Looking at all of the activity in Alberta politics over the past week it would seem obvious that we are not the only ones interested in the next provincial budget. The Progressive Conservative caucus held a two-day long meeting in Calgary last week to discuss among many other things the budget and it was revealed that the basic business plans and numbers of the budget were approved. No doubt some areas will still receive some tweaking and there is the issue of the new Finance Minister’s speech but on the whole the recommendations of groups like CAUS have all been decided upon and now we wait for the start of session on February 22.
It goes without saying that those of us at the CAUS and the students we represent believe that taking the opportunity to invest in post-secondary education is the right choice for this budget. Enrolment is climbing at our institutions but there remains insufficient spots to educate all who qualify and the available spots are unaffordable for many. That is why we proposed increasing funding to create more opportunities and to increase funding to up-front grants for students, the proven method of ensuring financial barriers do not get in the way of getting an education.
Last year Alberta Advanced Education and Technology received a $205 million cut, or 6% of their total budget. The 2010 budget calls for spending $3.2 billion and projects cutting that further to $2.9 billion in the next provincial budget, the one expected to be tabled in a few weeks. We have looked at the same numbers and believe there is a strong case for increasing our investment. Only a few weeks before we find out where the government places its priorities.