Double cohort funding solid: Ecker
With a provincial election expected to be called this spring, The
Gazette took a moment to speak with Ontario Finance Minister Janet
The 2002-2003 budget states that funding for post-secondary education
would be increased to $368 million by 2003-2004 in order to accommodate
the double cohort. What plans do you have for the double cohort in its
second, third and fourth year?
We've been investing in expanding our post-secondary institutions by more than 80,000 spaces. Those investments are already in place and construction is already happening. So we need to get the spaces in place first and then we will follow with the plan to make sure that when the students are in those spaces that they get the quality education they deserve and expect.
The government has invested a lot of cash into infrastructure
through such initiatives such as SuperBuild, but universities and student
groups have complained that little finances have been invested in operating
costs. What plans do you have to assist in this area?
We have increased operating funds for post-secondary institutions already; I did that in the spring budget. We are looking at what needs to be done next year. That's what pre-budget consultations are all about.
It's often said that pre-election budgets are filled with "candy,"
or things that people want to hear in order to win votes. Do you plan
for a pre-election budget differently than you would for any other?
Absolutely not. First of all, we're going to continue to invest in the priorities that Ontario families say are important to them. Health care, a strong education system, infrastructure improvements in communities that promote growth, better roads, safe environment, keeping the budget balanced, debt down, taxes down. With a million new jobs in this province, we know the plan is working.