Monday, November 21, 2005

Ralph Shares The Wealth

That's Klein, not Goodale, and in this case the Alberta Premier's generosity is aimed towards the college crowd:

The Alberta Centennial Scholarships Program will provide 325 scholarships annually, worth $2,005 each, to post-secondary students across Canada. Awards will be provided to 25 students from each province and territory, including Alberta, beginning next year. Premier Ralph Klein announced the scholarship program in a speech in Ottawa on November 21.

The centennial scholarships are focused on helping young Canadians from all walks of life achieve their personal dreams, Klein said. "These scholarships will be open to students in any kind of recognized post-secondary program, whether it's university, college, technical institute, or an apprenticeship. The program reflects the importance of lifelong learning, and this government's desire to help people from across Canada continue their own learning."

Under program guidelines, each province and territory will be asked to nominate 25 recipients for the awards. The only criterion is that recipients attend institutions in Canada.

"It is Alberta's hope these awards will go to Canadians who need a bit of financial help to achieve their educational goals," Klein said. "But each province and territory can select its recipients based on its own priorities for students."

Klein has written to fellow premiers to advise them of the program and seek their cooperation in providing nominees. The Alberta government will work with other provinces and territories to present the first round of scholarships for the 2006-07 academic year. A new endowment account for $20 million will be established within the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund to support the initiative. Further details of the program will be provided early in the new year.

You'll notice that this appears to be a totally provincial initiative; no federal government involvement whatsoever. That is of course as it should be, since education is a provincial matter under our Constitution. But it must of course rankle a few cabinet ministers that he's launching this program without their input (i.e. without an opportunity for their ministries to wet their beaks at this till).

This is also the first time in recent memory that the Alberta government has set up a program that's meant to function on the national level. There is of course the possibility that other provincial ministries might be offended ("Why don't WE have a program like that?"), but given the problems in funding post-secondary education, I expect they'll get over any potential snits in a hurry.

A more ominous look can be found in the long term. Even though this program is on a national level, it's still being run by a provincial body. Since provincial educational standards aren't the same, there may be more pressure on the provincial education ministries to conform to the Alberta educational standard, just so more of their students can qualify. And that will certainly raise some hackles in Ontario and Quebec.

In short, this is a step towards Alberta becoming a bigger player on the national scene. It's a development that bears watching.