Listen closely. You will hear it.

The four horsemen of the vested interests. They are coming on strong around this issue of “post-secondary education reform”.

This is a great example of how things don’t get done in New Brunswick.

Anything remotely controversial like consolidating LSDs, reforming post secondary education, amalgamating urban areas, changing French Immersion, restructuring rural hospitals, on and on and on follows a similar pattern.

The vestest interests on each side roll out their ‘big guns’, government backs down, and you get ultimately very little ‘reform’.

Some of the posters to this blog will call this an excellent example of ‘democracy at work’. ‘The will of the people has prevailed’ they will say.

No, actually, it is the will of a few special interests who sow confusion among the populace and that results in the lack of political will to move forward.

Back to Post Secondary reform. Everyone says we need it. Everyone has a different vision of what it should be. And everyone has a ‘big gun’ or two to bolster their own vested interest.

Take Saint Thomas University. I was told confidently by someone closely affiliated to that school that no major changes will be made to impact STU (i.e. enfolding into UNB) because the Premier, Greg Byrne and I believe even old Kelly Lamrock are alumnus.

Take UNB. David Ganong is on the front page of the Telegraph Journal today shouting in the headline “DEATH KNELL TO R&D” if the province converts three of New Brunswick’s university campuses to polytechnic institutes. Letting UNBSJ stand on its own will, it would seem, piss off a lot of well placed folks. Someone should mention to Mr. Ganong that we are already at the bottom for R&D in New Brunswick so the use of “death knell” here is particularly interesting. What government is going to anger the business elite of New Brunswick?

Take Mount Allison. No worries there. I talked to some folks who should know.

Then, of course, there is the whole community college thing. The campuses in fast growing communities say they need more resources and more course offerings but the provincial system is designed to force folks from one city to go to school where the training is – not to bring the training to the people. This is particularly problematic for CCNB -Dieppe as they are watching Francophone students attend the NBCC in Moncton (in English) rather than move to Northern New Brunswick to take the French language version of the course.

So, in summary.

The universities will dig in and fight any changes that will reduce/threaten their mandate.
The north/south will make it a pride/political issue.
Consolidation will be highly unlikely at any level.
Conversion to a ‘polytechnic institute’ model will likely not happen.

So, in the end, I predict the ultimate changes will be minimal. Just like virtually every major initiative since McKenna.

Probably there will be a little more integration between the college and university system (but heaven help us we will not be able to sully the excellent reputation of our universities with that watered down, grunt college training).

Probably, there will be more focus on attracting international students (already happening).

Probably, there will be modest and superficial attempts to integrate more within New Brunswick (i.e. take two years at MTA and two at UNB).

I don’t expect any campus closures or amalgamations at any level (NBCC or university) and I certainly don’t expect UNB Saint John to get its autonomy although I think just about everyone in Saint John would like this (that I have talked with).

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0 Responses to Listen closely. You will hear it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Just like virtually every major initiative since McKenna.”

    And, what were McKenna’s earth-shaking initiatives? You have to go back to Robichaud to find someone who really shook things up in NB. For better or worse, he had a vision and made it happen.

    NB is drifting and needs someone rather than a caretaker, someone with the right strategy and the guts to push it through.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is typical of these tinpot dictators who are protecting the diminution of whatever perceived powerbase they hold. I sincerely hope that this goes through in some form or other.
    A simple way to proceed would be for a study to be done on the previous two years graduate students. Compare the statistics on how many qualified in what areas and then measure that against where and what sort of jobs were available to them in their particular field of expertise or training and the take up of these positions or not.
    That would be an interesting study and would assist in making this decision thus taking the whole argument away from the vested interests and grounding it in something approaching a logical fashion.
    Mr Grahams leadership skills are needed once again.

  3. mikel says:

    Is that a dig?:) I dont think anybody would say this is ‘democracy at work’. In what kind of world would that be true? The referendum on amalgamation makes it ‘partly’ true in that one particular case. That was an exercise in direct democracy, albeit a very poor one since the media reported that most people had little knowledge of it.

    To ‘dig’ a little myself, it was hilariously ironic to see Irvings media complain that nobody knew about the referendum! Wow, that’s a special kind of bizarre thinking.

    However, I think perhaps you are getting a little impatient with the status quo in wanting ‘BIG’ changes as some sort of evidence of ‘movement’. There is such a thing as BAD movement. People shouldn’t assume things CANT get worse.

    And take a look at the paper for Moncton, six new cancer researchers and an article about a program designed to get private sector interest into R&D, much of it already successful. Dave, you’re starting to sound a bit like a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy:)

    Moving the blocks around doesn’t do anything for economic development. I still remember a dig from my dad when I was a kid, when my solution to ‘fixing my bike’ meant painting it.

    As the Cancer guy said, the only thing holding his group back is FUNDING. He says he has a stack of CV’s on his desk. Well, what was that complaint we’ve been talking about here, namely the NB pension fund being ALL invested elsewhere. Put those two together and thats a long way to solving that problem.

