Friday, July 28, 2006

On shutting out the world

I wouldn't want to downplay the importance of educational issues as a matter of national policy. But judging from today's news that the Cons are decimating funding toward international academic relations, it may be for the best if education never gets mentioned again while the Cons are in power:
The Harper government is poised to cancel federal funding for Canadian international academic programs, including Canadian participation in the Fulbright program, one of the most prestigious international scholarships...

$13.5 million in funding for international academic relations programs will expire on June 21, 2007.

Programs at risk include: $5 million for Commonwealth Scholarships; $600,000 for the Fulbright Foundation; support for the Canada-China Scholars Exchange Program; a program encouraging Mexican students to study in Canada; and all funding for Canadian studies programs abroad.
And there's outspoken opposition to eliminating exchange funding within Harper's own party:
However, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs, called the decision "a calamitous misunderstanding" by Treasury Board.

"These scholarship programs have nothing to do with provincial jurisdiction," he said in an interview yesterday.

The scholarships play a crucial role in projecting knowledge and understanding of Canada abroad, and Canadian expertise about the rest of the world, Segal said...

Canadian studies programs in the U.S. are a major part of Canada's investment in awareness of Canada in the United States, and Canada's ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, is said to be very upset at the Treasury Board decision.
We'll find out soon whether Harper is any more flexible in responding to the concerns of his own party elders than he is when it's merely a good chunk of the voting public opposing wrongheaded cuts. But it seems plain that the Cons have decided that building relationships with the rest of the world isn't worth Canada's time or money. And whether or not the Cons can be pushed into reversing the initial decision, that's a dangerous attitude for a government to hold in the first place.

Update: Denise Savoie chimes in, emphasizing the sudden turnaround the from Harper's seeming support for the same programs just a couple of months ago.

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