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Government MPs form caucus on higher ed

BY NICK TAYLOR-VAISEY | MAR 09 2009

Thanks to the efforts of one Manitoban parliamentarian, postsecondary stakeholders looking to bend the ear of the federal government have a new outlet for their advocacy.

Conservative member of Parliament Rod Bruinooge, who represents the riding of Winnipeg South, recently cobbled together a new postsecondary caucus of Conservative MPs that had its first meeting Feb. 4.

According to Mr. Bruinooge, who chairs the group’s meetings, the caucus hopes to meet monthly and engage in a variety of activities, including: meeting with university administrators and student groups; monitoring how the government is meeting the needs of the postsecondary sector; and providing advice to the ministers responsible for postsecondary issues to ensure that policy is effectively implemented.

The caucus’s vice-chair is Phil McColeman, a former governor at Wilfrid Laurier University and a first-time MP who represents that university’s satellite campus in Brantford, Ont. He said that the experience members of parliament have working with their local colleges and universities will help inform discussions with the various ministers.

Although the caucus membership hasn’t been made public because the initiative is still in its infancy, more than 20 MPs attended at least part of the first meeting, and some have announced their intention to sit at the table. In addition to vice-chairs McColeman and Dona Cadman (Surrey-North, B.C.), the members include Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ont.), Patrick Brown (Barrie, Ont.), Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Alta.) and Tilly O’Neill-Gordon (Miramichi, N.B.).

A press release on Ms. Cadman’s website noted that any Conservative MP who represents a riding containing a postsecondary institution is welcome to sit with the caucus.

Gary Evans, the director of government relations and public affairs for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, encouraged the work of the new caucus.

“I think it’s a tremendous initiative. I’m all for opportunities for MPs to talk about higher education and university research issues,” he said.

Mr. Evans added that he was contacting the caucus chair to request a chance for AUCC to make a presentation to caucus members centred on the AUCC flagship research publication, Momentum: The 2008 report on university research and knowledge mobilization.

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