News Release 2011 Annual Conference
Higher education not a high priority for the Federal government: Chantal Hébert addresses Canadian education advancement professionals
June 9, 2011
In her first presentation following the May 2, 2011 Canadian Federal election, journalist and commentator Chantal Hébert cautioned attendees at the 2011 Annual Conference of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) in Quebec City, on Monday, June 6, that the new majority Conservative government has priorities other than education on its horizon.
The commitment to fund health care at its current level – which means an increase of 6% in health-care dollars per year – provides “an ideal shield for cuts everywhere else,” said Ms Hébert. “We are negotiating around an elephant if we take health care spending off the table,” she cautioned. “And it won’t be a pink elephant, it will be red.”
According to Ms Hébert, “education is not far from the top of the list of potential casualties.” Because the Federal government “sees education mostly as a provincial affair,” decisions on education funding will fall largely to the provinces. And “the provincial level is very much in flux.” After years of relatively stability in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, all these governments are now in play.
“Flux and uncertainty is not a great platform for decision making,” observed Ms Hébert. “Who can you talk to [about education]? There is no one to talk to.” This, she said, will complicate the search for adequate funding and stability for Canadian universities and colleges in the years ahead.
She urged education advancement professionals – those who work in alumni relations, fundraising, government relations, communications, marketing and student recruitment in universities, colleges, independent schools and cégeps – to seek out and cultivate those who might be “friends of education”, and willing to speak for it, among provincial and Federal governments and the official Opposition.
“It’s going to be a bit of a walk in the dark to find who will speak for education, and how to speak to them,” Ms Hébert said. “This Federal government has an allergy to intellectualism. They see it as elitism.”
The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education represents some 140 educational institutions all across Canada, with 1,400 individual members. Three hundred CCAE members, partners, sponsors and exhibitors gathered in Quebec City for the 2011 CCAE Annual Conference, June 4 – 7.
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