Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Pensions over Post-Secondary

You would think that in a province where privatization is a holy word, where the government seems to be doing as much as it can to remove as many things from their books in the name of “efficiency” and “simplification” as possible, where the Premier feels comfortable insulting people who are forced to live in homeless shelters, you would think that such a province would certainly not want to be caught increasing the benefits, complexity, and government responsibility for funding of people who may or may not be working, but almost assuredly are not in dire straits.

Yet not only is the Alberta provincial government doing this, it’s even announcing ( this new program. The program is in the pension plan for MLAs who were elected before 1989. Their pensions will now be increased each year by 60% of the cost of inflation. Looking at the article shows that this increase works out to $31,000 for the rest of this year and part of 2004, and $140,000 for 2004-2005. It is also expected to increase about 3% every year thereafter.

What is really irksome about this is that it does nothing to benefit anybody except a very select group of Albertans, and was not even in the original contract that MLA’s were to receive. How many private companies do you know of that, if they even have a pension plan, would decide to go around increasing it from what was initially agreed upon?

Now turn around and think about what this money could have done if instead it had been applied to a system of post-secondary bursaries for those who needed it? With the Heritage Scholarship now hardly paying for even a single semester’s tuition, it is rapidly getting to the point where money is becoming a factor even for the best and brightest of our students. But instead of such a forward thinking strategy, the Klein government is trying to suck up to MLAs who were voted out, or decided not to run anymore.

Incidentally, Premier Klein was first elected as an MLA in 1989. No doubt a number of his colleagues – the very ones who made him the leader of the PC party, were elected before that. Perhaps this is not as far-fetched as it first seems then, after all, Klein has always been big on paying back debts – especially with taxpayer money.

Degrees Up, Doctorates Down

Statistics Canada has released a report ( on the number and types of degrees that were awarded in 2000. Not surprisingly, the number of bachelor level degrees has increased, as more and more society requires these types of degrees to move ahead. More surprising is that the number of doctorates awarded has gone down. This is especially surprising when you consider the amount of research awards and the emphasis on research funding that has been being pushed by federal and provincial governments.

However, one factor that might play in is that early 2000 was still in the stock-market boom period. Trained people were in very high demand, so high that a simple bachelors was often enough to get you in the door at various companies. With the economy in Canada starting to slow down, people may decide it’s time to finish up their schooling, and perhaps look toward research opportunities.

More important than this though is the type of degrees awarded. While there has been an increase in science and engineering degrees, there has also been a drop in humanities and medical degrees. The drop in medical degrees should be seen as especially concerning to both federal and provincial governments, as it seems diseases are coming becoming more rapid and more diverse, with the SARS incident fresh in our minds, and the increase in both West Nile Virus and monkeypox. We need more medical graduates so that we are ready to intercept, study, and prevent future outbreaks of these and other diseases.

One good note to all of this though is that it calms my fears somewhat about how our government seemed to be concentrating far to much on graduate studies as opposed to undergraduate. Seeing that the number of doctorates awarded was in decline in 2000, perhaps I need to wait a while and re-assess my opinion. It could be that graduate funding makes more sense for all of us in the long run.

BC Students to get Log Cabin

Ever on the cutting edge, the province of British Columbia is spending twelve million dollars ( ) on a new Health Sciences Centre at the University of Northern British Columbia. The centre will be 4000 square meters and will “showcase the use of wood in construction”.

Could someone explain the relevance of that to me? For some reason, the BC government thought it worthwhile to point out that the building would be made of wood. The only thing I can think of is that considerable expense must be being planned for in the creation of this showcase of wood. Of course, opening new spaces for medical students, despite Statistics Canada’s report that medical degrees have been declining shows the forethought that seems to be typical of the British Columbia Government, so maybe the log cabin idea is something along these lines.

Personally, I’d suggest they worry about getting people to undertake the medical training before worrying about building a grand log cabin to house them all in.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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