Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation…


The province of Ontario announced on August 16, 2005 the creation of grants for low-income students. Up to 16,000 first-year students in Ontario will be receiving grants of approximately $3,000 (just over three-quarters of the average university tuition in Ontario).

This bursary, made in conjunction with the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, is expected to cost around $100 million. The bursary can be combined with the Canada Access Grant, a new federal government grant also awarding up to $3,000 to low-income students. As a result low-income first year students should be able to pay their entire tuition and book fees using entirely grants.

While it’s a good start, I don’t see it doing a lot to encourage those people who are not participating in post-secondary studies because of their worries about incurring debt. After all, post-secondary is more than one year; earning enough to afford that second year can be even harder because your time and effort in the first year is focussed on learning.

Ontario. Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (2005, August 16). Low-Income Ontario Students To Benefit From New Tuition Grants: Up-Front Grants Support Increased Access To Postsecondary Education. Retrieved from


The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) announced on August 16, 2005 the recipient of a $10,000 fellowship. A PhD student, James J Brittain, from Nova Scotia will be receiving the fellowship to help him in his studies of Columbian peasants.

These peasants are managing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They have gathered together and used what little surplus money they have from their crops to create an education centre that also winds up becoming a community hub and even lends out money to other more impoverished areas.

What I find interesting is that part of what’s making the difference is that these farmers have recognized what education can do for them. According to Mr. Brittain, the education centres “educate local people in organic farming and the importance of protecting indigenous seeds and crops, as well as encouraging farmers to plant alternatives to common cash crops”?such as coca and opium poppies”?that feed into the illegal drug trade”

Using this and their collective ability, these people seem to be finding their own way out of the poverty and violence around them. If Mr. Brittain can distill their experiences to help other impoverished areas, we’ll have yet another justification as to why the social sciences are an area as deserving of funding as science and engineering.

Canada. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2005, August 16). Colombian peasants offer model of hope to world’s poor: University of New Brunswick student wins $10,000 fellowship to study farmers’ solutions to social problems. Retrieved from


With hurricane Katrina running roughshod over the United States domestic oil producing capacity, the price of oil and gas keeps climbing at record paces. For Alberta, this means budgetary surpluses climb right along with it.

The latest projection issued on August 29, 2005 has the Alberta surplus set at approximately $2.8 billion, that’s $1.2 billion higher than Alberta’s economists predicted. Analysts predict that there is a good chance the total surplus will continue to grow as the year progresses.

So what exactly does the government do with an extra $1.2 billion? Apparently they stuff most of it into the Capital Account to pay for capital expenses in future years. Or in other words, they haven’t a clue, but they might decide to build stuff with it at some point in the future.

To put this in real terms, with a population of just over 3 million people, $1.2 billion works out to just under $400 per person. If you’re an Albertan, what do you suppose you could do with an extra $400?

Or another way of looking at this money is to realize that $1.2 billion could entirely fund 17 Athabasca Universities according to the latest Athabasca University annual report (2003-2004, p. 49). Or if you take growth into account, could make Athabasca University tuition free, with no further investment, for at least the next decade.

Can somebody please tell me why tuition is increasing again?

Alberta Finance (2005, August 29). Higher revenue allows for increased investments in priority areas: Surplus now forecast at $2.8 billion, up $1.2 billion from budget. Retrieved from
Athabasca University (2004). Annual Report 2003-2004. Retrieved from


Recently there was a bit of a hullabaloo around the Governor General to be, Mme. Michaelle Jean, when it was found that her husband made films about the separatist movement in Quebec. Could such a person, it was asked, be trusted to represent all of Canada in her duties?

Personally, I think the story (Office of the Prime Minister, August 17, 2005) is simply a lot of wind being stirred up by people looking for something bad to say. While her husband may have made films about separatists, does that mean he supports the movements, or was he merely examining it? Even if he does support it, can we assume this viewpoint is imposed on Mme. Jean? After all, the last time I checked, marriage does not mean that people agree on everything.

Of course, for me the only important question of the situation is even if Mme Jean is in favour of separation, what does that really mean? Are we in danger of her suddenly signing into law a separation of Quebec without it passing Parliament? Is there some fear that she might be able to convince some other country to send forces to Quebec to force separation? Can she even say anything bad about Canada without it being reported or without our politicians issuing a correction, apology, and disciplinary action against her?

In short, who cares? We should spend our time worrying about more important things, such as why the Bloc Quebecois keep getting elected in the first place.

Canada. Office of the Prime Minister (2005, August 17). Statement by the Prime Minister. Retrieved from


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2005, August 24) are receiving a grant from the federal government to study why childhood obesity is growing, and what they can do to combat it.

To me, this seems fairly obvious. They’re getting fat because their parents can’t or won’t pay attention to what they’re eating and what they’re doing. Children are not naturally obese. It’s something they have to work at, and it’s something they have to have help doing. Children, especially young ones, generally don’t eat something unless it’s made available to them. I don’t see many children stopping off at the seven eleven to buy a bag of chips and a coke, but I see lots of pre-teens doing just that kind of thing.

Perhaps it’s insensitive of me, but if someone’s kids are fat, the problem isn’t anything with the kid, it’s with the parents. Stop making junk food available, learn to cook a vegetable or two, pull the power-cords out of the TV and PlayStation for a while, and if you’re really ambitious, buy the kid some sidewalk chalk and a rubber ball. The one thing kids hate over everything else is to be bored. So encourage them to have fun in a way that involves more than hand-eye coordination. It doesn’t take much more than that to get a child to slim down.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2005, August 24). Researchers doing their homework on childhood obesity – Minister Dosanjh announces over $2.8 million for health research projects. Retrieved from