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Charlie Watt

The Hon. Charlie  Watt, O.Q. Appointed to the Senate by the late former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Senator Charlie Watt represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Inkerman.

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Discontinuance of United Kingdom Commonwealth Scholarship Program for Canadian Students—Other Sources of Funding

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Statement made on 08 May 2008 by Senator Yoine Goldstein (retired)

Hon. Yoine Goldstein:

Honourable senators, we are all, of course, aware that post-secondary education in Canada is under significant stress. The increasing cost of schooling precludes many young people from pursuing their education at the post-secondary level and especially at the Ph.D. level.

Indeed, the statistics with which we were provided just yesterday indicate that Canada's proportion of Ph.D. graduates is among the lowest in the Western world, which makes it one of the lowest in the world.

One of the programs that encourages Ph.D. studies is the Commonwealth Scholarship Plan, which was created in 1960 as a result of a meeting of the Commonwealth countries in Canada in 1959. That program has continued, and, indeed, has flourished for almost 50 years. We have just discovered that the United Kingdom, which has been financing that program, proposes to withdraw the financing for Canadian students.

Honourable senators should know that since the establishment of the program, some 1,500 Canadians have obtained Ph.D.s as a direct result of having been awarded these scholarships. Five hundred applications are received per year for these scholarships in Canada, and 30 Canadians obtain their Ph.D.s each year in Canada as a result of the scholarships.

To give you some idea of how significant the scholarships have been, here is a partial list of the people who have been accorded these scholarships in Canada: George Bain, former President of Queen's University Belfast; Peter Boehm, Assistant Deputy Minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada; Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada; Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-Chief of The Globe and Mail; Janice Kulyk Keefer, the author of The Ladies' Lending Library and Thieves; Steven Langdon, a former NDP member of Parliament; and Kevin Lynch, the Clerk of the Privy Council. I could go on to mention, for instance, for Senator Campbell's benefit, that Stephen Toope, the President of the University of British Columbia, was one of the recipients of this scholarship.

It is clear, therefore, that the program is essential.

My questions are to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. First, what is Canada doing, if anything, to influence the government of the United Kingdom to change its mind and reverse its decision?

Second, if the Government of Canada does not succeed in having the United Kingdom reverse its decision, will the Government of Canada fill the breach and provide that program of scholarships before the commencement of the next school year?

Please click here to read the full text of the Senator’s question

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