Manitoba is becoming more unfriendly towards international students.
International students should forget about “Friendly Manitoba” motto. In 2017 budget, Manitoba Conservative Government already eliminated the Tuition Fee Income Tax Rebate for the 2018 tax year that was designed to encourage students to work and live in Manitoba. The new initiative of the current Conservative government to eliminate universal health coverage for international students starting from September 2018 sends a powerful message to future international students: Manitoba does not want you to stay in the province and will not care for your health needs when you study in the province.
International students already pay triple tuition fees in comparison to domestic students in Manitoba. Now in addition to excessive tuition fee costs, they are required to cover their health insurance that will add minimum 2500 CAD per year according to CBC Manitoba for basic coverage. Based on the University of Manitoba data, international students constitute over 16% of the total student population that after new changes in social policy might decrease in the future.
International students should say to the Manitoba Government we have enough of cuts and move to study in other provinces with more comprehensive provincial health coverage. Fortunately, in other provinces like British Columbia, international students are eligible for provincial coverage and pay the same rates as British Columbia residents. The current NDP government in BC plans to eliminate health premiums for all British Columbian by 2020. There are no longer any benefits for international students to study in Manitoba, where universities charge triple tuition fees, the government says no to universal health care and do not encourage students to stay and work in Manitoba after graduation via tax rebate. When other provinces make their nominee programs more open to international students, there will be no reason to consider Manitoba as the future destination for any international students.
The rest of Canada is trying to attract the top best students from around the world and implementing programs that focus on needs of international students, not cuts of services to save money. For example, Council of Ontario Universities reminds local politicians that “International students bring a significant economic boost to the province, contributing less than $3 billion annually to Ontario’s economy”. A 2012 federal government report indicates that international students pursuing their education in Canada generate 81,000 jobs and more than $445 million in government revenue. Manitoba Government suggests that it will save 3 million per year by eliminating health care for international students.
Manitobans also have another solution to stop the current government from implementing unsustainable changes: to elect a different government that will reverse recent policy changes for international students. Unfortunately, international students do not have a voice in policy-making as they are not eligible to vote and apparently, Manitobans who elected the current government do not want future international students to feel welcomed in the Province. The Pallister Government is already harming many vulnerable groups by introducing multiple cuts to social, education, and health programs. International students are the next victim of Manitoba Conservative Government. Goodbye Friendly Manitoba and Welcome Greedy Manitoba. Are Manitobans ready for the new motto?
Dr Oleksandr Kondrashov
Former International Student at the University of Manitoba
Assistant Professor at the Thompson Rivers University
Faculty of Education and Social Work