Cuts to post-secondary education hurt Calgary

Post Date: Thursday, April 18, 2013
cityhall500pix - approved for useI, like many Albertans, am concerned about the recent cuts to post-secondary institutions made by the provincial government. And, as mayor, I think that those cuts can be very damaging to our city. Those cuts have now led to significant programming cuts proposed at Mount Royal University (and it is possible that other post-secondary institutions will follow suit). In response to this, I wrote a letter to the Mount Royal University Board of Governors today.

Here is that letter:

April 17, 2013
Mr. Richard Shaw
Chair, Board of Governors
Mount Royal University

Dear Mr. Shaw,

It is with great concern that I read of the recommendation coming to the Mount Royal University Board of Governors for vertical program cuts. I have been on record as saying that the provincial government has made a terrible error in its post-secondary education policy – great cities need great universities and great universities need government support. No doubt these actions have made your life very difficult. However, I would encourage the leadership of MRU to stand up to the provincial government on behalf of its students, faculty, and community, rather than capitulate to the government’s bad policy. Surely there are alternatives. Sometimes tough times call for innovative thinking—a characteristic that MRU has in abundance.

It was not quite two years ago that I had the opportunity to return to Mount Royal University for one of the first times since being elected Mayor. The occasion was the groundbreaking for the Bella Concert Hall, designed to be a world-class facility for the performing arts in our city. Its location at Mount Royal was fitting, given that it is – was – home to a premier music performance and theatre arts program. In fact, education rooms were included as part of the facility’s design so that students could learn and perform in the same incredible venue. I was very excited about the Taylor Family’s donation and MRU’s commitment to building what would certainly become a treasured performance space in our city.

So you can imagine my dismay when I heard the news that MRU is considering cutting some of the very programs that this venue was designed to support—and without apparent consultation with the community. These programs are critical for the development of Calgary’s cultural offerings and eliminating them severely inhibits our ability to attract the best and brightest to our city from around the world. I also hope that other potential donors will not be put off by the possibility that the intent of their generosity may be lost to provincial politics.

Similarly, denying internationally-trained nurses access to a good life in Canada, reducing the number of nurses overall and reducing much-needed engineering student spaces is bad public policy for this province. The associated loss of professionals is a major blow to Calgary.

I look forward to your innovative ways of preserving these programs as much as I look forward to seeing future MRU students take the stage at the Bella Concert Hall.

Naheed K. Nenshi
Mayor and Associate Professor at the Bissett School of Business (on leave)

cc: Board of Governors, Mount Royal University
cc: Thomas Lukaszuk, Deputy Premier and Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education
cc: The Hon. Alison Redford, Premier and MLA Calgary-Elbow