The pattern is pretty clear. Wherever conservative governments come into power, one of their first targets is education. It has happened in Ontario. And it is happening there again. But it's also happening in Alberta. Duncan Cameron writes:
The province should be building on its recognized education system (students ranked third in the world in science and reading, seventh in mathematics) and welcoming more graduates to the most complete post-secondary system in Canada.
Alberta has two research universities rated in the top 200 in the world. As post-secondary education expert Alex Usher has pointed out, based on population size, only Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Massachusetts do better.
Created over 50 years ago, the Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology (NAIT and SAIT) give Alberta two big polytechnical schools that along with big and small universities prepare graduates to contribute to the knowledge-based economy.
In an incomprehensible attack on the foundations of an advanced society, the Kenney government has decided to slash funding for the current financial year (that ends next March) to the university sector by five per cent, with further cuts of five per cent projected for each of the following three years.
With four years of cuts coming, taking inflation into account, 21 post-secondary Alberta institutions (colleges, universities and technology institutes) will lose one-quarter to one-third of their public funding.
But Kenney has made exceptions to the cuts:
Pointedly, the Kenney government excluded the four faith-based Christian universities from its cuts, while singling out Grant MacEwan University and Bow Valley College for initial 7.9 per cent reductions.
When it comes to cuts, Kenney dishes them out to his enemies and protects his allies. And, overall, he hamstrings his province:
The consequence will be to throttle back the research activities of these world-class institutions, forcing the universities to reduce all spending on items not covered by long-term contracts and denying Alberta students access to important opportunities in the emerging sectors that drive the modern world economy.
The international success of the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary was built on generous support from public funds for the research community of graduate students and their supervisors.
Crucial internal funding helped faculty members secure massive outside funding.
Kenney dropped out of university after his first year there. He didn't need a higher education to get to where he is. Perhaps he figures he's Alberta's everyman. Unfortunately, he's deluded.
Image: The National Post