Lukaszuk Mocks Professor Ian Urquhart (Political Science) — And Mocks, By Extension, Us All

Late last night, when he would have been better advised to be doing other things, the Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education thought it fitting to tweet the following message to Ian Urquhart, Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta:

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 9.14.29 AM

Or, rather, Mr. Lukaszuk tried to tweet the message to Professor Urquhart.

As you can see, he misspelled Professor Urquhart’s surname.

How is it Mr. Lukaszuk did not recognize his error when Twitter @’s light up in bold blue when done correctly?

As a result of Mr. Lukaszuk’s spelling error, it is not immediately clear which of Professor Urquhart’s many sober tweets about the Government of Alberta’s devastating cuts to postsecondary education Mr. Lukaszuk thought he was replying to. But one thing is clear from last night’s tweet: Mr. Lukaszuk’s capacity for error is not confined to his false claims about faculty salaries in Alberta, for which he also found the medium of Twitter a suitable platform. He tweeted this on April 25th:

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 9.35.58 AM

As Gordon Swaters, Professor of Mathematics and Statistical Sciences demonstrated at the Academic Faculty Committee (AFC) of the Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta (AASUA) on March 13th, this claim (also made by Finance Minister Doug Horner in the budget speech of March 7th) is not true. (Professor Swaters has made a version of his March presentation to AFC available here.) Amongst other things, Mr. Lukaszuk’s tweet of April 25th suggests that Alberta’s professors may need to make a choice not simply between which academic programs they can keep open, and which they must close, but between job security and academic freedom.

Mr. Lukaszuk may have misspelled Professor Urquhart’s name in his tweet last night, but the message has nevertheless been sent successfully to us all: the Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education thinks that one of the groups most affected by the province’s brutal cuts to postsecondary education and academic research in Alberta, the province’s professors, are to be mocked if they can’t see their way to making sense of the devastation. A Minister who can so mock those affected by the cuts delivered in his portfolio should be asked by the Premier to resign — and should be asked to do so, as one of my colleagues has written to me,  forthwith.

The link for this post will therefore be tweeted to Alison Redford. I propose that it be retweeted and retweeted by everyone concerned about the cuts to postsecondary education in the Government of Alberta’s budget of March 7th and this Minister’s conduct until Premier Redford takes action in which she makes clear that the conduct of this Minister is not conduct of which her Government approves, and chooses immediate reinvestment in postsecondary education and academic research in Alberta.

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18 Responses to Lukaszuk Mocks Professor Ian Urquhart (Political Science) — And Mocks, By Extension, Us All

  1. He also apparently doesn’t know how to pluralize the word ‘index’.

  2. Judy Garber says:

    Ian, provoking the Minister(‘s computer-literate aide?) to stoop to this juvenile, partly literate insult is the highest compliment you could receive. Bravo, my friend and colleague!

  3. John Baloun says:

    I think Lukaszuk may have gone to school, but the time was wasted on teaching him because he still has no class. How would he like it if somebody spelled his name as Luckysuck?

  4. The Minister’s reference to ‘magic’ is probably just unintentionally ironic, but it occurs to me that he might be serious: how else to explain the fantasy that massive cuts will somehow (magically?) make PSE in Alberta better? (Careless with facts, deliberately insulting and playing political propaganda games rather than take his job seriously– I think we can all identify one salary that could be cut without doing any harm to anything important.)

  5. David Eggen says:

    The ONLY way to stop this sort of behaviour is to stop voting for the PC’s. NDP has practical solutions to strengthen the public interest and buiild a strong, sustainable economy. There is a better way.

  6. Don Simpson says:

    Government wages in this province have ballooned beyond control. Lukasuk is 100% correct, we need some klein style cuts to get them back in line as the government can not grow faster than private sector wages. The system ultimately collapses and we are now Greece. Besides why direct the best employees to government we need them in the private sector generating wealth rather than destroying it in government.

    • Tom Johnston says:

      Don, Klein-style cuts would be easier to deal with: (1) the PSE sector was given more than three week’s notice, (2) the cut was 6.6 per cent in each of three years, and (3) many of the cuts were returned to the system in envelope funding.

    • Don, I guess you believe everything a PC tells you. Compare faculty wages between provinces then compare the wages for trades, engineers and other private sector employees. The numbers may actually surprise you.

  7. Pingback: Let’s raise our standards of politics | By Dongwoo Kim – The Wanderer

  8. Don, you’re badly misinformed. 1. Wages in Alberta are higher overall; public-sector wages are not out of proportion. 2. We are in no way comparable to Greece: Canada has and borrows in its own currency, Alberta borrows at bottom rates while successfully (for the most part) collecting taxes owed, and our debt levels are much, much lower. You might as well be invoking the boogey man. 3. Government has a legitimate role in society; some things are much more efficiently done through government, such as paying for basic infrastructure and services that we all benefit from, including medical care and education (if it’s built privately, you need to deal with free riders and access problems for citizens– and unhealthy workers, unfortunately, aren’t all that productive), not to mention protecting basic resources that we all depend on (clean air and water, for starters). You’ve clearly confused libertarian fantasies with reality.

  9. Hi again, Don: just following up on your remarks about “government wages” again. It turns out that if you check Stats Canada’s data on salaries for full professors, Alberta is in the middle of the pack. (That goes back to 2011, since Stats Canada is no longer compiling that information due to federal budget cuts, but, since we’ve had a freeze in funding at the universities since then, you can be sure things haven’t gotten out of hand since then either.)

