Canadian universities ‘disappointed’ by lack of support in budget

Institutions sound warning after feeling left out of finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s economic statement

November 22, 2023
Source: iStock

Canadian universities have said they are concerned about the lack of support for the sector from the government’s latest budget.

Finance minister Chrystia Freeland presented the country’s autumn economic statement on 21 November, pledging an increase in government spending over the next six years. Much of it was earmarked for new initiatives to address Canada’s housing crisis and the cost-of-living crisis, and not for the higher education sector.

Although encouraged that the government was taking the housing crisis seriously, Universities Canada said universities had to be part of any solution and should be given access to low-cost financing and eligibility as applicants under the newly announced programmes.

Philip Landon, interim president and chief executive of Universities Canada, said he was “disappointed” by the continued lack of measures to support students, develop talent and advance research.

“Prioritising investments in Canadian post-secondary education is imperative for ensuring Canada remains competitive.

“Navigating economic challenges demands an approach that propels Canada forward, not backward, on the world stage.”

Mr Landon said the country’s budget next year will be a “pivotal moment”.

The membership organisation warned that with the ongoing threat of economic stagnation in Canada, it was a critical moment to invest in the people and ideas needed to drive the country forward.

Universities Canada had hoped the government would use the statement to respond to a recent report on the federal research ecosystem, which called for sustained increases to federal support for fundamental science, including direct support for graduate and postdoctoral researchers.

A Coalition for Canadian Research was recently formed to urge the country’s government to increase funding after years without significant new spending announcements.

However, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) welcomed the news that the government was reforming corporate bankruptcy legislation, which it said would protect public universities from corporate-style restructuring policies.

The news comes almost three years after Laurentian University entered into bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA), leading to cuts and job losses.

Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA president, said this was a victory after years of public campaigns and lobbying efforts.

“What happened at Laurentian should never have happened, and now we can ensure that it will not happen again to another public university in Canada,” he said.

“Canadians across the country know how valuable our world-class public university system is, and we know that these reforms will help protect our public universities and help them thrive.”

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Canada’s Liberal government swept to power eight years ago promising to undo the damage inflicted by the previous Harper regime. However, after a big early funding spike for basic research, there is a growing sense of drift – and mounting concern about the future. Paul Basken reports

20 July