process of broad consultation and feedback with institutional and community stakeholders while setting out the composition of this plan. In August 2017, UNB and AUNBT representatives agreed that this process would be converted from its current diagrammatic form to a written form for detailed review and discussion. The process and overall proposal will be discussed with the AUNBT UNB Act Task Force and AUNBT Executive and we expect UNB will bring it before the Senates for discussion.