From the President’s Desk: Response to Bill 18, the Provincial Priorities Act, 2024

Advocating for the U of A and its world-class researchers.

The University of Alberta Main Quad, on May 1, 2020

On April 10, 2024, the Government of Alberta introduced Bill 18, The Provincial Priorities Act, 2024. If passed, the bill will require provincial entities—including post-secondary institutions—to obtain prior approval from Alberta’s government before entering into, amending, extending, or renewing an agreement with the federal government.

Bill 18 has caused uncertainty and concern across the post-secondary sector in Alberta. This legislation has the potential to impact the U of A significantly. In 2023, the university received more than $223 million in research investments from the federal government, more than one-third of our total annual research revenue.

At this point, there are many unknowns about this bill. If passed, the Government of Alberta will implement this legislation through supporting regulations that the Government will develop over the summer and fall before the legislation comes into force in early 2025. The regulations will determine the extent to which this legislation will apply to the post-secondary sector. The Government of Alberta has committed to a process of comprehensive stakeholder engagement as these regulations are developed. The University of Alberta will fully engage in these consultations.

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of our university. The University of Alberta is committed to the pursuit of truth, the advancement of learning, and the dissemination of knowledge through teaching, research and other scholarly and creative activities and service. Academic freedom is essential to these endeavours.

Section 2(7) of Bill 18 provides that a class of provincial entities, such as the post-secondary sector, “may be exempted from a requirement for prior approval to enter into, amend, extend or renew an intergovernmental agreement in accordance with the regulations.” Working closely with our colleagues in the Alberta Post-Secondary Network, we will propose targeted exemptions for the post-secondary sector in Alberta that will ensure that our sector has fair and ready access to federal research funding with a minimum of red tape and in a manner consistent with the university’s commitment to academic freedom.

The U of A has a renowned reputation for bringing innovative and world-changing ideas to life, creating new economic, environmental and social benefits for the good of Albertans and people around the world. These discoveries are made possible with grants and funding from the federal government and our other research partners, including the Government of Alberta and our many industry partners. Federal funding also provides job skills programming and workforce development, including through French language education at Campus Saint-Jean.

In consultations with the Government of Alberta, I will continue to do all I can to advocate for a regulatory framework that does not impede our ability to secure federal funding and operates in a manner consistent with the university’s core commitment to academic freedom.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor