Friday August 22, 2014

MLA reflects public opinion

The words may have been clumsy, as they sometimes are, but Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger echoed sentiments about university funding shared by many.

Last week Krueger called the traditional universities “fat cats,” suggesting they’re graduating people for jobs that don’t exist.

It must also be said that Krueger cannot take shots at UBC and SFU, without including Thompson Rivers University and every other institution that graduates students in academic disciplines.

Six B.C.’s universities, gathered under the moniker of Research Universities Council of B.C. (including TRU), made a pitch this week for $130 million in new funding over the next four years.

Accompanying the demand for more money from the province is a study the group commissioned showing a projected shortage of workers in more than just the trades.

Krueger responded by essentially labelling universities — in the Lower Mainland, of course — as a drain on the taxpayer.

“UBC’s motto is Tuum Est,” he told The Daily News.

“In Latin it means essentially, ‘It’s up to you.’ But when they look to government for money it sure isn’t up to the students, it’s up to the taxpayer.”

While Krueger doesn’t turn his guns close to home, the same could be said of any university. All depend on government money for survival. All are looking for government to add more money.

The labour report itself is generalized, without concrete examples of what academic training will lead to specific job opportunities where there are shortages. It’s much easier for citizens to understand a skills shortage in the trades if they can’t find a plumber to help build their home. That can’t be said as easily in academics.

It’s easy to brush off Krueger’s comments as ill informed, but they are no doubt shared by many British Columbians. Tax dollars are scarce and health spending will always come first.

It’s up to academics and those in business to better show how more money from taxpayers will end up in more opportunities for B.C. workers.

One interesting aside in the report, however, is B.C. is lacking in graduating engineers compared to other provinces. TRU president Alan Shaver has mused about wanting to add an engineering school here.

Here’s a much needed example of a concrete effort needed to provide skills that will generate economic growth.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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