Heady scenes last night. We have a new government with a strong mandate. And it’s not the by-now reviled Conservatives. It can seem like a whole new world is emerging.
But as far as PSE is concerned, very little actually changed last night. Higher education is mostly a provincial responsibility, and nothing that happened can change the fact that most provincial budgets are in a parlous state, and few governments (bar perhaps Alberta’s) seem much interested in spending on post-secondary education.
Did anything change federally? Well, tone. I would bet the phrase “commiting sociology” won’t be used as a term of abuse any time soon. But as I have noted in a platform analyses here, here, and here, the Liberal platforms contains: i) no new transfer money for provinces; ii) no new money for granting councils; and, iii) no new money (or not very much anyways) for student aid – though they are promising a major and welcome re-jig of student aid, which will be to the benefit of some students from below-median income families.
That’s not very good news, but there is a base that can be built upon. This is a government that will be more sympathetic to the concerns of the knowledge economy than the last one. They likely can be brought round to the merits of basic science, provided that there are convincing answers for improving private sector innovation. And to the extent that significant improvements can be made without spending a dime (do read Jim Woodgett’s A Decade of Mishandling Science in Canada for more on this), I suspect there will be some willing ears in government.
But it’s not going to happen on its own. The whole post-secondary community needs to speak with a single voice on this. And it needs to speak quickly. The basic policy framework for the new government will be set in weeks, not months. Let’s roll up our sleeves, and get to work.