Editorial – The Bear in the Room

It’s been quite a week for layoffs. In case you haven’t heard, Target has given a surprise announcement that they’ll be closing all their stores across Canada. Every single one. That means over 17,000 people are losing their jobs and will be talking to Employment Insurance Canada. On the same day, Sony announced that it would also be closing all 14 of its stores in Canada.

Yesterday, Schlumberger, one of the largest oilfield services providers, announced that it would be cutting some 9,000 jobs over the course of the year. In addition to that, we have Suncor laying off 1000, Shell Canada laying off 300, Apache Corp with 250, EOG Resources laying off 150 in Canada, and Enbridge laying off 100 in Canada, among others. If You’re keeping track, That’s almost 30,000 jobs. The population of Athabasca, for reference, wasn’t quite 3,000 at the last census. So ten Athabascas worth.

The federal government, after first announcing that they’d have a slim surplus when oil was $80/barrel, and so could start bringing in income splitting tax credits (can anybody tell me why a single parent who has to send the kids to daycare should get less of a tax break than a couple making the same amount if one parent can stay home and take care of the kids?) followed this up with an announcement, as oil was hitting $50/barrel, that although the low price of oil would certainly affect revenues, the budget would still have a surplus and be able to enact their promised tax reductions. Since then, the government has decided that they’re not going to produce a budget until after the end of the current financial year.

In Alberta, things are even worse. Even our Premier has announced that Alberta’s economy is not diversified enough, and will be suffering a significant slow-down as a result of the lower prices, though he rejected the assertion from one financial group that Alberta would see a recession.

What this means for Athabasca University is a mixed bag. While currently the rumours are that the province will provide a 0% funding increase, the Alberta government has announced that there will be a consultation with Albertans as to how to address the shortfall. If Albertans indicate, as usual, that they would prefer to cut government services as opposed to switching to a progressive tax system or paying any sort of sales tax, that rumor could quickly turn into another funding cut. At the same time, as in any slowdown, AU can probably expect its enrolments to increase as people look to upgrade their skills to get a better job, or have to turn to student finance in order to survive. When we consider that the cost of tuition doesn’t pay the cost of the education provided, this could turn into a one-two punch that brings AU to its knees trying to provide quality service to us as students.

Hopefully our student unions are already putting together a plan to help remind the public of the various benefits that post-secondary education brings?not just to the students, but to the rest of the province. Our post-secondary institutions, especially AU, which doesn’t receive any provincial funding for non-Albertan students, would be hard pressed to survive having its services stretched any further.

In the meantime, however, we have a great issue this week. From a new interview with a student in Vancouver, to Barbara Godin’s rather heartbreaking story “Rusty’s Gift”, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something in this week’s issue to take your mind off the bears ravaging our economy.
Enjoy the read!

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