  10. Shannon Phillips says:

    It actually doesn’t matter anymore what is true. So TL can say whatever he likes: about research, about salaries, about health and safety in prisons, whatever comes to mind. It has no material effect, and the media does not call them on it. That’s why the playbook of the right is just to make stuff up. They don’t care if anything they say is in any way factual. It is actually a tactic, a sword they use in their strategic arsenal. It consigns progressives to explaining, to insisting, to having to appeal to reason rather than emotion, and puts us on the defensive. They use it because it works. Unless progressives get their act together and learn how to work together to push back, we will continue to be bludgeoned with this particular tactic.

  11. Lee says:

    I think his comment supports the existence of the Alberta Ministry of Alchemy, as mentioned at http://www.albertaliberal.com/blog/ministry-of-alchemy-for-provincial-funding/

  12. David says:

    Another key message, very few faculty or staff (according to salary scales) will ever reach the minimum MLA salary (which is further boosted by stipends for attending meetings and an extremely generous pension plan). Swater’s analysis only includes the high-end salaries and even then, the average is below the MLA starting pay. Who is overpaid here?

  13. Arts Squared says:

    David, could you clarify two of your statements? What do you mean when you say that “Swater’s analysis only includes the high-end salaries”? And could you share with us your source of information on the “generous pension plan” for MLAs?

    • David says:

      Here is a hastily composed response – corrections are appreciated (I, like others, have other important things to do).

      I’m not suggesting we get into a tit-for-tat over salaries but it is instructive for context when the Government (through their spokesperson Minister) seems to link cuts to an unsustainable pay model. Since everyone at the University is affected by these cuts, it might be fair to consider all people who work at the university – not just professors. Assuming that professors are probably the higher paid of all staff (vs librarians, APOs, FSOs, NASA staff, etc) and only the “professor ranks” are reported in Swater’s analysis, his analysis goes to the high end.

      When “unsustainable model” is used, it might be useful for someone to do a lifetime earnings analysis where University staff tend to start lower than elsewhere and only “catch up” with apparently large increments.

      From Swater’s analysis, “average faculty salaries for each institution for all assistant, associate and full professors (i.e., excluding “lecturers,” “ranks below assistant” and “other teaching staff”) including faculty with and without senior administrative duties but excluding all medical/dental faculty.” http://pacific.math.ualberta.ca/gordon/misc/facultysalaries.pdf

      Assistant Professor $72,975 to $101,451
      Associate Professor $90,919 to $127,435
      Professor $112,722 to $127,033, then $127,034 to $139,206, then $139,206 and up While individuals are obviously different in the university context, an oversimplification of assuming 1 increment a year of about $3000, it would take about 20 years for an assistant professor to reach the base MLA salary of $134,000) from: http://hrs.ualberta.ca/PayandTaxInfo/SalaryScales.aspx

      2010 MLA remuneration $78,138 (+ various allowances)

      http://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/hr/MLA/mem0.htm

      2013 MLA Rumuneration $134,000 (+ various allowances) http://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/hr/MLA/MLA%20Remuneration%20April%202013.htm
      2013 Average total compensation legislative members not receiving Assembly pay (e.g. for whips, house leaders,etc): $156, 311

      http://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/hr/MLA/MLA%20Pay%20Comparisons%20-%202011-12%20vs%202012-13.pdf

      Apparently I was incorrect on MLA pensions according to this story – more digging would be useful. While not from an official source, it hints at what to look for:
      “As it stands now [Wed, 24 Oct, 2012], Alberta MLAs aren’t entitled to pensions, per se. Instead, defeated or retired MLAs are given a ‘transition allowance’ based on three month’s salary for each year served in office [so minimum 33500 per year at base salary of 134000]. They’re also given an RRSP allowance equal to 50 percent of the maximum RRSP contribution limit.” … Premier Redford promise and did abolish transition allowances, “but now a legislative committee is proposing a new scheme which would have a more modest transition allowance and require taxpayers to cover 100 per cent of MLAs’ RRSP contributions ($22,970) each year.” http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/alberta-premier-alison-redford-refuses-support-mla-transition-171639932.html

      • Arts Squared says:

        Thanks so much, David.

        Your point about it taking about 20 years for an assistant professor to catch up with an MLA’s salary helps towards an understanding of the “deferred salary” scheme to which professors are subject. To that let me add that professors also forgo years of earning while acquiring their education. Talk to any financial analyst and they will tell you that one never recovers from lost years of earning in one’s ’20s. And so I would hope that anyone who does want to follow you in comparative analysis of this kind would keep facts like that in mind.

        For one statement on the deferred salary issue, readers can turn to the post “What FEC Season is All About” written by Professor Ian Maclaren when he was President of the Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta (AASUA) in the Fall of 2011. Here’s the link: http://www.aasua.ualberta.ca/en/Rhumblines/~/media/aasua/OtherRepsPubs/Rhumblines/2011-10-31.html.

        And let me add: many professors work actively, every day, towards redressing the social problems that make any such talk of salaries necessary.

  14. Jim Manis says:

    Lest anyone be led to believe that the Minister was clever enough to come up with this infographic himself, it was “borrowed” from unstash.com. It only becomes pee-yerself-funny when you read the Unstash Manifesto!

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