Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Freezing in Ontario

The Provincial Government of Ontario is following through ( on a campaign promise to freeze tuition and post-secondary institutions in Ontario. For the next two years, tuitions at Ontario colleges and universities will be frozen. This year, the Ontario government will be giving Ontario universities 48.1 million dollars to make up the shortfall in their revenues.

My congratulations to the Ontario Government for a plan that will actually work to increase access, as opposed to simply creating another building to handle increased numbers if they occur.

Of course, this also puts AU in a bit of a hard spot, as they have often stated that they are constrained in how they raise tuition by the level of tuitions in Ontario, and the fear that they might be pushing themselves out of that market. With tuitions in Ontario now staying the same, how will potential AU students react when AU’s tuition increases yet again?

This boils down to AU not demonstrating the ability to think out of the box when it comes to their funding and tuition decisions. As a distance university, I’ve often suggested that AU would, more than any other university, be able to pick up operations and move to a different province. As we near an election year, the threat of moving out to a province more amenable to solidly funding distance education could produce some interesting results.

In addition, many provinces are starting their own distance education initiatives now, such as British Columbia and Ontario. If Athabasca University really concentrated on shifting its focus to the Canada in “Canada’s Open University”, the possibility exists of having a strong foot in the door for all of these additional provinces. AU has the experience, it knows some of the problems these new Universities will encounter while getting established — why not leverage that knowledge in a push to provincial governments, not just to supply course materials there, but to essentially open up operations in the other provinces?

Things like expanding tutor hiring to other provinces, removing preferences for Alberta residency, setting up additional Learning Centres in other provinces, and hence removal of the out of province fees, all of these would go a long way to alleviate any fears other governments might have of being accused of supporting an Alberta industry over their own “made-at-home” versions. Not to mention the increased lobbying power that a full Learning Centre would give to AU over those other provincial governments.

AU is not a traditional university. Why is it focussing on only the traditional methods (provincial dollars & tuition) of gaining funding?

Expensive Chairs

The federal government announced funding for 137 research chairs to the tune of $138.3 million. That’s a lot of money going into research, which is a good thing if we are to become “by 2010, one of the world’s top five countries in research and development,” as stated by the Honourable Minister of Industry Lucienne Robillard.

Most interesting though is that “of the 137 new Chairs, 56, or 41%, are coming from abroad, whether as returning expatriates or as international researchers coming to Canada for the first time.” What this suggests to me is that Canada is going to have a hard time attaining the status of top five researching countries if we do not put some serious effort into creating higher quality researchers right here at home.

Then again, in order to do that, a government would have to think beyond its next term in office.

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Gas Priorities

The Alberta Government has declared ( its gas rebate program a success, having given rebates over three months of the winter. At a cost of approximately 50 million dollars for every month that the government has to apply the minimum rebate, it looks like this winter only cost taxpayers some 160 million dollars or so to protect them from seeing how the government’s mistake would increase their costs. What a bargain!

If I remember correctly, the point to privatizing the gas industry in the first place was to encourage competition and benefit the consumers with lower prices, and to lower the amount that taxpayers had to pay to regulate the industry.

However, it seems that now the Alberta Government is, in their attempt to hide the damages that poorly-implemented de-regulation has brought, actively discouraging competition by providing rebates (why would a customer move when they’re shielded from the actual cost), favoring customers of a specific company (Atco Gas, on whose prices the rebates are determined), favoring the owners of that company (which receives the bulk of the money from the rebates), and doing it all at the expense of you and I who would prefer that money go into other much needed things such as health-care or education.

Most of us realize that if you have a bad project, the way to handle it is to change the project or to cancel it.

For the Alberta Government, this doesn’t seem to be an option, as in their press release they are quite happy to declare that the rebate program will continue to hang around, no doubt until people working in the gas industry have decided they’ve leeched enough money from the public coffers.

I’m not holding my breath.

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.