Federal funds wanted
By Ian C. Robertson
University officials attacked the federal government yesterday for not doing enough to stop the leakage of Canadian minds into the United States.
Finance Minister Paul Martin faced an angry audience of university administrators demanding more federal government funding to help Canadian schools remain competitive.
Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said funding is so low that Western students are funding themselves. Constraints placed on the provincial government due to a lack of federal funding must be alleviated if a high standard of education is to continue, Mercer said. "It should be reasonable to assume Canadian public universities would receive public support to finance themselves," he added.
Martin said his government is prepared to help but the deficit makes it hard to do so. "The Liberal government is in a position where money can not just be given away," he said. Although Canada's deficit is the best of the G-seven nations, it is the second-worst country in the world in debt to gross domestic product ratio, he added.
Mercer said federal funding in Canada has dropped in the last 20 years and the federal government has made post-secondary education less of a priority in recent years.
Martin said universities must not be selfish but look at the greater priorities of the country.
"There's no doubt that American universities are far better financed, but it's always been that way," he said. It is unfair to compare them to Canada in terms of funding," he added.
Mercer said this idea was ludicrous and it is a realistic comparison to make because schools are of a similar size and nature. He said in most cases government funding in the U.S. is three or four times higher than in Canada.
Wono Lee, director of news and information services at the University of Michigan, said the university has a $2.7 billion operating budget of which 26 per cent comes from the government.
Karl Jarosiewicz, communications officer for McGill University, said Quebec funds its own university system but federal money is still used and the universities there still hope to see more commitment from the federal government.
Mercer said the initiatives were favourable but clearly not enough is being done to increase access and funding to universities. "An ability to pay should not be what determines who goes to university," he said.