Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Northern Education in the West

The Provincial Governments of Alberta and British Columbia are getting together (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2004MAE0014-000265.htm), along with university and college presidents and board-chairs, to have a round-table discussion about increased co-operation between the two provinces for post-secondary education.

Given that both Alberta and BC now have some distance education strategies forming in the northern region, perhaps this meeting will serve to underline the importance of these to the two provinces. From there, it should only be a short step for increased importance to equate to increased funding. Especially interesting is the use of distance education to help both provinces with aboriginal education.

Unfortunately, Canada still has a significant class disparity between the general aboriginal population and the rest of Canada. Having affordable education available regardless of location would be a long step toward addressing this issue.

Online Shopping On the Rise in Canada

Statistics Canada has released a bulletin (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/040416/d040416a.htm) showing online sales in Canada have risen almost 40%, but even at that level, it still account for less than 1% of the total operating revenues made in Canada.

Frankly, I’m not terribly surprised. I do a good deal of my shopping online, and I’m always frustrated at the number of things that simply can’t be bought online from in Canada, but have great web-stores devoted to them in the United States.

For instance, not too terribly long ago, I needed shoe-laces. Shoe-laces are always a pain to get, especially if you’re looking for something slightly unusual, such as extra thick laces for a pair of work-shoes, but not too long. I searched the web high and low and couldn’t find anything in Canada. But as soon as I expanded my search to the United States, I found a store that had every variety and length of shoe-lace imaginable. I ended up ordering an extra set for every pair of shoes that I regularly wear. After all, the shipping was basically nothing as shoelaces are so light, and the price was cheap even with exchange taken into account.

But why in the world can’t I find this type of thing from a Canadian supplier? As one of the largest countries in the world by physical area, not to mention one of the most highly wired countries per capita (with only Singapore and Taiwan being higher) it would seem to make sense to me that Canadians would be online in droves.

Yet online businesses make sense not only from a business perspective but from a political perspective. That money I spent in the shoe-lace store in the United States could have stayed in Canada had there only been the opportunity. With Canadian knowledge, quality, and exchange rate, it stands to reason that our online stores would be a popular destination for American dollars, yet our government is sadly taking minimal steps to promote this kind of thing.

Perhaps what is needed is a way to reduce the taxes paid by a company that does a significant portion of its business online. It’s a small idea, but one that could bring great benefits to the Canadian economy.

Surplus Benefits Post-Secondary in Nova Scotia

The Provincial government of Nova Scotia is taking advantage of their budgetary surplus (http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20040419005) to put 8 million dollars into the post-secondary system. Unlike Alberta, which is devoting (http://www.gov.ab.ca/home/index.cfm?Page=795) over 416 million to the endless quest for bigger and better post-secondary buildings, Nova Scotia is putting the money where it’s really needed, into the operating budgets of their post-secondary institutions in a direct attempt to keep tuitions under control and more of their citizens attending post-secondary education.

This ties back into Athabasca University in the same way that the tuition freeze announced by Ontario does. Once again AU is going to have to look very hard at its strategy of continuing to increase tuition on a yearly basis. Perhaps this increased pressure from outside provinces will help them to start thinking out of the box.

Canada in the Caribbean?

Finally, an odd bit of news from CBC. It seems some politicians in Ottawa are considering (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/turksandcaicos/) the idea of annexing the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean. Apparently, those on the island are already fairly comfortable with the idea, as many Canadians have built winter homes and it is a favourite vacation spot for many in Eastern Canada.

In addition, the Turks and Caicos have historically been a favoured tax haven of Canadian wealthy, so the annexation might also provide some immediate financial benefits to the government coffers.

It seems strange to me to imagine advertisements showing Canada as a land of sun and white-sand beaches, but I have to admit it certainly has its appeal. Besides, I have to laugh at the idea of old men with metal detectors finding coins with polar-bears on them buried in the beach.

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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