Today, the Minister of Advanced Education will be moving amendments to Bill 41, which was poised to change the rules around student society fee collection in the case of member resignations. See “Provincial Bill Could Expand Student Society Fee Refunds” for the background on Bill 41 from when it was first introduced.
The details appear on today’s order paper for the BC Legislature.
The proposed amendments revise the definition of what a “program or service fee” is. The definition in the original version of the Bill was “a fee for a prescribed program or a prescribed service”, which appeared to be fairly narrowly restricted to fees that are earmarked for a specific purpose. That definition is now being expanded to also include, simply, “a prescribed fee”. This allows the Ministry to declare any student society fee of their choosing to be a “program or service fee” and therefore protected.
Furthermore, another section of the bill further clarifies that with the expanded definition, program or service fees can include “fees to support the activities and operations of a student society, including, without limitation, association fees and membership fees”. It’s still ultimately left up to the Ministry to decide which fees will be protected in the end, but the news that association and membership fees will likely be protected through regulation should come as welcome news.
With that said, there’s another fairly odd aspect of Bill 41 to address. Because students who resign their membership must continue to pay student fees, the bill specifies that these students must also continue to have voting rights in any referendum establishing or modifying those fees. While on the surface this seems sensible – no taxation without representation and all that jazz – it’s quite the administrative head-scratcher. I’d hazard a guess and say that zero student societies in the province currently have bylaws or policies that contemplate the possibility of students who are not members but who are entitled to vote in a referendum. It’s also incongruous with the new Societies Act, which is what set off this whole thing in the first place. The Societies Act seems to imply, quite logically, that only members of a society can cast votes on society business. There’s probably no fully satisfactory way to deal with this issue but giving students who resign voting rights is, in a way, consistent with the rest of the proposal.