Canadian Fed Watch! News Across The Nation: Nova Scotia Conference on Adult Learning, Controlling Canadian Calls, National Summit on Innovation and Commercialisation?

November 27, 2002

Canadian Fed Watch! News Across The Nation: Nova Scotia Conference on Adult Learning, Controlling Canadian Calls, National Summit on Innovation and Commercialisation?

Controlling Canadian Calls

The Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Industry, has announced a review toward changing the regulatory structure of telecommunication companies (see: http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/cdd9dc973c4bf6bc852564ca006418a0/85256a220056c2a485256c76004b4d93!OpenDocument). What this means in plain English is that he is looking at allowing foreign companies to acquire Canadian telephone companies.

Doing this would mean that we would probably have to deal with the likes of Verizon in the very near future. A company that recently petitioned the federal government in the United States to allow them to take all call data and sell it to other companies without the caller’s permission (see: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/96766_privacy22.shtml). By all call data, I mean how often you make phone calls, when you place those calls, who you are calling, and even who is calling you.

In the background report, it is suggested that by relaxing investment restrictions it would allow the telecommunication companies more money so that they could expand their broadband at a quicker pace. Considering that Canada is already far ahead of the United States in the percentage of our population that accesses or is able to access broadband and the Internet, this seems like just a red herring to me.

It concerning as well to realize that until recently, a major player in global communication networks was a company called WorldCom. A company that is now filing for bankruptcy protection in the United States after suffering some of the same accounting troubles as a little company known as Enron suffered. Do we really want to allow these types of players unfettered access to the Canadian market?

It also means that the money we pay for our phone service would be getting shipped out of Canada into American pockets. The pay off for the average Canadian? Well.. nothing really. Supposedly it would allow increased competition in the Canadian market, but we’ve all seen how well that actually works with de-regulating electricity haven’t we? No, the pay off would be to those few people that actually own the lion’s share of Canadian phone companies now. They’d make millions as the American companies bought them out, so a little thing like the price of basic phone or DSL service going up means little to them.

As distance education students, we have a particular stake in this matter, after all, if the cost of making telephone calls goes up in the Canadian market, that has a direct effect on what kind of costs Athabasca University has to pay. Every call every one of us makes to our tutor is an expense for AU, if that expense goes up, you can expect to see one of two things happen. Tutor support gets cut back or AU tuitions go up. Since AU tuitions are already rising by the maximum the provincial government will allow, that leads to the unpleasant conclusion that tutor support would have to be cut back.

Personally, I’d rather see things remain the way they are then give million dollar payouts to telecommunication leaders so that my phone rates can go up and my tutor support go down.

Nova Scotia Conference on Adult Learning

On November 22nd, over 90 adult educators, government, and community representatives met in Truro, Nova Scotia for a conference on Adult Learning. While concentrating mostly on upgrading adults to a basic high-school education, the increased recognition of Adult Learning as a valuable experience can only be a good thing.

The Nova Scotia School of Adult Learning has seen over 3,700 adult students participate in the program last year, with this years enrolment numbers not yet tallied. As more adults in Nova Scotia are educated, there will obviously be an increased demand for further education beyond the basics of high school. Athabasca University is well positioned to meet these potential students’ needs, providing that the information is available.

Over the past few months, there has been increasing awareness throughout the Maritimes of the possibilities that adult education can bring. Perhaps it is time that AU considered establishing a campus location at the other end of the nation. This would not only allow AU to increase its presence in new markets, but could also be beneficial cost-wise as it would cost less for our Eastern students to phone AU if they could get redirected to a Maritimes location.

National Summit on Innovation and ..Commercialisation?

At the National Summit on Innovation and Learning, the Government of Canada and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada agreed to a framework whereby universities will double the amount of research they are doing, and triple the amount of commercialisation of that research (see: http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/cdd9dc973c4bf6bc852564ca006418a0/85256a220056c2a485256c76007a9b7e!OpenDocument).

While this certainly sounds like a great boost for our economy, it is concerning because it means that universities will be forced to curtail research into areas where the commercialisation may not be immediately apparent. Sometimes however, it is just these areas of research that lead to our greatest gains. Following such a policy in an earlier time would have prevented us from ever trying to travel to the moon and the scientific benefits that we are just starting to gain from low-gravity experiments, or from developing some of the mathematics that are now used throughout the computing industry.

Should we be promoting universities as tax-funded laboratories for private companies? Or should we be promoting universities as places where research is done simply to expand the boundaries of human knowledge? If commercialisation should come from that expansion, so much the better, but why does that have to be our goal?

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