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Margin Notes

Senate hearings on PSE shut down

With the prorogation of Parliament, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is no more.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | JAN 04 2010

Like many Canadians, I’m troubled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament. I believe it diminishes our Parliamentary democracy.

His decision also has a practical consequence for postsecondary education. The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology had begun hearings this past fall on accessibility to postsecondary education in Canada. The committee had held four meetings up until Dec. 10 and had expected to hold perhaps as many as 20 in all.

Reading the transcripts of those first four meetings, it seems to me they were quite fruitful and informative (see links below). But now that Parliament is prorogued, all committee work – including within the Senate – is shut down and the committees themselves are dissolved.

It is widely anticipated that the Prime Minister will soon fill five Senate vacancies with Conservative appointments, giving the Conservatives a plurality in the upper chamber (51 for the Conservatives, 49 for the Liberals, plus five others who sit as Progressive Conservatives or Independents). I may be wrong, but with this tipping of the balance, I suspect the PSE study likely won’t be resuscitated once the Senate reconvenes – the terms of reference for the study were put together by Catherine Callbeck, a Liberal senator for P.E.I., and the committee chair was Liberal senator Art Eggleton from Toronto. What a shame.

For the record – so that their work was not in vain – here are the links, by date, to the proceedings related to PSE accessibility of the late Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology:

Oct. 7 (witnesses: Paul Cappon, president and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning; Paul Davidson, president and CEO of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada; Herb O’Heron, director of research, AUCC; and Patrice de Broucker, chief of education indicators at Statistics Canada.)

Oct. 8 (witnesses: Marc Frenette, social analysis division, Statistics Canada; Richard E. Mueller, professor of economics at University of Lethbridge; and Ross Finnie, a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.)

Nov. 5 (witness: Ben Levin, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and former deputy minister of education for the Province of Ontario.)

Dec. 10 (witnesses: Kathleen Keenan, director general of education in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs; Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation; Noella Steinhauer, also of the NAAF; and Jaden Keitlah, chairperson of the National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students.

ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Rachel / January 7, 2010 at 15:18

    Insightful article! I’ve been wrapped up with Stephen Harper’s manipulation of our political system on democracy in general and haven’t even thought of the consequences it has on postsecondary education; most notably on accessibility to postsecondary education in Canada. Thanks!