    However, its a POLITICAL problem, and may require lobby work. The pension people may be more happy with their 15% growth through investments in slave labour countries. It may take a lobby to get that money, at least SOME of that money, to these guys. Get on that. Blog it every week, email all the MLA’s and find out why it isn’t happening.

    However, thats a lobby with lots of, at least, educated people. And it doesn’t require amalgamating research centres, or changing around anything. Just plugging to ends together.

    I would submit a different theory. A ‘committee’ meets, then picks and chooses the particular ideas that they have, and cherry picks the ones they hear about that THEY like best to back them up.

    That’s NOT democratic, but I’d agree, thats ‘the way things are done’.

    So look at the announcement about non profit groups. Apparantly they say 98% of the presenters want the same four things: stable funding, Creation of an agency, A greater effort to promote volunteering, Greater consultation with government.

    So we see the Irving paper touting ONE of them. Once again in their Orwellian language creation of a big new bureaucracy overseeing all the smaller groups will ‘let them be more flexible’. Lord knows that BIGGER bureaucracies are SO much more flexible!

    But ask those groups which they would prefer: more money, more political clout, OR a new ‘agency’ and see which one they pick. Since of course money for that new agency will come from money they get, then they’d be crazy to pick that, but thats the one the Irvings want, they even have a plug for who they want to run it!

    For education, there are problems, but typically when somebody’s solution involves rearrangement, then you know you’re on the wrong track. Saint Thomas is a tiny school, with very low administrative overhead compared to UNB. Most faculties are already shared. I went to STU and the vast majority of courses I took were at UNB. Making one a part of the other only encourages what many already suspect, that it will get far less money.

    As I’ve harped before, education has HUGE issues, not the least of which is that a better education for virtually all faculties except science and engineering (which involve specialized equipment) can be learned just as easily OUTSIDE the university. A library card and internet access can teach you everything you learn in a classroom, and there are numerous message boards where professors offer insight.

    The only thing lacking is ‘grading’, but that has nothing to do with education. Whether community colleges merge with universities is moot in that matter.

  4. David Campbell says:

    McKenna made a few. He forced amalgamation on at least two urban areas. He implemented a toll highway. And, most importantly, he cut hundreds of millions out of the budget to balance it in the mid 1990s. Take a look a the trend in public sector wages sometime. I have. They flatlined under Mckenna and made it all back under Lord.

  5. David Campbell says:

    I warned you that the glass was draining on this end. I thought about blogging on the Cancer Inst. announcement – certainly positive – but the TJ led with “DEATH KNELL FOR R&D” and I couldn’t resist.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Mikel is on to something. Let’s not be satisfied that we have more universities than Alberta or BC while our provincial population dips below most major subdivisions in Canada’s major cities. Let’s have a university in every community that has a fire station. Screw fiscal responsibility, spend like hell until we are bankrupt then convince the Feds it is their responsibility to bail us out. And screw credibility with our institutions, a law degree from the university of Cap Pele ought to be equivelent to one from Harvard. I imagine we could solve the doctor shortage quickly if we built 20 med schools, eliminated the entrance exam and accepted Canadian Tire money for tuition.

    I already like what I see in the report summary suggesting a focus on students, classroom capacity and teaching quality. In recent times, Universities and Colleges have had a tendancy to place student education a distant priority.

  7. Trevor says:

    Go to the following link if you want the template in which many politicians model their decision making on:

    Click Here

    Precisely, check the following chapters:


    In case the link doesn’t work copy and paste this in your browser:

  8. Anonymous says:

    Mr McKenna…..

    ….made decisions rather than just making popular decisions.

    For example, recognizing we had in-migration of welfare recipiants due to NB offering the highest payouts in the country, he lowered the amounts, increased the claw back limit for working, and paid welfare insentives while people retrained or got their GED etc. In other words, he tried to do something to truly help these people in the long run.

    Guess what, it was not a popular decision. Their were protests in the streets.

    Now, before you present fancy graphs that this decision had minimal impact, forget the specific example, focus on the fact that good leadership must have the guts to make decisions, popular and unpopular. There will be good ones and bad ones but we need to make some if we intend to change. We have lacked such decision making in recent years.

  9. David Campbell says:

    Fancy graphs! I object, kind sir/madam. My graphs are very pedestrian.

  10. mikel says:

    Actually, you don’t need fancy graphs, the biggest drops in welfare were under LORD, NOT McKenna. Welfare has FAR more to do with the economy than anything else. New Brunswicks welfare rate hasn’t changed any more than any other part of the country. But you don’t need fancy graphs to see something else-the massive increase in working poor. NB did the same as most provinces, and simply cut people off.

    To get back into education, I didn’t say it, but i will now, a law school in Cap Pele is a great idea. Universities and ‘think tanks’ in Campbellton and Bathurst and Miramichi and Edmunston are ALL fantastic ideas. It’s no coincidence that ALL research takes place in southern New Brunswick, and thats where all the industry is. All forestry research is done in Fredericton, but how many trees are there? Moncton is big on fisheries, but like the complaint about Ottawa’s department of fisheries, Moncton is not on the coast.

