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Well, another year over

January 3, 2009

and a new one just begun and it’s back to the trenches. Did you see the commentary in the paper today by New Brunswick Liberal Association president Britt Dysart? Honestly, the Liberals should really be required to pay to have this sort of boosterism published.

On the ever-popular topic of PSE, Dysart writes:

I touched on post-secondary matters a few weeks back. The L’Ecuyer-Miner report on post secondary education seemed so radical when it was first tabled that it brought people bearing placards to the streets.

Government then took the controversial report and focused on what it was that needed changing. A little more than a year later those reforms are quietly underway and the protest has faded to a whisper.

The province is bringing the community college and university in Edmundston together on one campus. Similar work is underway in Saint John on a smaller scale. Work is continuing to bring autonomy to colleges in order to make the system responsive to the needs of students and the New Brunswick business community.

The main goals in reforming post-secondary were to make the system more student-focused, more accountable and foster a more symbiotic relationship between colleges and universities. The government is well down the road to achieving those goals.

What’s been removed from the equation is the word “polytechnic,” a concept promoted by the authors of the report, and a word that was anathema to those who protested the loudest.

The province has put forward a post-secondary package that people are comfortable with. That’s smart politics and far from the retreat the Tories are shilling to the public.

So once again, Mr. Dysart is essentially telling us that the Miner/L’Écuyer/presidents and principals/Liberal Action Plan — and yes, they are all the same report, give or take — is well on track, “quietly underway” in front of our very noses if we weren’t too dense to see it.

But — oops! — he just let the cat out of the bag.

Or, it could just be another attempt at PR spin in the face of serial political disaster.

Dear reader: a) or b)?

I am inclined to think b) (i.e. hot air), and so the mature response would be to let the matter drop, but I do want to comment on one persistent irritant. Whatever Mr. Dysart and Rick Miner and anyone else may say, the proposed overhaul of post-secondary institutions in this province was anything but “radical.” It was — it is — tired, regressive neo-liberalism at its most crass, greedy and controlling. When a university president who shall remain nameless said to a campus senate that shall also remain nameless, in a discussion about whether or not the provincial government was still planning to implement their “action plan,” “well, it looks like those who want the status quo won,” it fed into the worst sort of misrepresentation misinterpretation misunderstanding of the reasons that compelled so many to react with horror to the suggested “reforms.” As if there were only two choices: the current mess of underfunded compromises, or a complete overall focused on short-term partisan goals that would end whatever current good exists and prevent a viable future. If we don’t want the latter, we are not necessarily supporters of the former, “dinosaurs” (to quote the same unnamed university president) self-interestedly defending “the status quo.” In fact, there is plenty wrong with the post-secondary system in this province, starting with a fundamental and historical lack of government support, and it is nothing less than heartbreaking that we have lost the opportunity genuinely to evaluate and possibly even address the issues facing us.

That would have been option c), and it seems never to have been on the table.

One Comment
  1. Debra Lindsay permalink
    January 4, 2009 10:05 am

    As to the unnamed…
    Six months less four days and counting.

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