Published by Senator Catherine Callbeck on 02 February 2009
In this global recession, we must do all we can to help Canadians better their situations and succeed in the future. One of the best ways to do this is through post-secondary education. Because of the importance of this issue, I am concerned that there was very little reference to students and post-secondary education in the recent budget.
I am most disappointed by the near absence of direct assistance and support for students, such as targeted grants or extending the interest relief period for Canada Student Loans. Student groups are still concerned about growing student debt and access to post-secondary education. We are in the midst of an economic crisis, and must ensure that every Canadian who can pursue a post-secondary education is able to do so. The tax credits of previous budgets simply do not have the same impact of direct assistance, and I had hoped to see some immediate support of students and their pursuit of higher education in this budget.
While I welcome an $87.5 million increase in funding to the Canada Graduate Scholarship Program, I am disappointed that it is limited to a temporary basis over only three years. The same is true for the Industrial Research and Development Internship program, which will receive an additional $3.5 million over two years for graduate internships.
I also welcome two other aspects of the recent budget. The government has committed $2 billion over two years for deferred maintenance costs and repair projects at post-secondary institutions. However, the federal government will only pay costs up to 50%, making it difficult for small universities and colleges to take advantage of the program.
This investment will be further enhanced by increased funding to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which supports the modernization of research infrastructure at universities, colleges, and others. This is an investment that will not simply provide jobs in the present; it will add to our infrastructure and help build for the future.
There is no denying the serious importance of post-secondary education to Canada's future. In order for this country to succeed, together as a nation, we must have the most knowledgeable and skilled work force in this competitive global economy. Canada’s overall productivity, prosperity and sustainability in the future rests on our ability to overcome today’s challenges.