Premiers push to make post-secondary education a national priority
I was greatly encouraged last month to see Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty take the lead to galvanize the other Canadian premiers around the idea of holding a federal-provincial summit aimed at developing a national funding strategy for universities and colleges.
At their annual provincial and territorial leaders’ meeting with the prime minister held in Alberta, many premiers argued that federal funding for post-secondary education has been squeezed out by money for health care, and they urged Paul Martin to create a dedicated fund for higher education to help Canada maintain its competitive position.
“I’d like to see us emerge with a consensus around post-secondary education,” Premier McGuinty was quoted in the Globe and Mail. In a separate media report, he added: “I think a call for a strong pan-Canadian strategy to invest more in our people is key.”
This sends an important message that – notwithstanding the substantial investment in higher education demonstrated in last spring’s Ontario provincial budget – our current government acknowledges much still remains to be done in raising per-student funding to internationally competitive levels. There are enormous opportunities for improved federal-provincial cooperation around two issues in particular: increased base funding, and increased student aid and scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students.