    If Saint John can get the Department of Energy because thats where the energy is, why can’t Miramichi get the environment because thats where forestry USED to be central? Why not put family services in Campbellton because thats where a good percentage of recipients are.

    Then there is the private R&D. Like I’ve said, the Perimeter Institute here in Waterloo gets more R&D funding from the feds than ALL the NB companies. Why? Again, because there AREN”T any in NB. But again, like the cancer guys say, all that is waiting is FUNDING. And before people blow a gasket they should remember the $6 billion in the NB pension fund, NONE of which is invested in NB. I haven’t checked lately, so maybe that bill passed and now its that whopping 3% that the liberals lobbyed for, which probably goes to Irving.

    And of course lets not forget Dave’s recent post about that Canadian investment company that has to go outside of Canada, as that blog said, there’s not enough enough investment opportunities available in CANADA so they have to go outside.

    Plus, once again we should remention the increased gas royalties that will be coming in once the terminal is online. We should once again remind people that the richest 10% of canadians of any province reside in one of the poorest-NB. We should remind people that New Brunswicks tax increase was highly regressive and the second smallest increase after the dirt poor was the absolute wealthiest who also got a decrease on their capital gains tax.

    So people have to get out of this mindset that “there is no money”. There IS money, its just politically invested-mostly with the wealthiest. But like the article says, when the cancer guys in Moncton really started blowing their horns, private money came pouring in, and now they have 80% of what they were originally thinking.

    But they got that by lobbying and yelling. I ran the head scientists research papers by some cancer researchers I know and it was only marginally interesting with vague promise because its at such an early stage. Does that mean it shouldn’t be invested in? Absolutely not.

    THAT is the change that people should be looking for. Not saving a couple of bucks, IF THAT, by amalgamating schools just so that people can feel that the government is at least ‘trying’ something. Explain to a skeptic just ONE benefit of amalgamating STU into UNB? What will that accomplish?

    And Alberta has seven universities and BC has 12.

    If tomorrow they announced that TEN percent of the pension fund would be earmarked for disease research then I doubt anybody would complain. They wouldn’t even know what it meant. When they announced the 3% increase I don’t think it got more than a marginal mention in the press. But that would make a HUGE difference in research, far bigger than any changes at Business New Brunswick.

    BUt thats not ‘big’ or ‘flashy’. Voters and people aren’t stupid. When people say they want big ‘unpopular’ changes, it means dig out your wallet or be prepared to be screwed. And its usually people who would be unaffected by the changes that are the most ardent supporters of them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    not being able to get an arts degree or a degree in business in Saint john seems regressive…forcing students the significant extra expenses of travelling afar. Something that for many students will mean the difference between furthering their education or going to work without post secondary training. They will be marginalized for the rest of their lives…It is very difficult to remove a right to a university education in your home town…after many generations have been able to do just that!

    Is this another attempt to marginalize saint John?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, there has always been the argument for a liberal education. And to that end, I’ve always said that that is great, but at some point everyone needs job training. I think most parents send their children off to post-secondary education with the idea of their getting future job opportunities. This polytechnic idea sounds great to me. Bring it on. Let’s get our youth trained for jobs of the 21st century.

  13. mikel says:

    Second the above, but like I said, thats what the entire north of New Brunswick has ALWAYS had to deal with. Statistics clearly show that the likelihood of obtaining secondary education plummets without a local university.

    At the very least there should be ‘branch campuses’ and the ability to obtain a degree online, most graduate studies already have that.

    However, I don’t recall the recommendations stating dismantling UNB SJ but rather amalgamating it with the community college. That would be strange, and at another blog was the whole conversation of the national reputation of NB universities, which is poor enough as it is. Combining a university with a community college does little for the community college, and is detrimental to the university. A university like that would be a joke.

    The big impetus seemed to be that more students are going to community college while less are going to university. If that’s true then I find it hard to believe that with so many asians trying to get into canadian universities that Saint John can’t take advantage of that.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again. The nanny government in action. We cant pander to everybody. Nobody has the right to a university education from a university in their own town (or city). All over the world through time past people have had to leave home or at least travelled long distances to get a university education. It is stupid and illogical to expect that everyone should have a university on their doorstep.
    Granted, there are existing campuses in NB at present and also granted that there will be an outcry when this situation changes but there will always be an outcry and there will always be objectors and vested interests but this is the tail of the dog and for too long these interests have held sway.
    Why do we keep churning out teaching grads and then have them go outside the province to teach because they cant get contracts here?
    Our immediate need is for trades people to be trained in order to fill the construction jobs that we are crying out to be filled. This alone would help in a real fiscal way. We dont need any more supply teachers!
    I keep saying that we need leadership in this province and we havent had it for many years. If Mr Graham can step up to the plate he would go up in my estimation but I doubt that he will. Here’s hoping anyway.