Thursday, October 18, 2007

A polytechnic or not a polytechnic, that is the question

For my thoughts on the reports that the government is guaranteeing Saint John will retain a "university" in any post-secondary education restructuring, please see this post on my CanadaEast site.

(a copy of my post from the CanadaEast site follows)

Give polytechnics a chance

I've got to admit I am pretty disappointed with this news.

I have been an enthusiastic proponent of the Post-Secondary Education Task Force Report. I think turning things upside down as Robichaud did two generations ago can really help put us on the fast track for success. The proposal to create a polytechnic in Saint John was controversial, but, on the face of it, it makes sense for the following reasons: New Brunswick has too many universities; UNBSJ has a poor national reputation as a backwater to a backwater; Polytechnic-like institutions are a growing thing and make a lot of sense in the 21st century economy; and Saint John would have the competitive advantage of having the first English polytechnic east of Toronto.

However, instead of sticking to their guns, the government appears to be backing down to a loud emotional reaction from some individuals in Saint John. That is unfortunate. It remains to be seen exactly what the end result may be, UNBSJ may still become a "technical university" or a "university of applied sciences" or something else which is the same thing that has been recommended by the commission, but doesn't lacking the connotation of the word "university" that opponents of the original plan seem to be obsessed with.

I certainly hope that the end decision isn't to give us essentially the status quo in Saint John but still create two Francophone polytechnics in the North. That would essentially change nothing in our English schools and give Franophone New Brunswickers more options in their schooling than Anglophones, something that I suspect would cause a lot of problems in the long term.

Let's hope we see a more sensible conclusion to this debate and that the government has the nerve to stand up and do something bold and sensible, regardless of its popularity.

16 comments:

NB taxpayer said...

Let's hope we see a more sensible conclusion to this debate.

So let's get this straight, you think that unilaterally appointing a government study group, then unilaterally deciding to further study the problem, is a debate???? Sigh.

I guess that's why there were so many people in the streets irate. Too much debate I guess?? Maybe they should strike a study to see if there was too much debate in the legislature by elected officials on this issues. Yeah, too much debate, that's it.

Anyway, carry on as you were.

nbpolitico said...

Uh no, I do not. I think appointing the first study group was a good way to get some independent facts about the situation.

From there, I think that they should accept what I think were good recommendations from that group and introduce legislation to make it a reality and then it could be debated further in the legislatiure.

Nowhere did I suggest that this process where the university presidents and college principals, who have a vested interest in the outcome, are involved in the decisions of how to restructure the system in which they would most likely prefer to see the status quo, was a good thing.

Anonymous said...

The fact that this Government wants to close a University makes me ashamed to be a New Brunswick citizen. To have senior bureaucrats in Fredericton say what's the big deal why are Saint Johner's so opposed to change? And they are saying this. What's the big deal? Let's close UNB Fredericton or STU and see how they feel about it. The fact that Saint John has 6 members of the Liberal party yet they still want to shaft the City like this is unacceptable. Is Mike Murphy stronger then the Saint John six combined? He seems to be keeping the report on the trauma centre under wraps.

Maybe this is the message, people in Saint John are stupid. Hmmmm we’ve neglected the community college system for years, the building is in rough shape lets close it move it to the UNBSJ facility and call it a Polytechnic. They’ll lose the University but most of the people in Saint John are so stupid they won’t catch on and realize what’s going on. Those that do won’t remember in four years time. Or is the message this, we like what’s happening in Saint John but if you want an education come get it in Fredericton.

Today is October 18, 2007 I don’t believe what Dr. Ed has to say and I’m about ready to leave this shitty province. I was hoping a change in Government would be good for us instead these morons are worse then the previous morons. I’ve had it, I have literally had it. I’ve never contributed to this blog in the past but have read it. I’m having a bad day and am at the end of my rope literally.
I think Saint John should seperate from New Brunswick. Yeah thats right study that. Saint John has had the job growth the economic development we're going to experience more. Yet we continually get crapped on. I say no more next election lets vote all these bozo's out!

NB taxpayer said...

Nowhere did I suggest that this process where the university presidents and college principals, who have a vested interest in the outcome, are involved in the decisions of how to restructure the system in which they would most likely prefer to see the status quo, was a good thing.

Status quo?? How do you know they want the status quo?? Maybe they would like to see changes in the system, but not the bonehead suggestion that were proposed by the original group which were eventually sullied by a government with no ballz to make the tough decision.

It was Shawn Graham who decided to go through with that decision to further study this thing, not the public or any principal or president. They are just one vote like you or I, they don't make that call.

Btw, the same thing could be said about the original recommendations, one of which was to create a polytechnic in Saint John, especially if you look at the history of the individual leading it. So don't go on about the independence of one study without mentioning the other. When the government leaves the governing up to unaccountable experts, those experts are going to make biased recommendations in the favour of their field of expertise, especially since they do not have to worry about being re-elected.

How ever, re-election in the Saint John region may be all that this government is worried about judging from their rcent reversal on the million dollar study.

Anonymous said...

The government can't have it both ways. Make tough decisions eh? Release the report on the trauma centre!

Dred said...

I would hardly call the critiques laid out by prominent members of the Saint John community such as John Wallace emotional. Being shut out of the debate and being told that being opposed to these recommendations means being opposed to changes for the better is what sent citizens to the streets – many would have preferred to have their research and arguments heard by the right people in the right settings.

