Government’s role in higher learning

Government must recognize that higher learning is crucial to a country’s success. As chair of the Government Post-Secondary Education Caucus, I have met with many student organizations and toured universities and colleges across the country. It is clear to my colleagues and me that the health of Canada’s universities is crucial to our economic prosperity and global competitiveness. These institutions advance medicine and technology through research and train the work force who maintain and advance the Canadian economy.

In order to maximize the benefits of post-secondary education to our nation, government must ensure a competitive level of quality as well as maintain accessibility for all who want to attend. Canada’s Conservative Government has worked to uphold those key principles. In each budget since our election, we have taken steps to strengthen post-secondary institutions, to support provincial and territorial investments in post-secondary excellence, and to enhance Canadians’ access to higher education.

Maintaining a world-class post-secondary education system requires a great deal of government investment. Here is an overview of how federal government funds were invested in the 2008-09 year. In that year, our Conservative government increased support for post-secondary education to $9.7 billion through transfers, direct spending and tax measures. Canada’s Conservative government invested:

• $3.2 billion to provinces and territories through the $10.6 billion Canada Social Transfer, set to increase by three per cent annually as announced in Budget 2007.
• $1.8 billion to help students and families save for their education and deal with tuition and other costs via the tax system, including the tuition, education and textbook tax credits and carry-forward of unused credits.
• $2.1 billion to help students deal with the costs of education through grants, scholarships and loan programs.
• Over $2.7 billion to fund research and development in post-secondary institutions, including support provided through the university research granting councils, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Each of these categories represents several specific measures that our government took to assist in maintaining an accessible, quality higher-learning system in Canada. However, I would like to highlight a key measure taken in Budget 2009. Canada’s Economic Action Plan created the $2 billion Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) which is providing support for deferred maintenance and repair projects at post-secondary institutions.

KIP is an excellent program because not only has it created jobs and helped stimulate our economy, but it is helping to enhance the research capacity of post-secondary institutions and enable them to attract students and provide a better educational experience.

We have seen the benefits of this massive infrastructure investment right here at the University of Manitoba. For example, last July, in partnership with the province, I announced approximately $24 million for infrastructure improvements at the University of Manitoba. The university will use the funding for renovations and enhancements to its Biological Science Building, Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library, Eureka Incubator and Buller Building Science Labs.
In May, the federal and provincial governments announced $40 million of KIP funding for the Art Research Technology (ART) Lab; Smartpark Lake 2 Infrastructure Development; and the Space Renovation and Development for the Regenerative Medicine Program.

Along with the Post-Secondary Education Caucus, I have toured a number of facilities that have benefitted from KIP. What I have heard from all of them, including the U of M, is that they are excited to work with government to achieve their worthy goals; they are our partners and allies in strengthening this country and ensuring its prosperous future. Government’s role is to nurture that partnership, and I am confident Canada’s Conservative government will continue to do just that.

Rod Bruinooge is MP for Winnipeg South and chair of the Government Post-Secondary Education Caucus.