Canadian Fed Watch! News Across The Nation:

Post-Secondary Spin

The Government of Alberta is pleased to announce that the “Education Indicators in Canada 2003” report put out by Statistics Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education Canada had some kind words (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200311/15535.html) about Alberta’s rankings. Of course, the report (http://www.cesc.ca/pceip/PCEIP2003-D.pdf) was not all positive, but the Learning Ministry would hate for Albertans to think there might be any room for improvement in how they’re doing things.

One of the statements Alberta of is that since 1997-98, the funding of post-secondary education has increased 19%, the highest of any province across the nation. The difficulty in this figure is the time-line. 1997 and 1998 were several years after the savage cuts that our post-secondary institutions are still trying desperately to recover from. In fact, when you look at the tables (http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/81-582-XIE/2003001/pdf/tables.pdf) (PDF file) you’ll see that the Alberta Government’s support of post-secondary education has dropped from 69% to 55% of university and college revenues since 1990 (Table B2.10, p.291).

If you look a little deeper into the tables, you’ll find a few other things that the Learning Ministry is apparently not so proud of, or at least numbers they certainly didn’t announce as part of their press release. For instance, the tuition in Alberta has increased 154% since 1990 — the largest increase (Table B2.8, p. 290) of any of the provinces over the past decade, and it wasn’t even the lowest tuition across Canada to start with. In fact, the second largest increase is a tie between Ontario and Saskatchewan, where their tuition has increased 117% since 1990 – and Ontario now has a government promising a tuition freeze as they realized it was increasing too much.

Another interesting little fact the Learning Ministry did not want to mention is that Albertans spend the lowest percentage of our GDP on post-secondary education as any province across the nation (Table B1.6, p.278), or that the funding the Alberta post-secondary education system receives is, again by a greater margin than any other province, more from private sources than public sources (Table B2.6 p.289).

So tell me again how this is a “public” post-secondary education system?

Sixty Million for Quebec

The Honourable Minister of Industry, Allan Rock, has announced that over sixty million dollars will be going to fund the indirect costs (http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/cdd9dc973c4bf6bc852564ca006418a0/85256a5d006b972085256de8004a36d0!OpenDocument) of federally sponsored research. This is in response to Canada’s desire to be one of the most innovative countries by the year 2010.

However, as always, I’m left wondering about trying to become the most innovative country while at the same time making it more difficult for more people to become innovators. There is a reason that it is the Minister of Industry giving this money out to post-secondary institutions – because Canada does not have a minister of education at the Federal level. Had it such a ministry, perhaps the idea that students are actually important to the future well-being of the country might receive more press. The facts produced by Statistics Canada showing that better educated people are better for the economy in a multitude of ways wouldn’t disappear without ever being seen by the various Ministers in charge of making sure Canada’s economy is working well.

More importantly, it might mean that sixty million dollars directed to one province for research might also be backed up with funding to help more people become researchers.

It seems like a basic economics type of situation to me. The government wants there to be a lot of research going on, so is increasing the amount that it is paying for research activity – in short, increasing demand. However, it strikes me that given the various ancillary benefits of education, it makes more sense to spend the money to increase the supply of researchers directly. Make it possible for everybody to go into post-secondary education and watch people trained to have inquisitive minds create firms devoted simply to creating and developing interesting lines of research.

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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