Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday Afternoon Links

Content goes here.

- Brian Topp muses about what lessons we can draw from the B.C. NDP's internal debates. But I have to wonder whether Topp's proposed solution of giving elected MLAs more ability to choose and dump leaders goes in exactly the wrong direction: can't we find more scope for representatives to act on behalf of their constituents (i.e. loosening the perceived top-down authority of the leader who's actually in place) without giving a small group of people the power to override the will of the broader party as to their choice of leader?

- Chantal Hebert is right to criticize the bite-size news model. And Chris Selley is equally right to encourage Hebert to take the lead in delivering more substantive commentary.

- In case the Cons' choice to gut Canada's census hadn't done enough damage already, it'll also bite into university budgets by forcing researchers to pay for information that was otherwise available as part of Statistics Canada's public service role:
Researchers say they will no longer be able to reliably use data from the long-form census once it becomes voluntary in 2011. As a result, they will need more money from the federal government to buy substitute data from private organizations.
Much of professors' funding comes from organizations like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institute of Health Research — agencies funded by the federal government.

“A lot of our researchers are now going to have to use their federal grant money to purchase private data, so in a sense it is not really saving the federal government a lot of money that way, it's adding more costs to universities and colleges,” said David Robinson, the associate executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
Of course, for the Cons that end result is probably seen as a feature rather than a bug.

- Finally, a report on the federal Learning Bond program manages to figure out the blindingly obvious (at least assuming the goal is to offer opportunities to "children from low-income families" rather than merely "children from low-income families whose parents happen to speak the right language and be among the lucky few to hear about the program"):
Through the learning bond, Ottawa contributes a maximum of $2,000 to a low-income child’s tax-sheltered Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).

As long as a family has an after-tax household income under $40,970 a year, it can open an RESP account for a child born in 2004 or after, apply and get the money, with no strings attached. Unclaimed money goes back to Ottawa’s coffers.

Yet as of 2009, more than 880,000 children, including 60,000 in Toronto, had not claimed the bond they were entitled to.

“The federal program is benefiting the high-income families, when the low-income families can benefit from it most,” said May Wong, Omega’s executive director and a report co-author. “The money can make a big difference in their children’s academic aspirations.”

According to a 2008 EKOS survey, 83 per cent of low-income families had heard of the RESP program, but only half knew what it was. Worse, only one in 10 said they had heard of the free learning bond.

The report attributes this gap, especially among immigrants, to the lack of multilingual information, and to the ignorance of community workers about the RESP. It says parents are often misinformed or misled.
The report recommends developing a simpler application process for RESPs and an automatic enrolment process for the Canada Learning Bond, as is done with a similar program in the United Kingdom.

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