The Advantage NB report barely qualifies the supposed benefits of the program of change and neglects to quantify the costs or benefits.

More study is needed. More changes are needed.

Paul said...

I have to jump in here to nbp's defense. What he says makes a great deal of sense and I think the people of Saint John have their collective heads buried in the sand. Most, I expect, have not read the report, but are working on hearsay, or they clearly "so stupid" as not to understand that the provincial government works for the entire province.

All the government had accomplished backing down now will show everyone that the way to move this government is through marching in the streets. Certainly for Southern New Brunswick.

In Northern New Brunswick the Liberals usually sent in the attack dogs, and cops with guns to beat up on the protesters, but that was the McKenna years.


Premier Graham has taken a really good idea, which, with some discussion, might have made a difference in this province and its access to education and he screwed up.

Bad management I'd say..

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NB taxpayer said...

I have to jump in here to nbp's defense. What he says makes a great deal of sense and I think the people of Saint John have their collective heads buried in the sand. Most, I expect, have not read the report, but are working on hearsay, or they clearly "so stupid" as not to understand that the provincial government works for the entire province.

Now the people are stupid because they have been completely shut out of the process or don't understand this government's unilateral decisions? I would hope for the mere sake of promoting a healthy democracy in NB that nbp would disagree with your statement paul. As much as I disagree with him on policy, I know he would never refer to the people of Saint John as stupid. At least, I hope not.

Paul said...

Maybe my stupid comment is over the top nbt, and i don't think people in SJ anre stupid, but I do think they are being reactionary.

btw, and not to defend this government,but the commission did do alot of public consulation. To say this was unilateral is not entirely coreect.

It is, in my opionion, a self centred response on the part of saint john, and does not look at the issue from a provincial perspective.

mikel said...

There was very minimal consultation with the public-essentially all they did was set up a website and maybe the media mentioned the site once or twice, although I didn't even see that. The self sufficiency 'commission' hardly even had any public consultation, once again, just a website.

But again, NOBODY in the 'public' said anything about merging two schools into a polytechnic. So there is no point in pointing at 'public discussion' when nobody in the public made any such recommendation. In such a case they might as well NOT have public discussion because they are literally doing the opposite of what they heard.

People WERE being reactionary and maybe never read it, but people often have good instincts in politics. Especially when the authors of the study claim the province HAS to implement all recommendations (that makes no sense I know, but thats the media fanning the flames)

It also came out that later that such a 'college' or 'institute' wouldn't be able to get the same funding as a university, and of course its not rocket science to realize that if your school is merged with one that teaches high school equivalency that you aren't exactly talking about 'the best school in north america'.

Despite that claim, looking at the province's nickel and diming, its hard to believe that serious new investments would be made to make it better.

As for protest, they SHOULD learn what northern new brunswick and natives have known for years-that public action WORKS. That sitting home and writing letters to the editor is not lobbying. All those people are potential voters as well, and the government has no choice but to listen-if they want to remain government.

But keep in mind that Fredericton 'took the hit' when it sent the Department of ENergy to Saint John. Saint John is set up as the main industrial location for energy. That's a pretty big carrot for St. John. The government could come out publicly and simply state 'look we don't want another university in Saint John because government departments are being taken out of Fredericton and Fredericton needs a central industry just like Saint John and Moncton.

I don't know whether thats what they are thinking, but when dealing with the media's portrayal of 'one city against another' it should be very publicly combated by frequentely, and vocally, making sure all the cities understand what they will gain, and when they have to lose.

Anonymous said...

I agree that more study is needed and that more changes do need to be made... To be honest I dont think that Graham really knows what he is talking about....Or that he has hired the right people to stand by his decisions,,, And that would strongly account for you Mrs. Bertrand. I am glad that you did not chosen in the recent election..... Thank God!

NB taxpayer said...

For the record, I find it aweful curious that you comment so often paul, but you can't find the time to at least post one blog. A fake "ghost commenter" perhaps?

mikel said...

Let's not get nasty here. Posting two short comments of three paragraphs is hardly extensive and they are just as valid as any other viewpoint.

Paul said...

Thanks for the compliment, I guess, cause I'm just a guy with a keen interest for things political. To be thought of as something as nefarious as a "ghost" makes me smile, while at the same time wondering what they heck a ghost is?

I am new to the world of blogs, so for now, I choose to comment, for now. You may say a virgin...please be gentle.!

Anonymous said...

Where is the public debate and consultation that is supposedly occuring in this province with the public regarding the polytechnic or the self sufficiency agenda for that matter. New Brunswickers in general are very passive until a common interest ignites a passion to express themselves and make their views known. To dismiss the the opposition from a broad spectrum of citizens of different educational backgrounds to this plan as being "emotional" is insulting to the citizens of Saint John ; as we do have the intellectual capacity to see the report as being low on: facts;data;research and associated costs.An institution like MIT would throw this report back to any student as being incomplete and it is shocking that the Liberal Graham govt will use this to formulae policy.But in the end all they really need to do is to SELL IT and MINIMIZE OPPOSITION TO THE PLAN through spin and manufactured consent through their "public relations" staff at the editorial boards of the New Brunswick newspapers; which is the greatest media love affair that has ever occured in this province.They couldn't do it with out each other.