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Talking from the Throne

The Throne Speech (http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/sft-ddt.asp) was read last week, and Prime-Minister Paul Martin also gave the traditional Prime Minister’s Response to the Speech (http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/sft-ddt.asp?id=2).

I’ll be clear here, I’m not a big Paul Martin supporter. I have not seen a lot from the man that really differentiates him from the very standard centrist politician, promising a little bit of everything to everyone and promising that nobody will get the short-end of the stick.

As we all know in reality, that just doesn’t happen very often.

So I am not a big fan of Mr. Martin, and I tend to feel his life as corporate leader and Liberal heir apparent for so long has separated him from the majority of the people he represents. His former company, CSL, having been found to have received an amount from the government far in excess of what it was earlier reported to be (from approximately $127,000 to $161,000,000) plus his paper-thin defence against conflict of interest charges (passing the business on to his sons), has given me little confidence that there aren’t future scandals in the making.

However, Mr. Martin’s response to the throne speech at least touches all the right notes, and makes it hard to pick out exactly who the losers will be. He refers to a Canada that will not look to the bottom line at the expense of its citizens, and also to providing some increased support to unions. At the same time, he promises increased support for small businesses and to keep control of the tax burden people and companies have to pay.

He makes a nod to post-secondary education, although he still seems to be concentrating on the RESP program, which is a wonderful program if you’re already in a sufficiently high income bracket to be able to save money – if you’re not, however, having the government double a contribution of zero doesn’t provide a lot of help. On the bright side, however, he also promises to adjust the student loan limits to take into account higher tuition fees across the nation, and to provide more grants to first year students which will hopefully provide more incentive for more people to truly get involved in a knowledge based economy.

Perhaps most impressive to me though is the announcement of a freer Parliament, where members are allowed to vote with the voices of their constituents more often than the voice of the party they belong to. True, when looking at some of the program details (http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/default.asp?Language=E&Page=publications&Sub=dr-rd&Doc=dr-rd_doc_e.htm#Voting%20System), there’s still the “all-party” votes, but at least those are supposed to be referred back to committees between readings now, so that ministers and members have the opportunity to shape the bills.

It remains to be seen if the government can live up to its promises, but there’s no harm in being an idealist.

Writing Back

To: The Honourable Shirley Bond, Minister of Advanced Education, British Columbia

Dear Minister Bond;

I recently read your letter to the editor (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2004MAE0004-000082.htm) claiming that there have been studies showing that the majority of the benefits of a post-secondary education revert to the individual rather than to the public.

I was hoping you could provide me with information as to how I could find and obtain these studies, as I have concerns that they may be deeply flawed, and would not like to think that the Ministry of Advanced Education was proceeding on flawed information.

In particular, these studies are flawed if they fail to take into account the following public benefits that a post-secondary education provides to society at large:

1. Post-secondary graduates are less likely to use social services in general, particularly employment insurance, and are more likely to use less than those without a post-secondary education.

2. Post-secondary graduates are less likely to use health care services in general, and are more likely to use less than those without a post-secondary education. (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020801/d020801a.htm (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020801/d020801a.htm))

3. Post-secondary graduates are more likely to pay higher taxes as a result of earning more over the course of their lifetime.

4. Post-secondary graduates are more likely to donate both time and money than those without a post-secondary education. (http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/71-542-XIE/71-542-XIE00001.pdf (http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/71-542-XIE/71-542-XIE00001.pdf))

5. Post-secondary graduates are more likely to start their own small businesses, and are more likely to have their small businesses succeed than those headed by people without a post-secondary education. This provides not only employment, but increased taxes both at the corporate and personal levels. In addition, a successful small business can be in operation for many years beyond the lifespan of the founder, thus extending the benefits provided. (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020129/d020129d.htm (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020129/d020129d.htm))

6. Most importantly, children of post-secondary graduates are far more likely to become post-secondary graduates themselves, as Statistics Canada has shown that the most significant determinant of whether someone attains a post-secondary education is whether their parents have one. (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/030704/d030704a.htm (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/030704/d030704a.htm)). In addition, children of post-secondary graduates are more likely to graduate without debt than their counterparts from families without a post-secondary education. This means that the benefits of a post-secondary education are in many ways self-sustaining. If the public funds one person’s education, that is a one-time cost compared to a high chance of the province receiving the benefits of that in perpetuity.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,

Karl Low

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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