The Grits Remain
It was all over the news recently: Belinda Stronach “crossed the floor” of the Parliament to become a member of the official government caucus. The Prime Minister released a statement(http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news.asp?id=495) about the move, calling it “gutsy” and, of course, saying he was proud to have her on his team.
For AU students, what is interesting is that Belinda Stronach has become the new Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. This is as close to a Minister of Education that the federal government has, so her views on post-secondary education could have a large effect on federal government policy in this area. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has responded with a press release(http://www.casa.ca/news.asp?ID=62) calling for the new Minister to establish a Pan-Canadian Accord to address the shortcomings in the post-secondary education system.
For those unaware, Ms. Stonach was President and CEO of Magna International, the firm that sponsors those “If I Were Prime Minister(http://www.asprimeminister.com/english/main/)” essay contests, so she’s had exposure to a lot of ideas from post-secondary students from all over Canada. If we’re lucky, a lot of students wrote about the benefits that subsidizing tuition can bring to the country and she’ll have remembered this.
The importance of this move in political circles, however, is that it gave the liberal government enough votes to remain in power, if only just barely. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. While I certainly don’t want the conservatives making any gains, I think that the parties that really stood to gain by this election were those that have a real plan for post-secondary education in the future — the NDP and the Greens. Now we’ll never know.
Not that the whole struggle is over. Now that the budget’s been approved as a whole, apparently each little part of is also has to be approved in another confidence motion, as the liberal party tries to work out exactly how it’s going to implement the programs that the budget has called for. With three independents still remaining in Parliament at this time, any one of those smaller votes could bring up a snap election. It’s going to be an interesting year.
The Report is in – School is Good For You
Statistics Canada has released a report(http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/050519/d050519b.htm) showing that adding extra years of compulsory schooling has a wealth of benefits, both for the individual and society. By looking at the results from 1920 to 1990, researchers were able to determine that increasing the compulsory amount of schooling decreases unemployment, raises income, and lowers the risk of becoming working-poor.
The study found correspondences for each additional year of schooling that was required. This is something that a new Human Resources Minister can look at. With unemployment and the number of working poor still being problems in this country, perhaps it makes sense to ensure that all students get at least an extra year of schooling. When you consider that we have moved from an industrial age to an information age it may make some sense to also change how children are schooled to reflect the new economy and job market.
Finally, Some Vision
The Alberta Government is closing(http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200505/18059F448D8DF-91A1-4A48-B3BBB0497EE5A546.html) its spring sitting of the Alberta Legislature. Passed this sitting were some 40 bills, including the Access to the Future Act. This Act expands current endowment programs by 1.5 billion dollars and opens up another 3 billion dollars for new endowments. The Advanced Education Minister and Government House Leader has said, “The future of Alberta requires a strong post-secondary education system that will give Alberta the highly skilled workers it needs. In this session, we created foundations for a 21st century post-secondary system that will provide a sustainable future for this province.”
Maybe they’re finally realizing that if you want to compete in a global economy that relies primarily on information to create value, you need people who know how to best handle that information. Funding post-secondary education isn’t a good idea just because I’m taking it. Funding post-secondary education is a good idea because it benefits the all of society in the long run. I’ve often said that we never get away from paying for anybody, all we do is change where the funding comes from. If we don’t provide social support, we pay for increased policing. If we don’t provide post-secondary education, we pay for it in increased social supports.
The government describes this release saying “Vision for higher learning will define Alberta’s second century,” so it sounds like they are beginning to understand that this is a long-term project. We can’t expect to just give a funding boost to post-secondary education once and hope to coast on that funding for the long-term. No, higher learning is a continual commitment. Fortunately, it is a commitment that provides many dividends for the societies that make it.