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President's Message

Blair Howes

I trust your semester has been going well. I have enjoyed my transition as the ACIFA President and learning about what has been happening across the province and within ACIFA.

At the time of this writing, all but 4 of the 13 institutions of ACIFA have concluded and ratified their collective agreements; Medicine Hat, Keyano, Lakeland, and Lethbridge Colleges will resume their individual bargaining process, and I am hopeful that they will come to terms before the end of December of this year.

ACIFA Office & Administration
I took over my role of the ACIFA president July of 2022 and had a transition meeting with Past President, Ken Heather. We discussed several issues about the transition, but the number one topic was what to do about the ACIFA office at the ATA building. If nothing else, over the two and a half years of mandated lock downs because of COVID-19, many organizations came to the realization that a dedicated office was no longer a necessity. The world of workspaces was changing, and the ACIFA Executive Committee looked at the possibility of its staff working remotely in the future.


ACIFA's Labour Relations Officer, Brian McColloch's role, really didn’t change much from pre-COVID as it was mostly remote work for the membership. Additionally, the Executive Administration position had been mostly remote, with a need to be in the office minimally as the ACIFA President is not an Edmonton resident, and few meetings occurred in the physical office. The Executive reviewed our existing (now expired) lease agreement with the ATA and found no value to our membership in maintaining an under-utilized office. We chose to follow the example of our colleagues at the University of Alberta Faculty Association (AASUSA) and closed our office location. To date, we have not received any feedback from members about any change in office efficiency or service.


We will monitor the cost savings versus the additional cost to staff over the course of this year. We anticipate significant savings for the Association, and it would be my suggestion, after this year, we will be able to invest the realized savings into our defence fund.

President Activity by Month

August brought a collaborative approach with the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) - our friends in the university sector - to plan a Public Interest Alberta (PIA) “Better Way Alberta tour” of which I spoke about at the University of Calgary later in October. August also saw some pre-planning meetings with CAFA about what the next round of bargaining might look like in 2024. Having said that, both ACIFA and CAFA are exploring , through legal council, potential instances of Government of Alberta interference in collective bargaining in both our sectors.

I joined NAIT's Faculty Association President, Shaunna MacDonald, at the CAFA distinguished instructor awards ceremony for an evening of great conversation and well-deserved recognition for the recipients. The following day, I attended the CAFA Executive meeting in Edmonton. I also started attending bi-weekly meetings with the Alberta Federation of Labour to keep in touch with other organized labour groups in Alberta outside of our sector. A broad view of organized labour will, in my opinion, be valuable information within our sector come negotiation time in the spring of 2024.

We, the ACIFA member presidents, also had our first meeting of this academic year with the Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides. Although this was not our first meeting with the Minister, it was the first meeting with me as President of ACIFA.

Please see the approved minutes by the Minister’s office detailing the conversation for context.

October seems a blur to me right now as it was full of meetings for ACIFA as well as SAIT's Faculty Association, of which I am also President.

As a recap, I attended PIA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the Western Regional Conference with ACIFA's Vice President External, Gail Hiar, in Brandon, Manitoba. The same government bargaining themes in Alberta's education sector seem to be also themes in other provinces and sectors. Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives at other institutions are slow to get off the ground and running at a few of the other member organizations.

October also saw us with a live and in-person Presidents’ Council meeting of ACIFA. The in-person meeting was well attended, and it was good to see people face-to-face instead of as images on a flat screen.

I concluded the month by attending the NorQuest College Faculty Association (NCFA) blended live and virtual AGM. Again, it was very good to see familiar faces, and I wish to thank NCFA President, Alexandru Caldararu, and his Executive Committee for the invitation.

The start of November was slower in activity; however, Presidents’ Council continued to have bi-weekly meetings to ensure we are informed as individuals as to what is happing across the province in our sector and to ensure we are, and continue to be, be a united group of 13 institutions when we are faced with challenges.


The end of November saw me in Ottawa, attending the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council meeting. Although attending such functions at CAUT is not new to me, attending Council as ACIFA's President was. There are many valuable services –  not limited to training – available to us at ACIFA as a federated member of CAUT. I also sat as an observer on the National Union of CAUT (NUCAUT) update meeting - a division of CAUT representing member associations wishing to join with the broader labour movement. ACIFA is not actually a UNION, but rather an association. NUCAUT is actually a UNION and has affiliations with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) as well as the provincial labour houses of Canada. Not only does our work with CAUT help strengthen resolve at provincial tables, but it should also send a strong message of coast-to-coast solidarity to the administrations of our institutions.

In closing, I would like to wish everyone a very safe work from home and work from campus experience in 2023, and to wish you and your families the very best for the upcoming holiday season.

On behalf of myself and the ACIFA Executive team, be well and stay safe.

Best regards and always in solidarity with membership,


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