Volume 93, Issue 26

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Throne speech fails to enthral

Robotic arm helps make history

Biotech incubator to attract research business

Harris makes hushed appearance at Western

Gas stations disconnect cellphones

Organization is key to conference


Caught on campus

Throne speech fails to enthral

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

Tuesday's federal government throne speech failed to aid the post-secondary sector, according to critics attacking it for lack of substance.

The 24 page speech, read by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson outlined the Liberal's agenda heading into the next century. With a projected $10 billion surplus, education officials were hoping to reap some benefits, said Bridget Nolet, press secretary for the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

Libby Davies, education critic for the New Democratic Party said the speech's outcome fell short on education issues.

"I was just hugely disappointed. I think it included what we've heard so often from the Liberals – rhetoric surrounding young people and the knowledge-based economy, how the internet plays such an important role – but when you get down to the real issues there wasn't anything. Zip, zero, nothing," she said.

"The way to remedy [the criticisms] is to make a commitment," Davies added. "With this looming $10 billion budget surplus, it should be used in a way to benefit students. I'm not saying the entire $10 billion toward this, but issues such as tuition freezes, reductions in tuition across the board and national grants programs should be addressed."

However, Joe Fontana, Liberal Member of Parliament for London East, defended his party's position on the speech. "The throne speech is not meant to be a budgetary speech. It sets out strategy for the country on how we deal with the surplus and broader issues facing the nation," he said.

He said the creation of 2,100 research chairs across the country and research funding showed the government's commitment to making education a priority.

"I find it really hard to believe they spoke about increased internet access but completely ignored social problems such as homelessness," said David Robinson, policy analyst for the Canadian Association of University Teachers. "You have to have a home before you can worry about internet access."

He added the speech listed an odd set of priorities and romanticized the idea of a knowledge-based economy.

Kieran Green, communications officer for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, echoed Robinson's concerns. "The word 'innovation' was smattered over and over during the speech, but little was said about core public funding in general and the importance of educational infrastructure," he said.

Fontana argued the speech adequately met its goals of addressing tax reduction, strategic economic and social spending issues. "I suggest [critics] wait for February's budget speech to hear how we'll deploy those funds in detail."

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