The Betrayal of the Budget
The annual federal budget was released (http://www.fin.gc.ca/budtoce/2005/budliste.htm) last Wednesday, and has been roundly labeled as a betrayal by the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. The reason for this is quite clear, as one of the campaign ideas put forth by the Liberal Party was that Canadians should vote liberal to avoid being subjected to a Conservative regime, yet the liberals have ironically have created a budget that is to the liking of the Conservatives.
For those who’ve managed to miss it on the news, the big announcements in the budget were an increase of 12.8 billion dollars for national defense and corporate tax cuts, including the elimination of the federal corporate surtax and a reduction of 2% in the general corporate tax rate. Notably absent was any kind of funding for post-secondary education, or even to establish a position to examine the issues involved with education.
This comes despite Prime Minister Paul Martin’s own words (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news.asp?id=177) in 2004, where he claimed “The federal government has an important role to play in post-secondary education, and it begins with access. We as a society cannot deprive people of opportunity simply because their families don’t have money.”
The honourable Alexa McDonough, the NDP’s Foreign Affairs and Post-Secondary Education critic in Parliament has declared that “we need to develop a national vision for post-secondary education,” and that we’ve seen no leadership from the Federal Government on this matter. I find I have to agree, unless you consider leadership to mean “ignore it and hope it’ll work out.” We’ve seen how that strategy unfolds, however.
Unfortunately, with the Conservatives and Liberals moving in lockstep on the post-secondary issue, there’s little that the smaller opposition parties can do to bring any type of change to the system.
That doesn’t mean that change isn’t in the wind however. The NDP have started holding virtual press scrums, allowing university papers a chance to briefly ask various party members direct questions. The Voice editor asked how distance education would fit into such a plan, and Ms. McDonough’s response was heartening. After assuring that Distance Education is a vital tool to enable rural, aboriginal and northern students to participate in post-secondary education, she posed the question “What’s the point of having advanced telecommunications technology if we’re not using it for education?”
Alberta Puts Money into Video-Conferencing
The Alberta government has announced (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200502/175937CA5AF77-CFCD-49DB-9ED921B5EA6BC9B4.html) that it will be spending six million dollars in a province-wide video conferencing initiative. Almost four million dollars of that money will go to establishing or expanding video-conferencing rooms. The catch is that this initiative is only putting video-conferencing in the classrooms of the K-12 grades.
The remaining two million dollars is going into research on how to use video conferencing to its best effect. Athabasca University is involved with this in partnership with the University of Lethbridge and the Galileo Educational Network. Personally I find it somewhat ironic that AU is doing investigations of how to use video-conferencing in a K-12 environment when there is little to no use of it in AU undergraduate courses.
Isn’t AU supposed to be the distance institution?
On The Bright Side
The provincial government of British Columbia is doing something for students however. They’re changing their student loan (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2005MAE0011-000154.htm) regulations to realistically assess how much parents can pay for their child’s education.
More important to AUSU members, the British Columbia government has recognized that computers actually play a fairly important role in post-secondary education today. Due to this, they are giving a small allowance in student loans of about $300 for students to pay for computing expenses for the year, whether this be an internet hook-up or simply some computer hardware or software.
Take the small victories as they come, I suppose.