Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Finally Getting the Message?

It seems that the Provincial Government of Alberta has finally decided it might be a good idea to put some money where its mouth is. Alberta Learning has promised (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200401/15800.html) Athabasca University 1.5 million dollars to “redevelop high-enrolment courses for online delivery.”

In this round of pay-outs from the Alberta Access Fund, Athabasca University is in the enviable position of receiving the highest donation of any single institution in Alberta, and almost double the amount received by the next highest institution, the University of Calgary.

About time, I say, as the last time (http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/news/2003/August/nr-AccessFund.asp) the government provided money to universities from the Access Fund, AU received absolutely nothing.

Of course, adding this to last year’s funding means that the government’s total contribution to AU now works out to $4318/FTE (or Full-Time equivalent student), as you can calculate yourself looking at AU’s 2002-2003 annual report (http://www.athabascau.ca/report2003/report2003.pdf) [PDF file] on page 20 and adding this additional 1.5 million.

What that means in reality then is that we are now almost, but not quite, at the funding levels enjoyed by AU back in 1998-1999, or at least, almost until you adjust the dollar amounts for inflation. And until you remember that this funding is coming in the 2003-2004 year, where AU’s enrolment has likely gone up much more than the total government grant since last year.

So while it’s certainly nice to see something, it’s still difficult to see how the Alberta government feels it’s putting a priority on life-long learning and educating the people of Alberta. From what I can see, it was a higher priority back in 1998.

Of course, 1998’s funding was decided in an election year.

Now if only every year was an election year.

Waste Not, Want Not

In New Brunswick, the Provincial Government is announcing (http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/afa/2004e0062af.htm) over $50,000 to go into a research project that will investigate turning potato peelings into bio-ethanol fuel.

The idea is that, if an efficient process is created, since New Brunswick has a large industry based on potatoes, this will serve as a secondary industry that is both environmentally friendly and provides a source of employment for those in New Brunswick.

Of course, I hope the research project will also look at ways to help people in New Brunswick actually use bio-ethanol fuel, as it is not something you can simply put into your gas tank and expect the same type of performance.

In environmental news on the other side of the country, Alberta is starting a rebate program (http://www.gov.ab.ca/home/index.cfm?Page=694) where people who replace their old furnaces between now and March 31, 2004 can apply for a rebate credit of up to $400. It is hoped that by encouraging consumers to switch to more energy efficient models, Alberta can lower its total energy demand, and thus lower energy prices so that the government does not have to continue to bail out the consumers that it foisted its ill-conceived privatization venture upon.

Or in other words, yet another band-aid to try to cover up a program that was poorly thought out to begin with.

The bright side of this furnace rebate program is that it actually stands to do some real good over the long term, unlike simply providing the energy companies with huge tax-payer written cheques.

Now, $400 is obviously not enough to fully cover a professional coming in and installing a new furnace. In fact, it won’t even pay for the furnace, to say nothing of the installation.. But for those already doing home renovations this would be a welcome boon. I wonder if Premier Klein will be taking advantage of it?

Minister Wastes Breath

The Ontario Education Minister, Gerard Kennedy, has put out a press release (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2004/01/23/c2606.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) directed to Ontario High School students.

The gist of the release is that with the change from a 13 year to a 12 year school system, many students may find it difficult to impossible to gain all the credits they need to graduate in time, and the Ontario Government wants to help out.

Specifically, he is encouraging students to remain in school and take advantage of the resources they are putting into place.

While the intent is laudable, the action is probably not the most effective. After all, how many students who are looking at dropping out of High School will happen to find themselves poking around the Government of Ontario’s web-site and reading a political speech from the Education Minister?

Probably a better use of his time rather than a speech is setting up some way to identify those students at risk and presenting the programs directly to them.

Or does that make too much sense?

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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