A Tale of Two Provinces
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Well, perhaps that’s exaggerating a little bit. For post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador, however, this certainly is one of the better times to be going to school.
The latest provincial budget (http://www.gov.nf.ca/releases/2004/edu/0330n05.htm) reflects their announcements of a tuition freeze for the coming year.
According to the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the freeze “is a reflection of government’s goal to ensure accessibility to higher education through the public post-secondary.”
By contrast, here in Alberta, we also have a government that proposes to ensure accessibility to higher education, but rather than doing that through the obvious method of making it more affordable, they are instead doing it by giving a ton of money to universities as “capital” projects – or in other words more buildings for those who happen to live in the area. (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200404/16214.html; http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200404/16229.html)
I find this strange, because at the same time, the Alberta government is also promising in its budget to remember and support rural Albertans. Here’s a hint, if you want to support rural Albertans, one good way might be to make sure they can get their education while remaining in rural Alberta. But that’s just me.
After all, just because Statistics Canada lists (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020624/d020624b.htm) distance as a major factor in whether people choose to pursue higher education, and people from lower-incomes being most affected by distance is no reason to actually address both those problems at once by making distance education more affordable, is it? That would just make too much sense.
So instead, we spend tons of money in creating great big buildings, with all the ongoing maintenance expenses that forces the institution to incur, and we call this type of action one that benefits the learning system in Alberta. That’s Alberta Innovation for you folks.
So it Begins
The graduate crunch is already starting to be felt in the Province of New Brunswick. By graduate crunch, I mean how advanced graduates from universities across the nation are becoming increasingly valuable and in short supply as the knowledge economy gears up.
In New Brunswick, with help from the federal government, they are establishing a database of people (http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/ted/2004e0407te.htm) who graduated while within New Brunswick in order to provide employers with information that they can use to hire these skilled workers.
This database is costing the province $26,000 and the federal government almost $20,000 so far. That’s a lot of money to invest in a system to help employers find good workers, and just goes to show you how important this issue is becoming.
Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of having to go look for employment, employers started looking for you. It’s a future which may not be that far off, as since even fairly skilled employment can now be moved to foreign countries, all that will be left are the service jobs and the jobs for the exceptionally skilled. Personally, I’m hoping to be in the latter category.
On a slightly different note, Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced funding for the worlds’ first “Hydrogen Highway(TM)” It’s an odd sign of the time that the announcement already has a trade-mark symbol on that, but that’s another story.
This highway will be built between Whistler and Vancouver, British Columbia, in time for the 2010 winter Olympics and as a demonstration of just how hydrogen and fuel-cell savvy Canada is.
This highway and the associated projects of vehicles capable of running on hydrogen fuel cells have been promised just over 6 million dollars of government money over the next 5 years.
It’s a lot of money, but if it works out, the benefits could be with us for a long time, and not just in the form of that particular highway, but also with Canada on the fore-front of a new economy based on hydrogen rather than fossil fuels for power.
I just find it nice to see that sometimes environmental concerns and business concerns really can work together if people try hard enough.
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.